METHODIST CHURCH NIGERIA
SOUTHWEST ZONE MINISTERS RETREAT 2021
SAGAMU: MARCH 17-20, 2021
TOPIC; MINISTERS: PULPIT ABOVE THE PEW
Resource Person: His Grace the Most Rev. L.S. Ayo Ladigbolu
“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.
Do not neglect the Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all…
Watch yourself and watch your teaching…. (1Timothy 4:12ff).
‘If you are a leader, exert yourself to lead” (Romans 12; 8)
Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others.
Spiritual leadership is a blending of natural and spiritual qualities. Even the natural qualities are not self-produced but God-given, and therefore reach their highest effectiveness when employed in the service of God and for His glory.
On lives that come within the range of our influence we leave an indelible impress, whether we are conscious of it or not
First Words: I appreciate the invitation to speak on a subject that has captivated my entire attention for over five decades, and which has not lost its alluring magnetism on me in spite my having been in voluntary retirement for at least 16 years.
I have had the privilege of addressing colleagues on the Ministry over the years apart from my teaching experience in pastoral theology, homiletics, pastoral care and counselling, discipleship and evangelism.
I was in Ogbomoso (May 23-26, 2013) during the Ibadan and Ilesa Archdiocesan Convention, where we discussed “The Secret of a Fulfilled Ministry.” Before that, I delivered the Keynote Address at the National Pastors Conference Opening Ceremony at the Redemption Camp on May 14, 2001 on the title, “Feeders and Tenderers Worthy of the People’s Confidence.”
My presentation today will garner snippets from these earlier submissions as well as explore other useful resources to lead our common voyage into the topic: “The Minister: Pulpit above the Pew.”
I am thankful to the University of Northern Iowa, publishers of “The North American Review” of February 1881, Vol. 132, No. 291 (pp 117-188). I intend to quote copiously from the magazine in my opening remarks. I intend also to refer to our Constitution and the book of Major Beliefs of the United Methodist Church, USA.
Our Constitution is explicit that, “Apart from the Ministry of all the members, there are special ministries bestowed by the Risen Lord for the building up of the Church, which is His Body. These are exercised by persons who have the required gifts and graces, and whom the Church authorize and appoints with prayer that they may be endowed with the Holy Spirit for their special work.
It goes further to say:
“The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments is entrusted to those whom Christ calls and endows with gifts and graces for this work, and whom the Church recognizes as so called and endowed, and these have SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PASTORAL CARE AND DISCIPLINE OF THE FLOCK OF CHRIST.”
The United Methodist Church, USA book of Major Beliefs says:
“Ministers are not to regard themselves as spineless, unthinking, passive servants of the Church. They are called for CREATIVE LEADERSHIP. And with God’s help, they are chosen for the resourceful, courageous patent leadership under Christ, which these times of mediocrity and tragedy require.”
THE MINISTRY: A BRIEF OVERVIEW
From the foundation of the Church, it was a great comfort to poor helpless human beings to have a tangible personality of like nature with themselves as a mediator between them and the heavenly powers. Sympathy can do much for the sorrowing, the suffering, the dying, but to hear God himself speaking directly through human lips, to feel the touch of a hand which is the channel of communication with the Unseen Omnipotent. This was the privilege of those who looked or look up to a Minister.
From ages immemorial, Ministers are reported to have furnished the highest types of character to the People among whom they have lived. They represent what is best among those of whom are the speaking organ. We have the right to expect them to be models as well as teachers of all that makes the best citizens for this world and the next. They have worked hard for small earthly compensation. They have been among the most learned men the country had to show, when learning was a scarce commodity. Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, (s slave boy) graduated at the age of 19, and he spoke 12 languages including Nupe, Igbo, Fulfulde, and English. In fact, he translated the Bible into several of today’s Nigerian languages. Our fathers in the faith were not confined to their profession in their duties. Like Rev. Egemba Igwe and others like him, they were learned in the history of the past, and they served as interpreters of prophecy. Like His Pre-Eminence Bolaji and others like him, they stood toe to toe with the academic giants of their days and our own. The numbers in the book of Daniel and the visions of the Revelation were not too hard for them.
But the privileges of the ministry have not gone without the vehemence of partisan attack not only in this clime (where criticism is mild), but also in other climes. One Zachariah Swift, a lawyer, once came out to attack the privileges of the Minister:
“Was it not time,” he said, for people to look about them and see whether such despotism was
Founded in Scriptures, in Reason, in Policy, or the Rights of Man! A Minister by his vote, by his single voice, may negative the unanimous vote of the Church.
Are Ministers composed of finer clay than the rest of mankind that entitles them to this Pre-eminence?
Does a license to preach transform a man into a higher order of being and endow him a natural quality to govern?
Are the laity an inferior order of beings, fit only to be slaves and to be governed?
Is it good policy for mankind to subject themselves to such degrading vassalage and absolute submission?
Reason, common sense and the Bible, with united voice,
Proclaim to all mankind that they are all born free and equal.
That every member of a Church or Christian congregation must be on the same footing
In respect of Church government, and that the Constitution, which delegates to one the power to negate the vote of all the rest, is subversive of the natural right of mankind, and repugnant to the word of God.
The fore-going represents one side of the coin in the relationship of the Pulpit to the Pew. Those who are not convinced that the Pulpit is above the Pew will do all within their powers to whittle down the authority of the Ministry.
I found a post on the Internet from Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Igando Layout, Ikotun Lagos:
“The Pew today has been DEFILED by the Pulpit because we have Ministers who want to make money rather lives. Fame rather than shepherd. Ministers after the pockets of members rather than their souls—occupying the pulpits.
To achieve the above, the Pulpit compromises the Gospel and serve the POISON that daily kills or disconnect the Pew spiritually. The Pulpit will give account to the Chief Shepherd.”
Another Clergyman also once raised his voice of objection against his professional brethren by saying,
“The layman, who sits in silent in his pew, has rights when out of it, and among them is the right of questioning that which has been addressed to him from the privileged eminence of the Pulpit.”
The Pulpit has long helped the world, and is still one of the chief defences against the dangers that threaten our society. It is worthy now, as it always has been in its best representation of all love and honour. But many of its users, and their methodologies imperatively demand revision. And the Pew which calls for it must be listened to, or the Minister will by and by find himself speaking to a congregation of bodiless echoes.
I don’t know how much attention you paid to my quotations from the utterances of Zachariah Swift. But for me, I noticed that his major concern was the issue of authority in religious circles. It is indeed a complicated business. Permit me to introduce 4 basic types of authority as I have observed it in the Church.
The Minister has a special power quite independent of his personal character. The Minister is generally treated with something more than respect. He is allowed to say undisputedly what would be sharply controverted in anybody else.. The Minister is a peculiarly authoritative figure in the congregation, no matter how egalitarian the polity of the denomination may be. I have identified at least four basic types of authority either claimed or actually used by the Minister. Let me discuss each briefly:
- The Authority of Knowledge
This is the quality of People who are listened to because they know something others do not know. Many Ministers operate out of this stance of authority when dealing with biblical or theological material. In every generation certain People are looked up to because of the overwhelming authority of their knowledge. People like this are People at whose feet we sit to learn and their authority comes both from the knowledge they actually possess and from our willingness to input even more to them
- The Authority of Experience is similar. But different.
This authority comes from the possession of particular skills in unusual degree. Often, a Minister makes a name for him or herself in a Community as a particularly good Counsellor, Peacemaker, Fundraiser, Motivational Speaker, Youth Director, Boardroom Guru or Apt Teacher of the Word. He or she may be distinguished in information technology and communications or the new fields of artificial intelligence and robotics. As the Minster becomes known for this expertise, he or she gets more and more calls for leadership in the use of the skills. When such Ministers speak, the whole Church and the People will listen.
(C) Personal Charisma
Other Ministers incarnate what I call the authority of personal charisma.. We all know People who have it and People who don’t have it.—yet probably none of us can satisfactorily define it. This authority comes from special qualities of magnetism, imagination, and personal force. It has a way of making things happen. I have known Ministers whose comments at Synod can change Synod Resolutions or whose observations can cause others to be elected or rejected. Ministers whose speech can cause electric tension and excitement. I do not know where this authority comes from, but I know Ministers who have it. I also know some who have it in preaching but cannot exercise it in other areas of ministry.
- A final authority I find in Ministers is the authority of their Role.
Ordination confers the Church’s special authority on Ministers. This is specifically spelt out in the Constitution. Fortunately, this authority is confirmed by members of the Church, and its authenticity is widely accepted. This Role Authority alone authenticates the reality of the Pulpit above the Pew in a mutually beneficial FAMILY relationship of shared love, tolerance, accommodation, and growth in grace.
Let me say here, and very LOUDLY, that whatever form of authority the Minister possesses, it must be related closely to the power to get things done. Authority is used to channel activity towards a “good” outcome. The efficacy of Ministerial authority is often judged by how well the outcome matches what is intended as clearly stated in Ephesians 4:11, 12.
It was he who “gave gifts to mankind.” He appointed some to
Apostles, others to be prophets, others to be Evangelists,
Others to be Pastors and teachers.
HE DID THIS TO PREPARE ALL God’s People for the work of
Christian service, in order to build up the Body of Christ
The Minister is a Shepherd, the under shepherd of the flock of God. His/her primary task is to feed the flock by leading them to green pastures. He/she is to care for them when they are sick or hurt, and seek for them when they go astray. The importance of the Minister depends on the value placed on the sheepfold.
Israel’s sheep were reared, fed, tended, and restored mainly for slaughtering and for sacrifice. This indeed, is the goal of all pastoral work. The end result of the Minister’s work is to LEAD God’s People to offer themselves up to God in total devotion, worship, and service (Rom. 12:1-2).
The Minister is a food technologist and dietician. His feeding activities based on the Word of God will
- Nurse the young to adulthood where they can feed themselves
- His gentle handling of the invalid believer will restore them to health and vitality whereby they can strengthen others in the faith
- The WORD must become flesh in the feeder Minister and undergird him with godly character
- The diet must not only be rich in protein, but it must also contain BITTERS and Exercise(2Tim. 4:1-5;1Tim. 4:6-8).
- Just like the People cannot rise above the spiritual stature of their rulers/leaders, we cannot expect the Church to rise above the capacity and spiritual stature of their Ministers. Is it not true that LIKES BREED LIKE? Like leaders, like followers.
- Unless the Pulpit stays above the Pew in all ramifications, further decay will infiltrate the Church, and revival will be further delayed.
PULPIT ABOVE THE PEW: PURSUIT OF GREATER EXCELLENCE
The youngest Minister is ordained to lead the flock of Christ, and to feed the sheep of his flock with the life-giving Word of God from the pulpit. The pulpit, in order to perform its sacred duties effectively, must be above the pew in every sense conceivable. And, according to the instruction of Paul to Timothy, the Minister must be a Model, and Example to the believers in his/her speech,, conduct, love, faith and purity.
I will recommend some Principles to guide the Minister in handling this onerous task in more excellent ways
Awareness under girds excellence. This is true in all areas of Endeavour. The principle of awareness calls for the leader to be aware of the elements that contribute to excellent performance. It also enables him to constantly measure his own performance against the standard. The leader is aware of his own leadership role. He knows he is in charge. He is aware of the impact or influence he has on other people’s lives. He enjoys the privilege and bears the awesome responsibilities that go with giving direction to a group or congregation’s future.
The leader is aware of the meaning of leadership—which is THE DISCIPLINE OF DELIBERATELY EXERTING SPECIAL INFLUENCE WITHIN A GROUP TO MOTIVATE IT TOWARD GOALS OF BENEFICIAL PERMNENCE THAT FULFIL THE GROUP’S OR CONGREGATION’S REAL NEEDS. The leader knows each component of that meaning and how the components interact with each other.
Since the leader’s vision is the basis of his leadership, he must be constantly aware of his vision, of whether he is effectively communicating it to those in the group, and of whether the group is moving toward fulfilling the vision.
3. Goal Setting
Because goals need constant review, the leader must constantly be ware of the goal setting process. Goal setting is an on-going process
Love relates to the real needs of the people, and the leader must, therefore be aware of what these real needs are
The leader is not aware of his own humility, for humility has no self consciousness. But the leader is watchful of those things in himself that would violate humility
5. Self Control
Successful leadership requires self control, and yet successful leadership makes it difficult to practice self control
The leader need to communicate effectively by being constantly aware of the seven rules of communication, and making them second nature to himself. The ability to communicate through speech and writing is the leader’s most valuable asset.
- He must create understanding-not just repeat words
- Select the right communication goal. What do you want to achieve?
- Break the preoccupation barrier. What are the people’s concerns and desires? What will attract their attention? How do yo tailor what you say or write to attract their attention?
- Make references to the audience’s experience. Be aware of the changes in their lives, situations. Know your people. Be sensitive to their being hostile, tired, enthusiastic, agreeable, etc.
- Use re-statements, exposition, comparisons, general illustrations, specific instances or testimonies to support your assertions. Use what will work best in your particular situation
- Motivate action by an appeal to desire. You want action, you want change, why not appeal to the dominant desire of the particular audience.
Constantly evaluate your communication based on the feedback you receive from your audience
If you invest or give something you will receive it back many times. If you invest friendship you will have friends. If you invest love, you will be loved. If you respect others, you will be respected. If you invest money, you will receive it back many times over. Plan your principle of investment to maximise its benefit to your group.
The greatest opportunities are cleverly disguised as insurmountable problems. Turn blunders into benefits, and handle mistakes wit wisdom
The leader who demonstrates energy and enthusiasm will gain the acceptance and confidence of others. Energy conveys the idea of authority, of excitement, of purposeful activity, and of success, and people want to be identified with these things. Your energy is demonstrated through physical vitality, mental alertness, hard work, attention to details. Build up your energy level and eliminate negative emotions. Maintain a close fellowship with God
Difficulties do exist. You will have problems and discouragement, but God wants you to persevere in following the vision He has given you. The principle of staying power says, the difficulties can be overcome. Sometimes God’s answer is that He will not remove the problem from you, like Job or Paul’s experience. But His grace will always be sufficient.
12.Authority (We dealt with this earlier on page 3)
The principle of authority demands awareness. You must be aware of what you are doing and why. Joseph ordered Austerity measure in Egypt for seven yeas before the famine.(Genesis 41:37). He must have angered many powerful Egyptians, but his superior authority and firm leadership saved the masses from hunger and famine. He was aware of the internal as well as the external authorities. His internal authority was backed by his personality, his charisma, his self esteem, self confidence, and the strong conviction that what he was doing was in the overall interest of the people. His authority was not buoyed by education or coercion, but the people’s realisation that they were going to be the beneficiaries of his pursuit of excellence.
VI. LEADERS BEWARE! (Some general questions about leadership)
- Do you retain control of yourself when things go wrong? The leader who loses self control in testing circumstances forfeit respect and loses influence. Leader must be calm in crisis ad resilient in adversity and disappointment
- Can you induce people to do happily some legitimate things that they would not normally wish to do?
- Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without considering it a personal affront and reacting accordingly? Leaders must expect opposition and should not be offended by it.
- Are you unduly dependent on the praise or approval of others? Can you hold a steady course in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence?
- Are you really interested in people? In people of all types and tribes? An antisocial person is unlikely to make a good leader.
- Do you possess tact? Can you anticipate the likely effect of a statement before you make it?
- Do you nurse resentments, or do you readily forgive injuries done to you?
- There are other qualities that detracts from leadership ability, e.g. an oversensitive and defensive attitude when checked or corrected. Self vindication by a leader is not always a productive attitude
- Inflexibility and intolerance in attitude is likely to alienate the worker who is creative and ambitious J. While always aiming at excellence, the leader should avoid the snare of perfectionism. Always set modest and realistic goals
- Inability to keep confidence has cost many a leader his influence with his people. Similarly, the inability to yield- a- point and thus shatter the image of infallibility, will achieve the same result
Skilful and careful listening, ability to delegate authority to others(See Jethro Formula in Exodus 18: 1-17), transparency of character, humility, love for the Word of God, friendliness and the recognition that you cannot solve every problem, are other secrets of a fulfilled ministry worthy of note.
Let us conclude by quoting a Minister who truly knew the secret of a fulfilled ministry through self mastered moderation and continuation brow beating of his animal nature, treating it as not a master but a slave:
Therefore I run thus, not with uncertainty.
Thus I fight; not as one who beats the air
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection,
Lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway
(1 Cor. 9:26-27)
We meet this Minister again at the close of his earthly ministry
I have fought a good fight. I have finished my race.
I have kept the faith
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness
Which the Lord, the Righteous Judge will give to me on that Day,
And not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing
(2 Timothy 4:7-8)