In this issue, Pastor Sutton Turner — executive pastor and an executive elder at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church — talks about his new book, Invest Your Gifts for His Mission, in our “Bookshelf” department. Specifically, the nuances of the executive pastor (XP) role are on the table.
I posed some key takeaways to three XPs: David Fletcher, executive pastor at EvFree Fullerton (Fullerton, CA) and founder of XPastor; John Mrazek, a seasoned XP who consults at churches in the XP area; and Eric Rojas, XP at Christ Community Church, with four locations in the Chicago area. Among these three experts, two of Turner’s insights resonated loudest.
Many senior pastors don’t acknowledge need for an XP. According to Fletcher, the notion of the senior pastor as a “Superman who can do it all” runs rampant in American churches. “But, this doesn’t fit what the Bible says about giftedness,” he points out. “Churches need to enjoy and encourage the richness of diversity and giftedness of their people — and this applies to XPs.”
Rojas agrees, and says many senior pastors wait too long to hire an XP. “They need to do what they’re best equipped and gifted to do, and [that means] letting an XP come alongside them to lighten the load.”
And for Mrazek, this mind-set is a “soapbox issue” — possibly the biggest problem plaguing the modern church. Case in point: Many seminary professors and students he’s worked with have admitted that the business side of church leadership is woefully unaddressed in their curricula. “One of the students I mentored actually said he was going to need a basic business degree — after getting his MDiv — before taking his first church.”
The XP and senior pastor must complement each other. At Turner’s own church, Pastor Mark Driscoll dislikes budgets, meetings, manpower planning, financing and so on. Turner, on the other hand, loves them. The two men complement each other.
Fletcher says this dynamic is essential. At his own church, Senior Pastor Mike Erre is regarded as the directional leader; Fletcher is known as the organizational leader. “Mike casts huge vision for the entire church, brining catalytic preaching and setting the culture for us,” Fletcher explains.
“My role is to lead the organization by implementing that vision, working with elders, staff and congregation.”
Rojas agrees: “It really has to be a yin-and-yang thing between the two people and roles.”
Finally, for Mrazek, this dynamic is so critical that he once left a church because of it. After four years of
sharing the XP role with a lead pastor, Mrazek requested the go-ahead to do the job by himself. “[The senior pastor] said he’d try,” he recalls. “I lasted nine more months before moving on to a place where the lead pastor understood the power of each of us serving in our gifted areas.”
This column offers only a helicopter view of an interesting, enlightening conversation. A full-length roundtable discussion is available in our January/February 2014 digital issue at churchexecutive.com/digital-edition.
All the best to you and your ministry,