Reflecting on many of the churches I have visited and/or have been made aware of over the years, I am curiously cognizant of how many are recognized by the name of the senior pastor rather than by the name of the church. It doesn’t take long to create a list of dozens, if not hundreds, of such well known church leaders.
On the other hand, I am pleasantly pleased by the number of churches that come to mind where I do not know the pastor’s name, but do know the church and where it is located, perhaps even what its strength is in the community, some of its functions as a church, and more.
Without formal research, one of the obvious differences that come to mind is that the churches without a well known personalty tend to have history (been around for a generation or more), while the personality driven ministries are attached to the age of the known person.
Could it be that churches known for the personality of the pastor are doomed?
In their book Built to Last, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras have a section in chapter two titled “The Myth of the Great and Charismatic Leader.” When they asked executives and business students to comment on the success of visionary companies (companies that are “built to last”), the responses pointed to greats like Sam Walton, William Procter, William E. Boeing, John Nordstrom, and others.
“… these chief executives displayed high levels of persistence, overcame significant obstacles, attracted dedicated people to the organization, influenced groups of people toward the achievement of goals, and played key roles in guiding their companies through crucial episodes in their history. But – and this is the crucial point – so did their counterparts at the [companies who are not "built to last"]! In short, we found no evidence to support the hypothesis that great leadership is the distinguishing variable… Thus, as our study progressed, we had to reject the great-leader theory; it simply did not adequately explain the differences between the [companies who are "built to last" and those who are not].”
Again, because I am without specific research as it relates to the church, I am cautious in my conclusions. However, there does seem to be something lacking in the personality driven churches. If the church is not being built to last for generations to come, then what is it being built for?
Churches that know who they are and who they should be to their communities understand good marketing and communication. Instead of being recognized by the personality of the pastor, a church could and should be known for the impact they have in their community.