Being A Dictator

My grandfather was a designer. He studied the art and design behind buildings, social systems, infrastructure and technology. It fascinated him. He loved what he did. After he died in 2009, I realized how much I am like him. In much of the same way, I love design. I love learning the brilliance of companies like Google and Apple. I am fascinated by the structures of social systems. I am awed by the sleek design of a new product or a clever advertisement. They push the limits and they raise my expectation, which is great. However, there is one issue. I took that same expectation for high-level design into my church.

So, there I was, thirty years old, just leaving an internship with a well-known, hip mega-church in St. Louis (in which I was, again, awed by the design), now given the responsibility of leading this other, very different, neighborhood church. I found myself wanting this church to be similar in design, innovative, edgy and able to reach people most churches in our conservative, suburban area were missing. But I soon realized I had a problem. Most of those in the church weren’t interested in my hip web designs, high-tech sermons, minimalist logos and innovative ministry ideas. That just wasn’t who they were. Period.

So, I responded by dictating many aspects of the church atmosphere and culture, rather than letting others contribute to the story. Dictate? Yes, dictate. I must say that it was one of the major faults of my tenure.

I’ve found that good leadership influences organizational culture but doesn’t dictate it. An influencer produces creativity alongside the people they lead. By contrast, a dictator writes the script without the people and then demands them to respond. Miles lay between being an influencer and a dictator. It’s simple. Don’t dictate. Influence!

If you’re currently a pastor (or an expastor in transition), here are a few healthy values to keep at the forefront:

  • Authenticity. Be an authentic leader and let your church be an authentic church. If you have to force it to look like [insert description here], then it’s probably not [insert description here]. Those outside the church can easily identify that you’re trying to be something you’re not.
  • Fruitfulness. Thankfully, God doesn’t rate our churches based on the factor of their hipness or your [insert description here], but instead on its fruitfulness.
  • Presence. Be with your congregation where they are. If you can’t, it’s your problem, not theirs. God might be moving you on, not them.
  • Creativity. Always try to foster creativity, don’t stifle it. Good leaders inspire creation, whereas dictators simply dictate.
  • Cultural Synergy. Unless God tells you otherwise, always pastor a church you would attend even if you weren’t the pastor.

So, ask yourself, who are you in terms of your leadership? Dictator or influencer. It’s up to us to live out our legacy now.

POSTED ON June 25, 2012
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  • Jeff

    Very good insight. I love your quote on Cultural Synergy. I will remember to keep this at the forefront of my mind. Thanks J

Matt married Genieve in 2003. They have three very spirited children, Adelaide, Hudson and Shackleton and live in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. Matt resigned from pastoral ministry in late 2010 and has been recovering ever since. Currently, he works as an Account Rep. for a marketing firm. Visit his blog at