Early Mentoring: A Missed Opportunity to Learn Organic Leadership

In 1966, as a 17 year old, my life was wonderfully changed by the ministry of R.J. Barber at the Baptist Tabernacle in Danville, Virginia. It was then I began to learn something about experiencing God, which is by far the most important knowledge a person can have. However, in those days I remember occasionally wondering about church government – how it worked. I did not have a clue. Even when I returned years later to work on staff at the Tabernacle, I had not figured it out. The best I understood was that the pastor “ran” the church. Rev. Barber was so revered by the church that they trusted him to make every administrative decision. Occasionally he met with the men of the church - to keep them informed, I think. This type of leadership was all I knew and worked well for me during my years of directing youth ministries, but not when I began pastoring. Although I was able to help members learn how to experience God, I also insisted on “running” the church. The first two churches I pastored grew rapidly in attendance but in time the church leaders rejected my authoritarian leadership style, so I left both. (I thought, “If I can’t lead, I will leave!”) When I organized a new church in 1982, I gave it the same leadership. Although, it was the state’s fastest growing Sunday School in 1983, I resigned when my marriage failed.

What a difference it would have made if I had learned as a young minister that the church is an organism, that the pastor is a branch supported by Christ, the Vine, who enables him to also be a vine to support the church. I call this grace leadership or “leadership by support.”

Learning this organic concept about church leadership would have helped me understand about my role as a husband and father in the home – that the home is also an organism, that the husband is a branch supported by Christ, the Vine, who enables him to also be a vine to support his wife and children.

DonLoy Whisnant/Journey Notes 15A13