IVP - Online Pulpit - Co-Pastoring: A Surprising Catalyst for Transformation

May 20, 2011

Co-Pastoring: A Surprising Catalyst for Transformation

By Michael Lueken

When the pace of life slows down and the reckless noise subsides, I see the ugly in my heart more clearly. I see ambition that is often fueled by a craving for significance. I see my identity wrapped around the latest sermon. I see how I brood when I don’t get my way. I see an unhealthy need to be needed. I see how much I want to be the “go to” guy. Over the years I’ve become an expert at ignoring, dismissing or justifying these issues. I forge ahead writing sermons, planning services, leading meetings, speaking at retreats, teaching on spiritual formation and calling others to Christlikeness, while significant aspects of my heart remain stunningly unlike Christ.

Obviously, the tension will never be fully resolved. Ministry can’t wait until everything is “just right” in our interior world. But we underestimate the long-term damage of living in fragmentation. It is crucial for those who seek to lead others toward formation in Christlikeness to engage in their own process of spiritual formation.

Eleven years ago our leadership sensed God’s leading to transition the church from a seeker-oriented model to one that prioritizes life in God’s kingdom and the inner transformation such a life produces. This has profoundly shaped the culture of our church, as well as my own heart. And a surprising means for spiritual formation has been the co-pastoring relationship I have with my friend Kent Carlson.

We have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. We each have our unique roles in the church, but we work through most things together. We share the preaching and leadership responsibilities. We talk through the major decisions that need to be made. We discuss staff issues, finances and the various other challenges and opportunities the church is facing. We both sit on the elder board.

Over the years people have expressed their disbelief that such an arrangement can actually work. Co-pastoring does create inefficiencies, tension and sometimes conflict. But it has been a profound catalyst for spiritual formation because the dynamics of the daily relationship expose unformed aspects in our hearts that we simply have to address for the sake of the gospel, the church and our friendship. For over a decade we have been learning how to not get what we want. We’ve had to learn how to submit to the other person. There are times when I have to let Kent lead and vice versa. There are times when Kent thinks something should be done a certain way, but I’m going in a different direction and he has to submit his opinions and follow. Throughout the course of a week, there are multiple occasions when we are facing our own insecurities, weaknesses, fears, anger and pride, and we have to deal with these before God or spiral into a black hole of self-absorption and pity.

Co-pastoring is probably not an arrangement to mass produce. There are some crucial elements that need to be present if it has any chance of working. But it has provided a daily laboratory for experiments in the fascinating journey of “Christ being formed in us.”

LuekenOP.jpg Michael Leuken is co-pastor, with Kent Carlson, of Oak Hills Church of Folsom, California. He is co-author, with Kent, of the recently released book from IVP, Renovation of the Church.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at May 20, 2011 10:50 AM Bookmark and Share


Having co-pastored 'Mercy Street' in Houston, Texas for 7 years with Matt Russell, and then with Gregg Taylor, I say a loud 'amen!' to Michael's post. The key for my experience was friendship - I got to co-pastor with my friends. Having said that, there were, naturally, times when we disagreed, and during those times we found it helpful to defer to the one with more experience/ability/gifting in the area in question. We could do that because we trusted each other, and were for each other. While co-pastoring may require some crucial elements to work, so does solo pastoring! And in my experience, co-pastoring with friends helped rein in those parts of me that have yet to be sanctified, and provided the immeasurable gift of sharing the load with another.

Comment by: Sean Gladding at May 23, 2011 9:07 AM

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