Success Tips to an XP – Executive Pastor

By: Kason Branch

April 23, 2003, is a day that then 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert will never forget. On that day, she was scheduled to sing the national anthem for the 2003 NBA playoff game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers. As she stepped forward in front of a crowd of 20,000 fans and began to sing, she forgot the words! Embarrassed and not knowing what to do, an unlikely hero stepped forward. Maurice Cheeks, then head coach of the Blazers, came to her aid. He lifted the microphone to her mouth and sang along with her (although out of tune) and helped her to finish the song. Midway through the anthem, the entire crowd began to sing and finish the anthem as well.

Our pastors are much like young Natalie. They are standing on the stage of ministry in need of help in order to accomplish the God-ordained task at hand. The Executive Pastor (XP) can and should be the number-one support for the Lead Pastor. In order to be a great help to your pastor, I’d like to share several tips that will help you be successful in your role. These tips come directly from God’s Word in Exodus 4:14-31. In this passage of Scripture are tips to an XP from one of the first XP’s—Moses’ brother, Aaron, the Levite. Moses had an amazing task ahead of him that he was reluctant to tackle. God, in His grace, sent Moses a great helper in the form of an administrator (XP) that would assist him in living out the calling on his life. Every pastor needs help! As God sends XP’s that will assist in moving the mission of the church forward, I hope the tips below are helpful as you strive to do so for God’s glory.

Tip #1: You must have a relationship with God and the Lead Pastor.

In Exodus 4:14, God asks Moses, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?” What is revealed in this verse is that the person that God was appointing to support Moses had a close relationship with God and Moses. In Jewish tradition, a Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. This tribe served particular religious duties for the Israelites and had political responsibilities as well. They were traditionally pledged to God’s service. You absolutely cannot be effective as an XP without a real, authentic relationship with God and a pledge of yourself to Him. After all, you’re doing His work! Executive Pastors carry the responsibility of ensuring that the practical needs of the church are met. In essence, we are the hands and feet that enable the vision and spiritual growth that your pastor preaches and teaches about. XP’s also have to ensure that policies and procedures are implemented efficiently in order for the church to operate with excellence. It’s impossible to carry that load without talking to God and receiving guidance, direction, and protection from Him. The XP position is not “one for the weak.” Often you hear the murmuring and complaining within the church before the pastor does, because you are the one who is known for planning and strategizing how to accomplish the vision. Church members know you have a high level of authority and will voice any and every concern they have, which is often negative. It can at times be discouraging. However, your encouragement and strength is found in God and not your own abilities. Your skill level is not enough to sustain you while doing this great work. God and God alone is your source. As you seek to be successful in your role, start by ensuring that you have a real, authentic relationship with God. Otherwise, you’ll end up lost, personally and professionally.

Not only do you need a close relationship with God, but you also need a close relationship with your Lead Pastor. The text also reveals this closeness in verse 14. The text mentions that they are brothers! I believe that God was sovereignly providing Moses with someone who had an intimate knowledge of who he really was. This close relationship is one that you as an XP must be intentional about cultivating through time with your pastor. This closeness is cultivated during work hours, but more importantly during non-work hours. It happens while watching sports together, family “get-togethers”, one-on-one lunches, and at any other time that you can find to spend with your pastor. It’s particularly important because it allows you to make decisions, even tough ones, which you know he’ll support because you understand his heart. It also allows your pastor to understand who you really are as well. He’ll begin to know your strengths and areas for opportunity both personally and professionally. A Lead Pastor and XP that have a close relationship is a confident duo that can do great things for God together as leaders in His Church!

Tip #2: You are the “vision carrier” not the “vision caster.”

In Exodus 4:15-16, God informed Moses that He would tell him what to say and in turn, Moses would relay it to Aaron. Aaron’s role was to communicate that vision to the people. God could have spoken to Aaron directly as He did later in Exodus 4:27; however, we serve a God who values order. Moses was chosen by God to lead Israel. God made it clear that Moses was to cast the vision to Aaron and then Aaron to the people. This is a clear model of “organizational chain communication” to leaders and members of a church or any organization for that matter. First, the leader must get the other leaders on board and then those leaders must embrace the message and take it to the rest of the group. As XP, you cannot get ahead of your pastor and confuse your role as being the “vision caster” instead of the “vision carrier.” God didn’t purpose you to do that! Embrace your role and you can be successful as an XP. You must be able to handle hearing the vision first, as vast as it may be, and then find a way to internalize the message and share it with the appropriate people. Later in Exodus 4, we see Moses sharing everything that God had given him with Aaron. He didn’t hold back. He was comfortable sharing God’s words and miracles with Aaron because he was confident that Aaron could handle it. Your pastor should be able to trust you in the same way! Oftentimes, people have an issue being “second in command.” Foolish ambition and ego can cause people to be out of God’s will for their lives. Being ambitious is not wrong, however, it’s when we are ambitious without God’s direction that we fail. A Lead Pastor and XP with clearly defined roles as “vision caster” and “vision carrier” can do great things for God together as leaders in His Church!

Tip #3: Find a way to be an “encourager” to your Lead Pastor.

In Exodus 4:14, God tells Moses that Aaron will be “glad to see him.” To put this in the proper context, the two brothers had not seen each other in 40 years. Imagine not seeing your brother in 40 years. Naturally, there would be some awkwardness or distance between you after not seeing each other for so long. Even worse, imagine knowing that your brother was a fugitive on the run for murder! If we tell the truth, there would not only be awkwardness and distance, but also skepticism. Not so with Aaron! He shows us in verse 27 how to look past the baggage and embrace the leader with open arms. Imagine how encouraging it must have been to Moses for his big brother, who could have looked down on him for his past sins, to kiss him on the cheek. This encouragement was the “ice-breaker” that allowed Moses to share with Aaron what God had told him and shown him. As you serve with your pastor, find a way to encourage him. Leave written notes, send text messages, speak well of him to others, or whatever creative gestures you can think of to encourage him. An encouraging XP creates an atmosphere of trust! This trust allows the Lead Pastor and XP to work together on a high level and enables them to do great things for God together as leaders in His Church!

My hope is that the three tips shared in this article will be helpful to the XP wondering how to be successful in his role as well as to the Lead Pastor, wondering what to look for in an XP. Again, every pastor needs help! It’s when God brings a dynamic duo together like Moses and Aaron that the Lord can accomplish great things in and through them for His glory. Every Batman needs a Robin and vice-versa. Working together, God can bless a church and an entire nation through the works of a dynamic duo with hearts that have a desire to further His kingdom!