In church planting circles, it is popular to identify leaders as prophets, priests, or kings. The prophet is someone whose primary gifting is preaching and teaching. The priest is the true pastor type who naturally expresses empathy and care, listens well, and finds it life-giving to help people work through problematic personal issues. The king typically has gifts of leadership and organization.
A Unique Mix
Since each person is a unique mix of these three traits, there is unlimited diversity potential among pastors. It is also worth noting that each leader will not only have a dominant trait, but he will also have at least one that is far less prominent. It may even be practically non-existent. This is important to recognize because we pastors (and congregants) may assume that God intends for pastors to be an ideal blend of prophet, priest, and king. However, there is only one who ideally embodies each role in fullness, a designation that belongs solely to Jesus. When a pastor believes, or a congregation expects, that he is supposed to equally embody all three, profound disappointment is certain to follow.
When considering pastoral ministry, both leader and church must be mindful about the leader’s prophet, priest, king mix. To say that a man is a pastor is not enough. What type of pastor has he been divinely designed to be? What is his PPK profile?
This is one of the factors involved in church planting assessment. While most assessors would agree that practically any combination on the PPK scale is able to plant a church by God’s enabling grace, all would agree on the importance of self- awareness for the planter.
The reason for self-awareness is not so that the pastor knows where to spend time improving his lowest aptitude, but so that he can leverage his strength and staff to his weakness. I hesitate to call a low aptitude a weakness, for it is not a weakness in the sense of deficiency but in the sense of design and stewardship.
If a pastor is most gifted as a priest, he should not neglect congregational care for the sake of more study and message preparative. This is not an excuse for shoddy sermon preparation. It is just facing the reality that people will listen to him not because of how much he knows or the eloquence of his message presentation, but in response to how much they feel he cares.
The pastor who registers high as a king needs to make sure there are priests around to care for people in practical ways. Part of his organizational gifting may be to set up a system of care in the church that can be led by those who identify with priestly gifts.
The same is true with those whose gifting leans heavily toward the preaching and teaching focus of the prophet. He will care for the people most effectively not by doing home visits but by spending long hours in study and message preparation in order to serve the people the best possible biblical, gospel content. In this way, the prophet’s teaching is the primary way he loves the congregation. Like a chef working hard to prepare and serve a nutritious and delicious meal.
Now for the practical step. How do you figure out your PDK profile? I don’t think is as much a science as it is an art. Without getting into specifics, you need to be honest about which role is most life-giving and which is most life-draining. One of the three will land in the middle. The next step is to determine if that middle role leans move toward life-giving or life-draining.
Here is how I figured at my breakdown. Maybe this will help.
My top life-giving role by far is the preacher/teacher, making me a prophet. The most life-draining is when I am called upon to fulfill priestly duties.
Leadership is in the middle, at least the organizational/systems leadership element. When it comes to being the key leader on a team, I’d rather pass that to someone else. But since part of my kingliness is being a visionary, I find it challenging to give up control as the ship’s captain.
If I were to put percentages on it, I’m probably 70% prophet, 20% king, and 10% priest. I know, that doesn’t sound like a very “pastoral” pastor.
This is why it is so important for me to be self-aware about my priestly deficiency and make sure there are folks around filling that role in the body. Some would say that I should take the time to increase my aptitude in that area. Over the years, I actually have become much more able as a priest, but it takes a lot out of me emotionally and feels like playing tennis left-handed (and I’m not left-handed). Over time, the energy depletion will cause me to become ineffective for what God has called me to do as a prophet, which is to love people well through teaching via speaking and writing (my right-handed ministry).
I know, it can be frustrating for folks who want their teaching pastor to possess a more priestly instinct. I want to be that pastor. I really do. But I’m not.
In all my limitations, I’m just a guy who feels God’s pleasure when I preach and write. Some congregations want their lead pastor to be a more effective leader. Some desire more of an empathetic caregiver. The reality is that each pastor will have a dominant factor and an area of deficiency (should use the word “finiteness” rather than deficiency?). Maybe this is a thorn in the flesh ordained by God to keep people from worshipping pastors, keeping them properly humble, lest we begin to think of our selves as Jesus substitutes for the congregation (God forbid!).
In view of my out of balance PPK profile, the mantra I must repeat and reclaim day after day is this: “I am not the Christ.” And neither are you. Thankfully, Jesus is!
What about you? What is your PPK design? What opportunities does that provide? What challenges does it present?