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Let Congregation Reign, Pastor Says

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One African-American pastor leads his growing church with a rather short, but effective set of values.

The Rev. William Buchanan, pastor at Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church, one of the largest African-American congregations in its north Nashville, Tenn., -neighborhood, claims his leadership methods are unchanged from 22 years ago, when he left the golf course to walk a minister’s path.

“A strong congregation-led ministry is my basic approach,” Buchanan told EthicsDaily.com. His years of ministry only confirmed his belief that a pastor should act “as an overseer, or a chief shepherd, to help the congregation carry out its vision.”

The church, which Buchanan started pastoring eight years ago at age 46, is showing signs of growth. It held a grand opening for a new sanctuary last December; plans for the future include building a school and a residential center for the elderly.

“I started out wanting to promote congregation-led ministry as opposed to personality ministry,” Buchanan said. “I’ve always based this approach upon my experiences as a lay person.”

While he could give plenty of negative examples for personality-centered ministry, Buchanan said he would rather concentrate on what each congregation could achieve using the energy of all of its members.

“Ministries built around a single personality often become ineffective [when] the personality is no longer present. A congregation, on the other hand, is always rebirthing, revitalizing itself,” Buchanan said.

He also strongly believes in church outreach. Fifteenth Avenue members contribute approximately 10 percent to missions and benevolence. “And we are very committed to that,” he adds.

At the top of the congregation’s outreach efforts is a kitchen for feeding the homeless. Its senior citizens’ day care program serves 148 seniors from 32 different churches in the community. A number of tutorial and assistance programs are aimed at training people of various age groups.

“We try to integrate new members into the ongoing ministry to make them feel part of the family,” says Buchanan.

The church is a partner in a $600,000 federal grant aimed at building 10 houses for lower-income families, according to the Tennessean. Two houses have already been built and eight more coming in the next two years.

Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.