Bob Russell delivers leadership lecture at Southern Seminary

Communications Staff — November 5, 2015

Bob Russell, retired pastor of Louisville's Southeast Christian Church, offers leadership principles to more than 200 community leaders gathered for a luncheon event at Southern Seminary.
Bob Russell, former senior pastor of Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church, offers leadership principles to more than 200 community leaders gathered for a luncheon event at Southern Seminary.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — Effective leadership admits weaknesses, delegates responsibilities, and serves others, said former megachurch pastor Bob Russell during the fifth annual Duke K. McCall Leadership Lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 3.

“The church cannot be a pyramid with one guy at the top meeting everyone’s needs or the base can only be so big,” said Russell, former senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. “It’s got to be a circle where we teach people to minister to each other, serve each other.”

Russell shared how failures in his ministry have taught him to be a better leader. He said he learned the importance of confrontation, delegating in weakness, giving his family priority in the midst of ministry, and being content regardless of statistics.

“One of the best decisions you’ll ever make in leadership is to quit comparing, just bloom where you’re planted,” Russell said. “My challenge to you today as potential leaders is this, even when you mess up sometimes, don’t grow weary of doing good. In due season you’ll reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”

At just 22 years of age, Russell became the pastor of Southeast. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when he retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, he continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers, and produce Bible study videos for use in small groups.

The Duke K. McCall Leadership Lecture is endowed by the McCall Family Foundation to honor and recognize Duke K. McCall’s historic tenure as seventh president of Southern Seminary, his leadership throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, and his influence throughout the global Baptist community.

After his message in chapel, Russell presented a luncheon lecture to nearly 200 community leaders and urged them to remain humble. He challenged listeners not to let empty praise lead them to pride.

“You get more credit than you deserve, and you can begin to think that you are somebody special and pride makes you vulnerable to all kinds of temptations,” Russell said.

Although he struggled with entitlement in areas of his ministry, Russell said God always humbled him and reminded him to be a servant. Being a leader does not make one an exception to the rule but instead the example, he said. People watch their leaders; they see if their leaders work hard in humility.

“A humble spirit is a key to effective leadership in the long run,” Russell said.

Humility must also extend to the retirement process, he said. Russell urged leaders to plan for retirement far before the time comes. When it appears time to plan to step down, the best time has already past. He said it is best for both the leader and the organization to go out on top. Training new leaders who are more gifted may damage one’s pride, he said, because the successor may outshine his mentor. But this step is necessary for the organization to flourish in the future as the leader trusts his trained successor to lead well.

“My challenge to you is, be humble, be discerning, and continue to be faithful,” he said.

Audio and video from the Duke K. McCall Leadership Lecture are available online at


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