It’s been a long journey for me. It’s been nearly five years since God called me in to ministry. I have to say, heading into this new calling in my life, I had a pretty strong concept of what being a pastor required. The conceptual ideas of what a pastor was supposed to do were the following:
- Preach sermons
- Counsel people
- Do bible studies
- Run church board meetings
What I have observed, discussed, and learned about many pastors is that all of the above are true, plus many, many other things:
- Event planning
- Dispute resolver
- Day laborer
- Committee chair
- and, Decider of All Things (In other words, no decisions are made without the express approval of the pastor)
Of course, there are a ton of other combinations and additions that could be made here, but you get the idea.
Pastors have been tasked with so many things, it’s a wonder that anything actually gets done. Even worse, because pastors have been tasked with all of these things, the members of the church body do not feel empowered or encouraged to do anything that may step on the pastor’s toes. “Let the professional handle it!” was my thought process in the past. The pastor has been specially trained to do these things. (Though I’ve found this statement to be very far from the truth)
However, it’s not just the members who are at fault in loading down their pastor. Pastors, too need to take a look at why they are so loaded up with responsibilities. I can think of one simple reason why – they don’t say no. Rather than simply saying, “That’s outside of my job description,” they take on the task. As a result, their productive time is divided further, and other ministries, and even families, can suffer as a result.
I think we all, both church members and pastors, need to reexamine what the role of pastor should be in the local church. Here is the simple, biblical definition of pastoring. It is found in Ephesians 4:11-13:
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Now, if I’m reading this correctly, a pastor’s job description is to equip his congregation to do the very things that I listed above (Except maybe the “decider of all things.”). Pastors should be helping people learn the art of event planning. No, they may not be experts, but they can help provide the resources necessary for them to receive training through other organizations. Pastors should be training their members in how to resolve disputes (Matthew 18:15-16 comes to mind) rather than constantly playing referee. Pastors should empower their members to take pride in their church facilities, giving them the flexibility to maintain and improve them as needed (The decorating committee is not all powerful). Pastors should identify others that have strong research skills (Gift of Administration) to help in designing new programs, facilities, and countless other things. Pastors should mentor others to run committee meetings, chairing them with the desire to always follow the will of God. And, last but not least, pastors need to be training their members how to do bible studies and do peer evangelism.
I know, some of you may be thinking that I should get off my high horse. This isn’t meant as an indictment against pastors. Rather, what I want to encourage pastors to do is to start saying no to the things that are not within the biblical description of pastoring, and start mentoring and training others to do those tasks.
OK, why is it so important for pastors to focus on training rather than just doing the work? For one reason, their is strength in numbers. Imagine a 200 member church that has all of the church family trained on how to give bible studies and in doing personal evangelism. How much more can these 200 accomplish than one? If each one of them presented the gospel message to two people during the year, they would have reached 400. Even if they had an uber-pastor that presented the gospel to over 100 unchurched people during the year, he would still only reach one-quarter of the number that the congregation could (with much, much less effort).
How many more programs and small groups could be started if the pastor was not required to be the one running the group? (Or even present at all!) Imagine the same 200 member church with small groups meeting every night of the week. These groups focus on building up the faith of current church members while also reaching out to those who do not know Christ. If only the pastor were running all of the small groups, he/she would soon burn out, and still only be able to accomplish seven small groups per week. If ten of the members were trained in leading small groups, it would be a 30% increase in the number of groups meeting, and much less effort required by the pastor.
Additionally, the benefits of saying no and equipping can be seen in the perception of the church. How much more quickly would ministry activities be carried out if elders and ministry leaders were allowed to, well, lead – making decisions without first running them by the pastor or their church board. I actually heard a story about a ministry leader that was in charge of street evangelism. He had an annual budget of $5,000. He had a five member team, so he empowered his team members to spend up to $1,000 each during the course of the year to help those they found in need. He gave them each a Visa gift card so they could provide the needed services or supplies on the spot. He didn’t have to run it by the board, or even the pastor. He didn’t put a limit on what his team members could use the money on (other than they couldn’t use it on themselves or family members). He had been given complete responsibility for his program’s budget, and so he called the shots on how it was spent. The on-street results were astounding. The team members’ boldness and excitement for their ministry skyrocketed as they were able to serve others who may have otherwise be overlooked. Additionally, hundreds of people received support each year from a church that they probably would never have otherwise heard of. This caused people to not only join the church, but the reputation of the church in the community to be greatly enhanced.
OK, Chad, what are you getting at? In summary, it’s this…
Pastors, we need to get back to the biblical way of doing what God has called us to do. It means we will have to say no to a lot of things. It also means that we will need to refocus our efforts on training. For a time, this may mean that some programs cease while new leaders are trained. But, we must look at the multitude of benefits that this will bring to our church, members, community, and mission over the long run. If we spend extra hours doing training for three months, and the result is that during the next three years triple the amount of ministry is accomplished through our membership, it will be well worth it.
Members, we need to allow our pastors to say no. We must be willing to get our hands dirty. We must be willing to get training. When an idea for a new program or service is floated, we need to be willing to take the lead in making sure it comes to fruition and is appropriately staffed with volunteers, and the needed resources are secured. We need to take ownership of our mission and our church. In short, we need to stop looking to the pastor to do it all. Instead, we must take ownership of our churches and asked to be tasked.
I love the way the Amplified translation of James 2:17 reads:
So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).
In other words, we weren’t saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ just to sit back and watch someone else do the work to bring the gospel to others. This is exactly why Jesus didn’t give the Great Commission to a bunch of pastors. Nope, he gave it to all of his followers (disciples – literally, “students”).
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-19)
We need members in ministry, and pastors as trainers. The sooner we grab this concept, the faster we can complete the work entrusted to us by Jesus, himself. And, the sooner we get to be reunited with him in heaven.