Over the past few weeks I’ve been involved in multiple discussions around the issues of pastors, and others in church leadership, being unprepared and ill-equipped for the role that they fulfil. It’s actually really easy for pastors to not lead, but instead to simple be liked and to do the bare minimum. But we are called to do more…
For pastors to fulfil their role they must do the work that they are called to do. They must proclaim God’s Word, they must care for His people, they must disciple believers and point people to Christ. All of these responsibilities and work should be done both in the pulpit and outside. Too often I’ve met people who are happy to do this work in the pulpit but not in the pub or on the streets. However, if we are calling the Lord’s people to spread the gospel, to encourage each other, to engage in pastoral care and to call sinners to repent as they hear about Jesus, we need to lead by example.
I’m not just talking about pastors. Elders, all elders, need to set the same example because in Scripture elders and pastors are the same. As Church leaders we need to set the example of what the Lord’s people should be doing. Obviously there will be differences because many pastors are paid full-time to do their job. However, pastors should be examples of what the Christian life looks like.
But pastors also need to lead. Pastors need to take the reins, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, and actively lead the Lord’s people. Realistically, the role of a pastor today also involves administration, planning and vision. However, all of those things should not be seen as distinct from the day to say spiritual care of the Lord’s people but they should be an extension of it.
If a pastor has all the admin skills necessary but lacks a heart for the Lord’s people and a desire to see Christ lifted above every other name, he should not be leading the Lord’s people. Likewise, I would argue, that very pastor should have the pastoral heart for the Lord’s people and the vision to lead them well.
If one aspect is emphasis too much a church limps. Sure, a church can grow with programmes and attractions, but that is likability and busyness, not necessarily discipleship and spiritual growth. A church can also grow if a pastor only cares for the Lord’s people, but there will be little vision and planning if that is his only aim.
Pastors must be trained to be equipped. I do not think that someone can go straight from a seminary class to being a senior pastor (if there is such a thing, but that’s another post) from one day to the next. Theory is not enough to enable a pastor to care for the Lord’s people well, both in terms of spiritual and organisational care. But pastors must be trained to lead and when eh day comes for them to do it, they need to actually lead and not shrink back from the task ahead of them. No pastor should ever sacrifice faithfulness to their calling on the alter of comfort or likability.
Leaders need to lead, this is the same in other organisations too. There is a difference in pastoral ministry from other leadership roles, but there are principles that crossover. One of those principles is that leaders need to be able, and trained, to lead properly.
Pastors, in full-time ministry, need to go through a training process whereby they are taught theology (as do other elders) and where they are taught to lead the Lord’s people both spiritually and organisationally. A process like that naturally takes more time, but it should equip pastors to be better equipped to fulfil the role they have been called to.