The New Testament doesn’t emphasize the role of pastor nearly as much as our current church structure does.
In fact, there’s just one passage – one! – in which the role of the pastor (along with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers) is mentioned.
To be sure, there are plenty of passages about bishops, overseers and more that apply to pastors, but Ephesians 4:11-12 could easily be called the pastor’s Prime Mandate. In that passage, the Apostle Paul clearly tells us we have been called “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
The longer I pastor, the more convinced I am that one of the prime reasons for pastoral burnout is that too many pastors – especially small church pastors, like me – are ignoring that simple command.
But, no matter how small the congregation is, pastors must never forget that ministering in a small church does not exempt us from the pastoral mandate to equip the saints.
From Preaching And Teaching To Equipping
For too many years, I took almost all of the burden for the ministry of the church on my shoulders. And it nearly killed me – and the church.
So I went back to the pastor’s prime mandate. I redoubled my efforts to equip the church to do ministry instead of doing it for them.
No, the turnaround wasn’t easy. Old habits – both mine and theirs – were deeply entrenched. But it did happen. Or, more accurately, it is happening.
Here are a few of the steps we’ve taken to bring about that change.
1. Preach To Equip, Not Just To Inform Or Inspire
I’m more of a teacher than a preacher, so it’s easy to fill people’s heads with Bible knowledge, but shortchange them on how to put it into practice.
If you’re more of a preacher than a teacher, you might be inspiring and energizing them without giving them practical ways to channel that energy.
There are few things more frustrating than a church full of people who are informed and/or inspired without being equipped to do something about it.
Neither information or inspiration is enough. We need to help them turn it into perspiration. We have to do the work.
It’s not enough to tack a ‘what to do now’ idea on the end of our sermons. Equipping people to do the work of ministry must always be a central element in everything a pastor does.
2. Do Ministry With People, Not Just For Them
The smaller the church, the more we’ll do ministry with them, among them and beside them. But we can never let ourselves get caught in the endless black-hole vortex of doing all or most of the ministry for them.
In a big church, most people are taught, trained and sent off into ministry without having spent any time with the pastor, other than hearing the Sunday sermon.
In a small church, the pastor has to (gets to) be more hands-on. But we should always emphasize doing ministry with congregation members, not just for them.
Doing ministry for them isn’t healthy – not for the pastor or the church. But doing ministry with the congregation equips the saints, builds relationships and so much more.
3. Equip Teams, Don’t Appoint Committees
Teams do things. Committees tell other people to do things.
A church that is light on teams and heavy on committees will spend more time assigning blame than volunteering for ministry.
4. Involve The Team In The Decision-Making Process
People won’t step up nearly as much for someone else’s ministry as they will for a ministry they had a hand in creating.
Pastor, don’t just tell people what to do, ask them what they’re called to do and how you can come alongside to equip them for it – including ministry that has nothing to do with your church and its programs.
5. Share The Lead
So what’s the goal of an equipping pastor?
To help people recognize their calling to such a degree that the five-fold ministry gifts are all being identified and used in every congregation.
Not only are we called as pastors to equip, we’re called to help create an environment in which there are people serving in all the other four key leadership positions (apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers) to do the equipping with us.
Most church structures are currently set up with the pastoral role being so dominant that those in that position will have to equip people to serve in those positions with us. This is especially true in smaller churches.
Become An Equipping Leader
Healthy churches are led by the five-fold roles of equipping leaders, not just pastors.
We do the work of ministry together.
It’s our calling. It’s our mandate.
And, when we see it working in the lives of the congregation we serve, it’s our joy.
(Photo by Anna Samoylova | Unsplash)