Dysfunctional pastors

Preaching cartoonPastors everywhere are not doing their job. They’re not doing what they’re called to do and it’s hurting our churches. Not only is it restricting the growth and health of our churches, but it runs contrary to God’s word on the matter.

Pastors are doing the work of ministry. They’re preaching, teaching, visiting, caring, counselling, administrating. They’re running Bible studies, prayer meetings, committee meetings. They’re leading church, leading singing, leading prayers, leading worship. They’re following up newcomers, chasing up non-comers, greeting all-comers. They’re organising dinners, lunches, afternoon teas. They’re holding evangelistic courses, missions meetings, aid campaigns. They do the baptisms, the weddings, the funerals, and all the preparations. They’re in the office, typing up news sheets, photocopying bulletins, updating the website, organising the rosters, snowed under with emails.

Our pastors are doing the ministry. They’re busy with ministry. All kinds of ministry. Exhausted from ministry. Never ending ministry. And here’s the real problem…

God doesn’t call pastors to do the ministry.

A dysfunctional church is where the pastor does all the ministry. It’s not what a church should look like. It’s not what God intends for his church. Ministry is not ‘the pastor’s job’. And if it’s not the pastor’s job, then we’ve got to stop employing pastors to do it. We mustn’t hire pastors to do all the ministry. It doesn’t help pastors and it doesn’t help churches.

God’s design is so much better. Take a look at the picture that Paul paints in Ephesians 4:

11 And He (Jesus) personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…  (Ephesians 4:11-12, my emphasis)

Here’s the job description, for the pastor and for the church. The original language suggests that pastors and teachers should probably be seen as one and the same in this list. What are they to do? Training, equipping, preparing, getting others ready. That’s their job. Not simply doing, but helping others to get doing. The pastor’s job description is to train the saints (the Christians in the church) in the work of ministry. The pastor is to be the trainer, the coach, the mentor. God calls the whole church to be involved in ministry, not simply the pastor. When the pastor does the ministry instead of the church, he breeds a dysfunctional, disobedient, and lazy church. He robs the people of their opportunity to be ministering to one another.

The stupidity of this scenario becomes clear when we transpose the situation to a rugby team. The coach’s job is to prepare the players to play the game. He must focus on training, equipping, coordinating others. If he decided that he wasn’t going to train others, then the team would lose. If he decided that he would play instead of the team… you can see the problem, and too many churches are just like this.

The picture of a healthy church is very different…

From Him (Jesus) the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.  (Ephesians 4:16, my emphasis)

Ministry is for every part of the body. We’re all called to play our part. We need each other. God’s design for a healthy church is that ministry is to be shared by all. It’s not the exclusive domain of the pastor.

How can we get this happening? One fundamental strategy is to get pastors actually doing their job. They need to spend time on what God wants them to be doing… training Christians for ministry to one another. I haven’t done the research, but I have enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is often the first thing that gets dropped off the pastor’s list of priorities (if it was ever there at all).

If you are a pastor, let me ask you how much time do you spend training, equipping, preparing, apprenticing, coaching, mentoring others in their ministries? Too often, the honest answer is very little or no time at all. This is so wrong. We need to audit our timetables, calendars, priorities. We’ve got to stop neglecting our responsibilities. We’ve got to stop robbing our churches. We’ve got to stop getting in the way of others doing ministry. What is it that you need to change? And how can you make it happen? If we’re not prepared to invest in training others for ministry, then we should do the honest thing and resign as pastors.

If you’re part of a church looking for a new pastor, be careful what you look for. Don’t hire someone who will do all the ministry in your church. Don’t hire someone who is really good at ministry, but who never spends any time mobilising others. Look for someone who will prepare others. That’s the KPI that really matters. Maybe you could help your existing pastor by offering to get more involved in ministry yourself or asking him to help you get equipped.

Let’s pray for healthy churches and godly pastors. God wants pastors who take seriously their responsibility to help the whole church in building one another. God is seeking churches where everyone is involved in ministry.

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