Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

THE PASTORAL ROLE IN A DIFFERENCE MAKING CHURCH

Growing congregations are led by visionary pastors. How do I know this? Through observing successful congregations. This doesn’t eliminate the role lay members must play in a church. But the excitement for growth and mission will start with having visionary pastors. For congregations look to their pastors to show them the way.

Sometimes pastoral leaders will have and demonstrate visionary congregational direction. At other times, however, pastors will lack this gift. But please note: You cannot turn congregations around if pastoral leaders do ministry only as pastors and shepherds. With these thoughts in mind, why are there so many congregations today that are stagnant and passive?

  • Because persons in past days grew up in a congregation where ministry was mainly pastoral. And many of today’s pastors grew up in these kinds of context. They were conditioned to think of the church as a place where you took care of the flock.
  • Even earlier college and seminary training portrayed the practice of ministry as being pastoral. Thus, the pastor graduated, was ordained, then accepted a local church ministry to care for the souls under his care. Church growth and church health were not even in his academic program of study. He may have taken a personal evangelism course, but that was somewhat of a sidelight to the larger and more important issue of general pastoral ministry.
  • It’s also true that some pastors graduated from college/seminary with a great flair for developing growing congregations. But their passion soon died as their excitement didn’t square with the thinking of a particular congregation and its leaders. Many established and comfortable congregations do not want to change. And they pour cold water on pastors who attempt to change them.
  • Another problem pastors will face when they walk into an established congregation is that it has performed a cultural form of church ministry for a long period of time. This established form has placed the congregation in a very familiar and comfortable rut. Thus, focusing on reaching those outside their walls is a function established congregations will find difficult, if not impossible, to accept.
  • What is most disconcerting is to recognize the amount of difference between the college and seminary’s thinking and that of local churches. The academic institution believes they train pastors to  go out and change the thinking of a passive church and its leaders. But zealous pastors will predictably encounter a major roadblock when they try. Why? Because the local church has operated too long in a traditional fashion. As a result, they will resent and barricade pastors efforts to  exert any change. Some way we need to begin building crossable bridges between the college/seminary and the local church, as they are often on huge divergent paths.
  • Allow me to also stress that pastoral leaders will go into a church with wrong mindsets. For example, they will do everything members wish in order to gain their admiration. Or, they will function in a way in which they do everything for the members. This continues until their health breaks and they can no longer minister. Pastors will even fall victim to thinking they can minister to everyone in a church. The only thing wrong with this kind of thinking is that it’s wrong!!
  • An important transition for pastoral leaders to be able to turn a church around today, is to learn the important fuction of ministry balance. Simply stated, they need to possess an inside and outside focus. In this way, they can balance the roles of inside ministry with that of outside mission. Making this transition will mean that pastors will need to grow through planning and delegating much more. They will do less “hands on” ministry. But they will not become so overwhelmed, as they will now be able to see the bigger picture, and secure the increased involvement of others with them.

I love pastoral ministers. I always have. And I always will. I know their hearts and concerns, as I’ve been in their moccasins. They wish to be effective channels for the Lord and His church. But they are often caught in that tense bind between what a congregation needs to be, and what it currently is.

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April 13, 2013 - Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Shepherds, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality

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