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.
In my last post, Only In a Small Church: Sometimes You Gotta Kill Cockroaches, I wrote about how small church pastors have to do many of the tasks that large churches can hire someone else to do.
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.
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.