If you are a teaching pastor, I have a gift for you. I’m going to share one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in 35+ years of pastoral ministry.
It happened when I recognized that I was commiting what is probably the biggest mistake most teaching pastors make.
But first, some background.
In the last three months my title has changed from Lead Pastor to Teaching Pastor, but I’ve been a teaching pastor all my ministry – over 30 years and counting – no matter what my title happened to be.
I love to teach God’s Word. Verse-by-verse, subject-by-subject, or principle-by-principle. So I share a deep appreciation for the vital role teaching pastors play in the body of Christ.
(This is the first of two posts about becoming an equipping pastor. For more, check out my follow-up post, 4 Steps To Start Moving From Teaching A Crowd To Equipping The Saints.)
Teachers Are Learners First
One of the great characteristics of teaching pastors is that we tend to be good learners. In fact, you can’t be a good teacher without being a good learner first.
If you’re not sure if you’re a teaching pastor, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you curious?
- Do you like learning new things?
- Are you teachable?
- Do you seek to know where you’ve been wrong so you can correct it?
If you like speaking, but those characteristics don’t apply to you, then you’re not a teaching pastor, you’re probably just opinionated.
But for all my fellow teaching pastors, learners and seekers of truth, I have a simple message for you today. It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned, not just in the last three months of holding the title of Teaching Pastor, but in my entire ministry of being a teaching pastor.
Teaching the saints is not the same as equipping the saints.
The biggest mistake we tend to make is to think we’re equipping when all we’re doing is teaching.
Equipping > Teaching
Certainly teaching is a vital part of equipping. But it’s just one aspect. It’s not the whole thing.
If all we do is teach people more about God and the Bible, we won’t have better equipped church members, just better informed ones.
Information is not enough. It never has been.
So how do we fix this oversight? Do what Jesus told us to do. Jesus didn’t tell us to teach students, he commanded us to make disciples. Disciples aren’t just learners, they’re doers. Doers of the Word, not just hearers of it.
In fact, the New Testament contains some harsh criticism for people who hear the Word, but don’t translate that hearing into doing. James 1:22-25 says such people are living in self-deceit.
The Pastoral Prime Mandate
The primary calling of the pastor or any church leader is not just to teach people. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, it’s “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” (ESV) It’s so important, I’ve chosen to call it the Pastoral Prime Mandate.
If you are a teaching pastor, I want to thank you for what you do. We need more teaching pastors, not fewer. But we must always see our teaching through the lens of doing. We must always gauge the effectiveness of our teaching, not by what people learn, but by how people’s lives are changed by it.
Like me, your primary ministry gift may be teaching. But that gift must always serve the greater command to be equippers.
After all, a smarter church never changed the world. Only an equipped, discipled and empowered church does that.
- The Best Way To Avoid Pastor Burnout? Equip The Saints
- Mentoring Is Better than Curriculum: Seven Steps to Better Discipleship
- Five Simple Steps to Mentor New Believers (Without Overworking the Pastor)
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