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yes, I am a geek for being excited about this

November 23, 2009

My excitement over this makes me a “ministry geek”.

Here’s the backstory on this.  One of my “pace-setters” in ministry that I want to learn from is JD Greear, the pastor of a great church in North Carolina named Summit Church.  Pastor Greear hosts a blog that, every Friday, does an “Ask-anything Friday”.  The blog gets thousands of hits daily and each Friday receives hundreds of submitted questions.  Last Friday my question was selected to be responded to by Pastor Greear!

BY FAR, the hardest thing about the last year at The Bridge has been the relational strain of the church doubling in size (twice as many people we want to spend time with) while my time hasn’t. It feels like my bills doubled and my income stayed the same.  That’s not just hard, but painful sometimes.  So here was my question…

What is the most important thing for a pastor of a church that’s out-growing the “everyone knows the pastor” phase to do?

I think the most important thing is to, before you get to that phase, develop a culture in the church that leadership is multi-leveled. That comes from teaching on the egalitarian nature of ministry gifts–that each believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit with gifts to minister to the body. I often tell our congregation that according to Ephesians 4:11, when I became a pastor I left “the ministry.” I became an empowerer.

There are small but significant things you can do to inculcate this, like referring to yourself as only “one of the pastors,” or sharing significant stage time with other leaders. You can strategically not show up at certain events so that other leaders can be seen as such. People will whine and moan about this at first, because everybody knows if you (the lead pastor) are not there it doesn’t really count in God’s eyes… but overall, that’s good pain for them to go through and they’ll get used to it.

And, for you, the pastor, you have to get used to having people disappointed with you. If you’re a type-A people pleaser like me, that’s difficult. I have to remind myself that God didn’t call me to please people by meeting all their expectations, but to pastor a church. My assignment is a proactive, not reactive one.

I also found it very important to set a precedent, from the very first week I was pastor, to emphasize to the congregation that the greatest thing I could do for the people was teach the word of God faithfully and creatively each week, and so we would guard viciously my preparation time. From the beginning I’ve never taken calls or emails before 11am, because that is my time in prayer and the word. I could be a wonderful counselor, administrator, phone call answerer, problem solver, etc but if I am not teaching the Word of God with power each Sunday then the church suffers. Flipping that around, if I teach the Word well each Sunday, other things may struggle for a while, but the church will be healthy and other leaders will arise to do those things… or, through faithful preaching, you can grow the size of your congregation to where you can hire someone to do them. Either way, guarding my time in the Word has been a key to developing multiple leaders.

I have also found that developing a culture of sending people out is important in raising up leaders–whether that be out into the community for ministry or somewhere to plant a church or new campus. Real leaders love a challenge and compelling vision. Leaders like to lead, not just follow. They will not be content to be cogs in “your machine”; they will thrive when you are empowering them to see the things that they can lead in the church and community. We at the Summit often emphasize that the best ideas for ministry are in the congregation, not in our offices. Our role as pastors is to inspire and release. I would rather our church be like a group of wild steeds and our staff be like the reins trying to keep all the horses running the same direction than I would our staff be more like the engine driving a car.

Surprisingly to me, considering the size of our church, I feel relatively balanced, and I think that is because of we have a large leadership culture. People in our church really do see a host of pastors, small group leaders, and coaches as every bit as able to minister the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit as I am. I have the freedom now to talk to people comfortably after service, and am able to return most of the phone calls and emails that come to me. That’s in part because people from the church don’t email me as much anymore–because there are multiple leaders they can talk to. That wasn’t always the case. I used to get asked about every question you could think of–from theology to complaints about the church to math word problems (that’s not a joke!).

Tim Keller wrote a great article about churches going through new stages and new demands on the leaders… I’ve read it but don’t have it and don’t know what it’s called. Anyone know?

Here’s another blog on this subject.

OK… I feel like I’ve rambled on… hope this at least plants some good ideas.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. shelley permalink
    November 24, 2009 1:20 pm

    “I would rather our church be like a group of wild steeds and our staff be like the reins trying to keep all the horses running the same direction than I would our staff be more like the engine driving a car.”

    That’s a bit scary and very counter-(church)-cultural, but dead on.

    Saddle up! (I guess that would be the leadership with the saddles, and us the wild steeds, right?! LOL!)

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