Pastor: Replicate Thyself

Every Thursday morning we highlight the work of the Spurgeon Center. A key component of the Center’s mission works through the EQUIP initiative, which seeks to link up SEBTS students with local churches for the purpose of field-based theological education. Steven Wade, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, directs the EQUIP center. In this post, he writes about the need for pastors to replicate themselves in order to fulfill the Great Commission. 

I grew up in a church known for its inordinate numbers of “preacher boys”—men surrendering to the call of God to be pastors—as well as other men and women committing theirs lives to full-time ministry. It seemed that God called more men and women to the ministry in our church than any other church I knew of. Why was this? Was there something special about this church? Was there something unique about our pastor? As I have pondered these questions throughout my ministry I have come to understand that my home church and her shepherd (or more correctly her under-shepherd) had some characteristics that resulted in more men and women realizing God’s call and surrendering their lives to full-time ministry. While this list is by no means comprehensive, I believe it can be a starting point for a local church to see more and more believers give themselves to vocational ministry.

  • Take the Great Commission seriously

It may seem a bit elementary to start with the Great Commission but it has unfortunately been proven too often that churches have the ability to lose focus and exist for purposes other than what God intended. If God is to raise up leaders for His church from a local congregation, that congregation must be centered on fulfilling the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ! Believers are commanded to be disciple-making disciples and without accomplishing this mission, it is unlikely that very many will surrender to full-time ministry.

  • Expect that God is calling people in your congregation to devote themselves to full-time ministry

One thing I recognized in the preaching and discipleship of my pastor (and mentor) was a constant expectation that God was calling men and women to ministry. It was often part of his plea during invitations to respond to a sermon as well as part of his everyday conversations with people in the church. I believe one of the reasons churches do not see more people respond to a call to fulltime ministry is that churches do not really expect God to call people from their congregations.

  • Commit time each week to replicating yourself no matter what your ministry position in the church

One of the greatest memories as well as the greatest influences in my teenage life was the time that my pastor committed to spending with those called to ministry. He taught us how to read the Bible, how to preach, how to give invitations, how to share the gospel, how to lead a worship service, etc. The time that I spent with him teaching me how to be a shepherd was invaluable! It seems that pastors often admonish and encourage people in their congregations to replicate themselves. We tell people “work yourself out of a job” or “always be training someone to do the ministry you are doing.” However, too often pastors do not take the time to replicate themselves in this way. Both churches and pastors must see the importance of the pastor taking time to replicate himself in order for the church to grow and the ministry to be multiplied.

  • Articulate clear expectations and pathways to every ministry including the pastorate

At our church we have made a commitment to articulate clear steps that we expect people to take to move from “guest to elder.” We often ask of our congregation, “Where are you on the discipleship road?” and “What are the next steps for you to move further down that road?” It is helpful to give people clear expectations of growth and then show them precise practical steps to take to make the next step in their discipleship. When this is done with precision and care, the Holy Spirit has practical tools to use to help people know how to grow and respond to his calling, whatever it might be!

  • Develop a vision of multiple churches and ministries that are started, supported and influenced by your church

One of the hindrances to churches nurturing the development of pastors is the unfortunate mindset, “Well, we have a pastor. Why would we want another?” This mindset takes many forms and reveals a church with a small vision to accomplish the Great Commission. A church with a vision for the expansion of the Kingdom of God will recognize the need for more and more leaders in God’s church. Just as disciples must replicate themselves, churches must replicate themselves. I praise God for the move toward church planting in our convention and the need it has revealed for us to raise up new leaders. A church that has a kingdom vision will see a need for leaders in their own church as the ministry grows and expands, but will also see a need for people surrendered to fulltime ministry to be sent as missionaries overseas, as pastors in new church plants, and commissioned to other churches in need of ministers.

What other characteristics do you see as necessary for churches and pastors to develop in order to see more and more men and women called to fulltime ministry in the local church?

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 7

In the final post of this series I want to present one more critical ability necessary for missional leaders. Let me remind you of those I have shared about in previous posts so far:

  1. Understand the true mission.
  2. Establish a biblical vision.
  3. Build bridges of leadership.
  4. Manage change and conflict well.

These initial abilities will build on one another or at least lead to the need for one another. This final ability, however, must undergird every step. The fifth critical ability is to pray with a missional heart. I cannot overstate the significance of the need for this skill and practice!

If you want the train to move down the tracks, it needs a powerful engine. That power will not come from within us. It must come from the Holy Spirit. Prayer is one significant way to engage in that power relationship.

The church must acknowledge God’s sovereignty. Matthew 16:18 says, “…and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” First Corinthians 3:6-7 adds, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

Effective leaders acknowledge that “apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). They recognize their inability outside of Christ. They are not trying to move the load by themselves and by their own strength. They know they must understand His mission, establish a vision based on His Word to fulfill it, build a team of leaders to join them in that vision and then be equipped to lead in the change and through the conflict that may arise.

It bothers me greatly as I visit with pastors to see how many suffer from the sin of omni-competence. They seem to believe they are supposed to have the answer for every question and be able to accomplish any task. Who told them to do that? We were never intended to be able to do everything on our own. In fact, we were never designed to be able to do anything on our own. Everything belongs to Him. It is His church, His growth, His harvest. My life is even His. He bought me with a great price. Let us be careful that we do not confuse ownership and stewardship!

Stop reading and take a deep breath. I mean it. Breathe in breathe out. You couldn’t create that. Even that breath is a gift of grace from Him. Everything is. Prayer helps us to acknowledge Him and His sovereign rule over everything including the church.

Ironically though, Scripture also shows that the church must accept her service. James 4:2 states, “…you do not have because you do not ask.” Matthew 18:19-20 reminds us, “Again I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” God has chosen for us to play a role in His mission.

I often ask pastors for what are they praying. Are we asking for the lost souls of our communities? Are we sincerely pleading with God to revitalize the church and send her down the tracks? You know I have never met the leader who believes they are praying too much. Perhaps if we focused more in the prayer closet we would see more happening in our ministry field.

Effective missional leaders will not only develop their personal prayer lives, they will develop the prayer experiences of the entire congregation as well. Prayer will be a major part of body life and spill over into outreach efforts as well. This emphasis demands intentionality. Be the church that really prays. Activate a prayer strategy. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers in to His harvest.’” How will we pray? For what will pray? When?

Prayer must saturate our personal lives, our small group ministries and our corporate worship experiences. This is a DNA issue for a church to experience revival and growth. Historically, no great spiritual awakening has ever occurred without God’s people first being in concerted prayer. Step one, pray. Step one million, pray. At every step in between, pray. Privately and publically, with your leaders and by yourself, pray.


Pastoral Leadership, Part 7: Communication

I have the joy of teaching in our Doctor of Ministry Program at Southeastern Seminary. It is an outstanding program of study with majors in Expository Preaching, Leadership, Biblical Counseling, Faith and Culture, and Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. You can learn more about the program by going here or by phone at 919-761-2216.

Recently, I received a very fine paper from one of my students on “Leadership in the Local Church.” The author is a pastor of a very prominent church in the Southern Baptist Convention who is leading it through a time of transition following a long tenured pastor. The focus of his paper was on how to lead a local congregation through a time of transition without blowing up the place. As many of us know this is easier said than done.

With his permission I will share in several blog entries an edited version of his paper. There is real wisdom in what you will read. For obvious reasons the particular church and the pastor’s identity will not be disclosed.

Pastoral Leadership, Part 7: Communication

The seventh principle that must guide any new leader in the midst of transition is the principle of communication. There is much written and said in our day about communication. As we counsel men and women preparing for marriage it cannot be emphasized enough the importance of communicating with one another. As we think about our own relationship to God, the principle of communication is always before us. We teach new disciples that through God’s Word He communicates his plan and His will for our lives. We also teach them that through prayer we communicate our hearts to Him. Thus, we teach the most basic tool of discipleship in a personal quiet time with God each day, emphasizing the importance of communication in the relationship. Well, it is also accurate that a new leader, in transition, must truly understand the importance of communication with staff, with lay leaders, and with the church family as a whole. What must be communicated? There are at least three primary things that every leader must communicate: who he is as a person; what his vision for the organization is and how that vision will be achieved.

Every new leader must allow his organization to know who he really is as a person. We live in a world where privacy has been established as a premium. Yet, there is no substitute for individuals within any organization getting to know their leader on a personal level. This is especially true in the church. As I dealt with the Pastor Search Team, they indicated they were looking for four things in the next pastor. First, they wanted someone who preached God’s Word unapologetically, communicating God’s truth week after week. Secondly they wanted a strong family man, whose wife and children complemented his life. Thirdly, they wanted someone recognized as being a leader in a city where he served. Finally, they wanted a pastor who would love the people, and who would allow the people to love him. There is a desire among believers to know their pastor, and to be able to love him and his family. As leaders of these congregations, we must be willing to open our hearts and lives to people.

There must also be the communication of what the new leader casts as a vision for the organization. Every organization should have core values that clearly define who the organization is and what it considers its primary goals. William Plamondon, author of the article on “Energy and Leadership” writes: “Leaders need to help set the standards to which the organization aspires, to challenge its members with a lofty goal, and to make sure that everyone understands the goal and what he or she must do to attain it. It is the leader’s responsibility to communicate this goal in a clear and compelling way that inspires the organization to move to new heights and at faster speeds that it would ordinarily attain on its own” (The Drucker Foundation, The Leader of the Future, 277). John Maxwell, in one of his Injoy Life Club lessons, quotes the legendary University of Alabama football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, as stating that there are five things that winning team members need to know: 1) Tell me what you expect from me; 2) Give me an opportunity to perform; 3) Let me know how I am getting along; 4) Give me guidance where I need it; 5) Reward me according to my contribution. Without question the new leader must communicate effectively the vision God has placed on his heart.

The new leader must communicate some specific steps that will be taken to achieve the vision and goals. Each year I have found that our staff retreat has become a real highlight for me and for other staff members. It is a time of vision-casting from my heart as the pastor and it has become a time of reporting what the previous year yielded in terms of successes and lessons learned. One of the greatest responses of feedback that has been received is the gratefulness for specific numeric goals that have been placed before them and specific ideas of programs to be executed. Each staff member has their area in which they are encouraged to dream, plan, and execute programs that will reach out to the lost as well as grow and develop believers. They must not be micromanaged, but rather they must be empowered to lead out in their respective areas. However, there are some major church-wide emphases that must come from the heart and vision of the pastor. They key is for everyone to walk away sensing that they have been valued, heard, and understood. This will be accomplished only by clear communication from the leader.

In the closing words of The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker pens these words: “Only executive effectiveness can enable this society to harmonize its two needs: the needs of the organization to obtain from the individual the contribution it needs, and the need of the individual to have organization serve as his tool for the accomplishment of his purpose. Effectiveness must be learned” (174). The issue of leadership is a multifaceted issue. The new leader moving into a role of transition will find challenges and blessings that will be very unique to the situation where he has been called to serve. And yet, there are some essential principles that will serve any new leader well as they carry out the call Christ has placed upon their lives. These principles that we have discussed are certainly not exhaustive. They have become in my life however, guiding principles that continue to impact decisions made and steps taken as I carry out this call of leadership in my own personal life. I pray that I will continually look toward godliness, integrity, courage, passion, compassion, competence, and communication as principles to lean upon each day.