Monday, April 30, 2012

But...what do we do?

As someone who visits many churches each year it's not uncommon to hear pastors challenge their churches to do certain things.  In the past year I can remember hearing two different pastors chastise the members of their churches over the lack of growth in the church.  Gesturing wildly, they fussed and fumed about the fact that their congregations were shrinking and placing the blame on the congregation for their refusal to invite people to their services.  I remember leaving both services thinking two thoughts: if I was a member of this church why would I want to invite anyone to be subjected to what I just endured, and, when will we be taught how to most effectively to invite new people to our church?

That latter question came to me rather easily because at one time in my pastoral ministry I made the same mistake these two pastors made.  One week during my sermon preparation God convicted me that I had fallen into a rut of fussing at our congregation for our lack of growth.  He made me aware that there were people in our church who agreed they should be doing more, but they were waiting on me to teach them how.  The next Sunday I shared this with the congregation and asked for their forgiveness for not doing a better job of teaching them how to do what they were being asked to do.  We then became very intentional about teaching our church members the how-tos of ministry.  The more intentional we became about teaching people how to do ministry the more involved they became in actually doing it.  It led to our church growing in some very significant ways.

Those of us whom God has called to pastoral ministry usually spend a great deal of time learning how to be more effective ministers.  We may attend Bible schools or seminaries.  Many of us read a lot, especially in the area of ministerial leadership.  The more we learn, in most cases, the better job we can do as ministers, but it's not enough just for us to get better.  If we want our churches to grow and enjoy a more effective ministry we have to train our lay people using the knowledge we are receiving.

One of the things I often say to pastors at my workshops is that they should never attend a training event alone.  They should always bring one or two of their lay leaders.  It is far better for as many people as possible to hear the same thing at the same time.  When pastors attend a good workshop and return home excited and enthusiastic about what they've heard they are often disappointed that their congregation doesn't share that excitement.  Well...they've not heard what you've heard, and you probably didn't explain it as well as the person presenting the material.  Your congregation might be much more likely to get enthusiastic about what you've learned if others from your church went with you and also returned home excited about the information.

According to Eph. 4 our primary responsibility as pastors is to equip our congregations for ministry.  We need to teach them how to do the things we are asking them to do.  Do not tell them what they should be doing unless you are also teaching them how to do it.  If you will teach the "how" you will often find you have many more people involved in doing the things that will lead to healthier, growing churches.

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