You’ve seen it, haven’t you? The church where the pastor is working 24/7, dealing with negative church members, making hospital visits, responding to emergencies, and attending meetings; ultimately draining him or herself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is not healthy and it isn’t the way the Church is supposed to function. It is not the pastor’s job to do all the ministry of the church!
Peter tells us the Church is to be a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and Paul explains that each one of us has been given at least one spiritual gift for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ – the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7). Notice the Bible doesn’t say the pastor has been given all the gifts and everyone else is there to consume those gifts!
“Pastor” is only one of many spiritual gifts. While there is debate in some circles over which gifts are still in use today, the truth is that the Holy Spirit still gives a variety of gifts to individuals within the Church.
There are many causes of this disproportionate model many American churches have adopted, but let’s focus today on why this needs to change and what we can do about it.
A few of the many reasons for change:
(this is not an exhaustive list but it is a start)
- It is not biblical. There are many passages in the Bible that teach us about what Church should look like and none of them include the “pastor” or leader doing all the work with everyone else just keeping the seats warm.
- It’s not healthy. The pastor should not be expected to destroy his or her own physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health nor should they be expected to neglect their family in order to allow the congregants to be idle. A healthy pastor will be far more capable of shepherding their flock. If the congregation is allowed to let the pastor do all of the work, they will be prone to criticize and complain about everything the pastor does “wrong” – at least, everything that goes against the individual’s personal preferences. Oftentimes, this leads to gossip, slander, and power struggles which have nothing to do with the love of Christ that we are called to show each other as disciples of Christ which is to be our witness to the world. It will be a witness alright, but not the one that is intended! It is very difficult to regain a good reputation and the trust of the community once it is lost.
- Finally, everyone in the congregation misses out on the joy and fulfillment of serving by using their strengths and gifts.
So, what can we do about it?
If you are a pastor:
- Cast a clear vision for your congregation of what the Church should look like.
- Teach your people about spiritual gifts and the importance each individual has in the greater community.
- Look for gifts in others and share what you see.
- Encourage and empower the people to use their gifts.
- Let the lay people help you! Even if it means relinquishing some control.
If you are a lay person:
- Ask your pastor what you can do to help them. If there’s something specific you’d like to do, lovingly offer.
- Lead by example. Use your gifts in ministry. If you don’t know what they are – find out!
- Look for gifts in others and share what you see. Encourage others to use their gifts.
- Be patient with your pastor. Remember they have a difficult job and they are used to having to do it themselves. It is hard for some pastors to accept help.
- Put Christ first and pray a lot.
- Don’t be afraid to do something different – even if it’s never been done before!
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from mistakes and keep moving forward.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Ask for forgiveness when you need to.
How about you and your congregation?
We’d love to hear some examples of how you’ve seen individuals use their God-given gifts and talents to build up the Church. Please comment below.