- “We should leave the work of the ministry to the professionals! After all, they’ve been to seminary and been trained. We haven’t. And that’s what they get paid for, right?”
- “I have an idea of what the church should be doing. I think I’ll suggest it to the pastors and deacons so they can get to work on it.”
- “So the ministers do all the work? I want to get involved in a church where I can make a difference for the Kingdom. That doesn’t seem to be happening here—I think I’ll move on.”
- “You mean the ministers expect us to be involved in ministry? That’s not what I signed up for—I just want to go to heaven, and not go to hell. Isn’t that why Christ died? I don’t like these expectations—I think I’ll move on.”
These quotes above are examples of how people think the ‘work of the ministry’ should go in a church. Some think it’s up to the trained people, while others don’t want that but want to be a part of Kingdom work in a local church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 gives a helpful (and Spirit-inspired) insight into the purpose of the leaders in the church—to identify and equip future leaders in the church for Kingdom work. Why? What are some reasons and benefits that come from this. Below are five. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but a list nonetheless that will get the conversation started.
- This is a command of Christ himself. This is sufficient—but as always, when Christ commands us to do something, reasons abound. He never commands anything in a vacuum or to simply cramp our style.
- This is a reason He called you into the ministry. We are called to “make disciples”—that is, we are called to reproduce ourselves. This is part and parcel of our calling into the ministry. If you have any doubt, read 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
- This builds up the body of Christ into unity and maturity. The more people are involved in leadership, the less time they may have to complain about what’s happening. They will see what it takes to make things ‘run’ (for lack of a better term). But when we work in the same direction, captured by the same mission and vision that Christ has laid on us, a unity and maturity into the likeness of Christ takes place. We are, as Tozer said, all instruments tuned to the same tuning fork. And by virtue of that, we are tuned to each other.
- This safeguards the minister from believing he is irreplaceable. Few things serve as stumbling blocks to leaders in thinking that the ministry of a church would fail without them. This stems from a significant insecurity in the minister needing to believe he is irreplaceable. This mindset is dangerous for the church and for the leader. A leader must not consolidate ‘power,’ but give it away. That way, things do not grind to a halt when he is out of the pulpit or out of his class. The church keeps moving along because the true pastor is the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:4-5).
- This develops ownership of all of the members of the body of Christ, not just the leaders. While you will have people content to spectate, more and more people have other options to take up their time. If we as leaders do not equip and encourage and provide opportunities for people to learn and serve, we will lose them. People wish to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Can you think of any other reasons why identifying and equipping leaders is necessary?
To senior adults, I’m a young pastor—but I used to be much younger! I’m 43 years old, having been in ministry since I was 20 as a music and youth pastor; and I’ve served as a senior/lead pastor since I was 31. I’ve shared this before, but I’ve actually had people when I first started in senior pastoral ministry tell me they had a hard time staying at church because they felt a child was preaching to them. Now that I’m in my 40s, I don’t get that I’m the age of my members’ grandchildren anymore, but their children? Sure! I wonder when the tipping point will come? Probably when I start getting my AARP mail in a little over a decade (yikes!).
How does a young pastor minister adequately to those who are the age of parents and grandparents?
- Acknowledge and embrace your age. Some will look down on you because of your youth—something that Timothy experienced (1 Timothy 4:12). Like anything, you can allow your age to hold you hostage, thinking you have nothing to contribute.
- Age does not equal maturity. John Piper once said that you can be spiritually pimply-face at 80 years of age. Just because you are a young pastor does not mean you’re immature. Just because you are older does not mean your maturity is a given. Paul mentored Timothy and the church ordained him at a young age due to his maturity in the faith. But he lacked years, which caused him to operate in fear.
- Relish ministering to and with those older than you. For the first few years of ministry for me, the only ones younger than I were in youth ministry. I didn’t know anything about, well, anything. While some let me know that I didn’t know much, others took me under their wing and show me the ropes (and how those ropes got under those wings, I’ll never know!).
- Treat those older than you with respect, like fathers and mothers—especially when it comes to change. Interestingly, Paul tells Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Just because we are in the position of pastoral authority, does not give us the leverage to treat others with contempt, especially those who are older than us. Condescension is unbecoming a young pastor. Respect! Encourage him as you would your dad. Now there’s some perspective!
- God is ‘older’ that all of us put together—so preach, speak, think, and live His Word. Pastors are to set an example in life, love, faith, speech, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). No matter your age, experiences, or the context in which God places you—preach His Word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). All Christians of all ages, whether they realize it or not, yearn for the Word. All people need to hear the Word. So preach the Word, love your people, respectfully lead in areas that need change, carefully and prayerfully lead them to remove those obstacles—but only as the Word makes clear. And go at the speed of God (thanks for that, Dave Howeth).
What are some things you as pastors have learned in pastoring those older than you?
(Originally posted at Gospel Gripped in 2014.)
Whereas conventional wisdom in most evangelical circles dictates that pastors would do well to avoid the hard texts, my contention is that pastors should never shy away from this. While the Joel Osteens and the Robert Schullers of the world will shy away from such dealings , I believe that many in our pews are just wanting a pastor who will deal directly with what the Bible says and address the issue at hand.
A case in point: in my previous church, I preached on two rather “hard texts” two Sundays in a row: one dealing with the role of women in the church, the other on the necessity of giving. After each of those sermons, one of my deacons came out and said, “Man, I thought you’d be black and blue right now — you really laid it out there.” But the reaction couldn’t have been different. By the grace and glory of God, I received thank you’s for being willing to tackle such issues and helping to make things clear. That will happen more often than not! What joy that brings to a preacher and leader!
Why should we preach the hard texts as well as the other types to our people?
- Those texts are in the Scriptures! Obvious, yes. But I have had well-meaning ministers tell me that just because it is in the Bible does not necessarily mean it will be appropriate to preach on. This is why I make the case for expositional preaching: if forces you to deal with a text that your flesh may tempt you to avoid.
- For all the talk about our people despising authority, I believe they are looking for solid ground on which to stand. We all are. All this noise about postmodernism winning the day is far too premature. It may be prevalent, but it hasn’t won anything. If anything, our culture feels more in the dark than ever because many people’s spiritual journey is leading them down some deadends. Preachers must never forget the supernatural transformational power of the Scriptures that are breathed out by the Spirit of God himself! Never give up preaching! The world may deem it folly, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- People, especially Christians, long to be dealt with honestly. Many in my generation are becoming angry at the church for their failure to teach them the things of the faith. They praise God for churches sharing the gospel with them and showing them Jesus, but afterwards they become afraid of being too doctrinal (read: divisive) and therefore they do not “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
- People feel patronized when pastors fail to deal with a text or issue. When pastors avoid these texts, they are in so many words telling their people, “You really can’t handle this right now.” Yet, pastors who stay with their churches and invest their time in their people can take them along slowly and help them step-by-step. Young pastors especially need to remember that you don’t need to tell them everything you know (or think you know) in one sermon. Pour yourself out into your people and teach them with patience (1 Timothy 4:13-16).
What do you think?
I don’t believe I have an accent–even though everyone around me testifies to the contrary. Just this past Sunday at our Community Picnic, a guest detected my combination Virginia/Kentucky accent. My standard retort is, “I don’t talk with an accent! Everyone else does!” But it’s best just to own it and move on.
Does my accent bother me? I confess, it used to. When you have enough folks tell you you sound like a hick or a redneck (especially when I’m tired), it wears on you. But why? God chose my birth date, my birthplace, and thus I should not worry about what others may say.
I’d been thinking about this for a while, speaking with an accent. Is my conversation laced with a gospel accent? If so, am I apologetic? Am I ashamed? Do I make a note as to how I’m talking normal? Is that really normal for me?
As I was already thinking about this, I received a review copy of David Prince’s book on “Church with Jesus as the Hero (thanks, David and AABC).” Lo and behold, Chapter 15 addresses the need for a gospel accent. He has a wife like mine who has a wonderful Southern accent (Prince’s is from Alabama while my wife’s accent is from Kentucky). I love what he says at the beginning of the chapter:
Many evangelical preachers I know preach sermons that are permeated by a wonderful gospel accent. Whatever portion of the Bible [from where] they are preaching is rightly influenced by the thick gospel accent of Scripture. As a gospel preacher, they know that they do not have to figure out creative ways to work the gospel into their sermons; rather, it is simply who they are as shepherds of Christ. They proclaim powerful sermons about the sovereign triune God who has made a way of salvation for all who repent and believe in the all-sufficient atoning work of Christ. The love of Christ compels them as ambassadors for Christ to take every sermonic thought captive to obey Christ in their pulpit ministry (p. 103).
Exactly! In my pulpit, in my public life, in my private life, may God give me an accent that brings the gospel of Christ to bear on hearts and minds.