When it comes to pastoring small churches, I always think of Daniel Im’s differentiation between the “sage on the stage” and the “guide on the side.” The former is the resident expert on all things–and sadly can be the doer of all things. He is on every committee. Every idea is his. Every strategy and mobilization effect begins with him. It is not sustainable and is one of the reasons why so many pastors last so little time.
The “guide on the side” is an equipper. He knows what he knows–and what he doesn’t know. He also knows that others in the church have a spiritual gifting and passion for a ministry in their readiness to serve Jesus. These dear saints need equipping. It matters. It’s crucial for the future of the church and gives joy in the present.
Why does it matter?
First, it’s biblical. Ephesians 4:11-12 calls those whom God has gifted to lead the church to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is a unifying trajectory for a church when everyone is equipped toward the Great Commission.
Second, we are equipped doctrinally and practically. In Ephesians, the first three chapters lay down a doctrinal framework, whereas the last three chapters apply that doctrine and put it into practice. So when Paul in Ephesians 4 (the start of the practical section) that we need equipping, we are not merely equipped on techniques to reach more people but equipped to know all about Christ and His teaching. I’ve noticed of late that when we get together as pastors at a denominational convention, we spend less time on understanding key doctrinal points than we do finding ways get more people into our churches. A balance is needed to mirror that of the Scriptures.
Third, it provides engagement. In his last sermon, Charles Spurgeon made the remark, “‘Tis heaven to serve Jesus.” Being engaged in Kingdom work is indeed a heaven on earth, for we are serving Jesus and His people here just as we will be in heaven. And we are not merely engaging to keep a preferred infrastructure going–we are engaged in helping all know Jesus and Christians grow deep in Jesus.
Lastly, a mission field is seen as your community. One church planting catalyst noted that for most established churches, the further away a mission field is, the easier it is to support. But what about the mission field around us? Homes, jobs, schools, communities–even the environments we occupy every day. This will mean a desire to be equipped to reach your marketplace. This may mean partnering with other churches to accomplish this task (for every faithful church has their unique role to play in the Kingdom).
All healthy churches continue to evaluate how they are accomplishing the Great Commission. What are some areas you see in which churches need equipping?