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Friday, January 20, 2012


I have commented many times in the past on this blog about my excitement about pastorates. For newer readers or those who, like me, forget stuff -- a pastorate is a mid-sized group of Jesus-followers who meet in a home for fellowship, worship, scripture, sacraments, and common work in mission and evangelism. In short, it's much like a house church but is rooted within the life of a larger congregation. The model (and the name) comes most recently from Holy Trinity Brompton, the Anglican church in London that is best known for starting the Alpha Course.

Mid-sized in this case means a group of about 25-35 people, which might seem large. I constantly tell potential leaders whose eyes widen at that number to stop counting the chairs in their house. So many of us think that crowding is a bad thing -- but if you've ever been part of a worship gathering in a home, you know that if everyone has a chair, it's pretty awkward -- but if you've got people sitting on the stairs, the window ledge, the living room floor, and the arms of the couch, it creates a kind of energy that can be exciting!

The reason I'm so excited about pastorates is two-fold. First, I have always been passionate about wanting the church to live up to its calling to be God's redemptive agent in the world (see Romans 8) -- in short, to live in intimate connection with Jesus through his Spirit, to care for its participants, and to overflow in love for all creation in tangible ways. As I have worked in traditional congregations, I have rarely seen any indications that the church can live in this way. Every time I've seen the church approach this level of mission and community life and spiritual vibrancy, it has been in home-based, home-sized groupings of some kind. I long for the church to become what Paul describes in Ephesians 3:10 -- God's vehicle to proclaim his many-splendored wisdom to the spiritual powers and authorities.

The second reason I'm excited about pastorates is that Central Lutheran, the church where I have served as an associate pastor for close to nine years, is putting a ton of energy and effort into creating pastorates within our congregation. I have been advocating this change for five years, and right now we are seeing it happen. As we have prayed and talked and read scripture and studied for the last three or four years, trying to "discern God's design for the body of Central" this is the door that God has opened.

Our hope is that within three to five years we will have dozens of pastorates meeting in homes, studying God's word, worshiping and sharing in the sacraments, and giving themselves away in some kind of tangible mission together. Newcomers to the church will be encouraged to participate in pastorates. Pastorates will give birth to new pastorates as leaders are trained and equipped through a natural, relational mentoring process. These communities will provide relationships across generations, much like an extended family.

Rest assured that you'll see more in the coming days on this blog about pastorates. Right now Central's pastors have been meeting with the first round of potential leaders, and it is so fun to see how God's Spirit has been preparing these conversations, laying groundwork in people's lives to prepare them for a leadership role.

If you are a praying person, I encourage you to pray for this adventure. Pray especially for these potential leaders, for their training and the people who will be led to participate in this fledgling round of pastorates that will form. Undoubtedly we will make many mistakes, but as the Bible reminds us, "Love covers a multitude of sins." We will certainly need that! I can't imagine moving forward with these pastorates if we weren't utterly convinced God is leading in this direction. Thanks for your prayers!


  1. Is a pastorate different from a small group? (our small groups are roughly 12-15 people that meet twice a month for socializing, prayer, and lite bible study.). thanks.

    Been tough to keep up with your blog. Too many papers to write and books to read. But I get here when I can. Take care.

  2. Bruce,
    Sounds like school has you busy -- maybe on a couple fronts! The biggest difference between a small group and a pastorate is the size, but several other changes result from that size difference. Pastorates tend to be better at doing missional work, raising up new leaders, and evangelism, for starters. Small groups tend to be better at accountability and deep discipleship. The two are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

    Glad to have you hanging around the blog when you can!