Friday, October 11, 2013

Pastorate manuscript #14

(NOTE: This is the last in a long line of pastorate posts; however, it is quite possibly the strongest argument for the benefit of pastorates in the local congregation.  Pastorates are an effective tool for developing fruitful leaders -- leaders who don't just know information, but who are actively involved in ministry.)

Developing Leaders -- how does it happen in pastorates?

Hang around with church leaders and you’ll hear some common refrains.  One is the complaint that it’s so hard to find adequate volunteers in our churches.  Even more, it’s hard to find good leaders.  Many, many churches function as staff-led organizations.  The church members are responsible to give enough money to pay the staff, and then to show up for the worship and other events which the staff (and a few volunteers) lead.

Is this the way the church is supposed to function?  Not if you read the New Testament.  Widespread passivity, professional ministry, and a few overworked volunteers are the product of an established church (think Constantine), not of the dynamic, living church Jesus released into the world.

Many churches today have rediscovered an interest in “discipleship.”  When a church gets fired up for discipleship, usually it means adult education starts to grow.  We develop a series of Bible studies or small groups.  We expend tremendous amounts of money, time, and energy in these discipleship programs.  But do these kinds of programs produce fruit?  Do they raise up workers for the harvest, like Jesus described?  As Ephesians 4 puts it, do they equip the saints for the work of ministry?

One of the most exciting things about pastorates is that they are a powerful engine for developing leaders -- real leaders who are capable of doing real ministry, not just answering a series of questions about a biblical text.  I’m certainly not against biblical knowledge.  However, the Bible is not intended just to inform us but to transform us.  

Because pastorates are too big for one person to lead, we create leadership teams.  Tim Matthews from HTB says that when they start a new pastorate, they recruit three people: a teacher, a worship leader, and an administrator.  These three people -- and any or all of the three may bring a spouse along into the mix -- create a leadership team for that pastorate.  All three of these leaders are encouraged to work intentionally to give their jobs away.  That’s just part of the expectation.  So the teacher recruits others to share their teaching in the pastorate.  The administrator gives away some administrative duties to others.  The worship leader recruits and develops other worship leaders.  Over time what happens is that certain individuals discover their gifts in a new way and get to practice leadership in a forgiving context.  Some may go on to use their gifts within the wider congregation, if their gifts are exceptional.  The majority of these leaders find a comfort level working within the pastorate.  As the pastorate talks and plans and prays toward the goal of giving birth to a new pastorate, these leaders may form a natural core group for that new mission.

In addition to these formal leaders who take on the important tasks of leading, teaching, and organizing God’s people in the pastorate, all the participants in the pastorate can step up to do ministry in situations demanding pastoral care or missional outreach.

For example, when one person from our pastorate is hospitalized, others from the pastorate naturally step up to visit, to offer lawn mowing or meals or help with gas vouchers.  They step up in these ways not because they think they are doing ministry; they step up because their friend is in need.  This is the most natural way for us to learn to give our lives away -- by caring for those who we hold dear!  In stable cultures where extended family relationships surround the individual, this happens naturally as we care for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  In mobile Western societies, pastorates provide an extended family with a web of relationships that help us learn to care.

Once we have learned this simple lesson, it’s not a giant step to be able to visit someone else in the hospital or offer to mow a neighbor’s lawn even if we don’t have a close relationship.  We’ve been schooled in our pastorate to provide pastoral care, and suddenly we discover that we have been equipped for outreach!  Certain individuals within the pastorate will be attentive to larger needs within the community, and they will become like a burr under the saddle of the pastorate as a whole.   They are “mission champions” who call the pastorate to action.  Again and again they will bring up needs in the community, encouraging the pastorate to step up.  Mission grows organically out of the web of relationships.

Throughout these processes, the pastorate is developing leaders.  If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the biblical texts will call us to be salt and light for our neighbors.  As these opportunities come up, the Holy Spirit can nudge hearts that have been prepared by God’s word.  It just takes a little encouragement and an opportunity.  Each time we step up to serve, each time we meet and someone else does the teaching, each time a new person agrees to make phone calls, each time someone new plans or leads worship, the pastorate is developing leaders.  Some of these leaders will sprint on ahead.  Others will grow comfortably into their role at a pastorate level.  

Over time the pastorate develops leaders not through a churchwide program, but through a web of relationships.  When failures happen (and they will) the pastorate can be a generous, gracious place to help pick the potential leader up, dust him or her off, and encourage him or her to try again.

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