Pastorates: New Testament DNA for the 21st Century Church

Note: This manuscript is a work in progress.  It is largely identical to the manuscripts posted piecemeal during the early fall 2013.  However, for some readers it will be easier to use this all-in-one format.  My goal in this writing is to help churches that are interested in exploring the pastorates model of mid-sized groups.  If you are intrigued by the ideas written here, or if you have questions, please feel free to email me and we can talk.

Pastorates: New Testament DNA for the 21st Century Church
by Jeff Krogstad, copyright 2013.  

After Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, the Bible tells us that he talked with his disciples for about forty days before he ascended into the heavens and sent his Spirit to give his followers direction and power.  During those forty days, Jesus gave clear directions to his followers.  They were to take up the task Jesus had started.  They were to be sent out to the world, even as he had been sent to Israel.  They had received training from him over a three-year period, and now they were to go out and invite others into this Jesus-following movement.  Nearly all of the New Testament writers include some version of Jesus commissioning his followers for this task.  

We are probably most familiar with Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus tells his disciples, 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

In John, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).  In Acts, Jesus tells his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Paul certainly embodied this call in his whole life of traveling around the Mediterranean, telling people about Jesus and starting fledgling churches everywhere he went.

Jesus’ followers called themselves “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9 & 23, for example).  Only later were they labeled Christians, and that term came from their enemies as an insult.  Early on, these people saw themselves as followers of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This new relationship with Jesus redefined everything in their lives.  They experienced a new power and a new sense of relationship with God that came from the resurrected Jesus. 

They gathered together in groups with others who knew Jesus, who knew this new power and new life.  They referred to these gatherings as “churches,” which brings to our minds pictures of buildings and steeples, pews and hymnals, but for these early Jesus-followers, the word referred to groups of people.  The Greek word was “ekklesia” (from which we get our word “ecclesiastical”, meaning something that refers to the church).  Ekklesia means literally, “those who are called out.”  Jesus used the term himself a couple of times (see Matthew 16:18 and 18:17), and in the book of Acts ekklesia becomes the standard term for a group of Jesus-followers.  These are the ones who have been called out of the world and its ways, called to follow a different Way, called to be like Jesus and to be part of his movement in the world.  

Let’s be clear about something from the start.  The New Testament knows nothing of church buildings, of pews and hymnals and committees changing the altar cloths or debating the color of the new carpet.  The movement Jesus started is about people, not about property.  The idea that a person can “go to church” and sit in a building for an hour, then go back to an unchanged life for the rest of the week, has little or nothing to do with New Testament Christianity.  

The Bible envisions a church -- an ekklesia -- of people who gathered together, most often in someone’s home (see Romans 16:3-5, for example).  They read scripture, worshipped, and prayed together (see 1 Corinthians 14:26).  They shared in a mission to impact the world in the name of Jesus.  In fact, non-Christians accused these Jesus-followers of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).  By following Jesus’ example, living in community with other Jesus-followers, and loving the world around them, they changed the Roman Empire and eventually the whole world!

What does the task of “making disciples” (meaning, making followers of Jesus) look like today?  In the early years of the 21st century it’s not hard to see that many churches have failed in this task.  We may baptize scores of people, our Sunday Schools may (or may not) be bustling, our youth programs crowded, our worship services pleasantly full.  But how many lives are changed in a lasting way?  

It’s been said that many of our churches are like football games.  A football game is 22,000 people who are desperately in need of exercise watching a game played by 22 men who desperately need rest.  Sadly, many people come to church to observe.  We relate to Jesus not so much to follow him or even to admire him, but to use him for our own ends.  In order to be blessed in this life and avoid hell in the next life, we are encouraged to pray a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts.  At its worst, it’s cheap fire insurance.  Sadly, in most of our churches, few people experience the “abundant life” (see John 10:10) Jesus longs to give his followers. 

Yet people inside and outside the church today are hungry for exactly what Jesus’ first disciples found as followers of the Way.  We are hungry for meaning, for community, and for a mission that is worthy of our sacrifice.  Not knowing where to find what we really need, we flock to Facebook and Twitter to find community.  We let advertisers, smart phones, and sports teams tell us who we are and what we need.  We clutter our schedules so that we don’t have to face the disturbing questions that confront us in quiet moments.

This book is about a community life, abundant life, centered in Jesus.  As much as possible, the goal of the pastorate movement is to live as followers of the Way in the 21st century following the example of those early Jesus-followers.  This is not an idealized effort to deny our history and somehow return to the cultures of the New Testament.  Rather, it is an effort to take seriously what Jesus taught about the church he came to create.  In short, the purpose of this book is to help set a group of people on the road to living as disciples and making disciples.  I believe with all my heart that the abundant life Jesus desires for his followers begins in the context of Christ-centered communities where Jesus’ followers love God, love one another, and serve the world.  As we live together in this way, the New Testament comes alive and we come to know Jesus in a new, powerful, personal way.  Across the world, churches -- gatherings of people who know Jesus as the Way, the Truth, the Life -- are experiencing what Jesus himself called “abundant life” (John 10).  Pastorates are one good way to be the church, to follow Jesus in the mission he gave us.

Christian churches throughout the world proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why, then, are so many churches -- especially in the developed world, in the West -- decaying, declining, and dying?

I love movie versions of the life of Jesus.  Jesus’ story makes such great cinema!  Nearly every story of Jesus ends with his resurrection.  Often when we proclaim Jesus in the Christian church, our proclamation ends with his resurrection.  When we consider our own identity as his 21st century followers, we think of his death and resurrection.  But the New Testament story does not stop with Jesus’ resurrection.  

In the first verses of Acts, Luke writes that in the first book (the gospel of Luke) he wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until his ascension.  The implication is that after his ascension, Jesus continued to act and to teach.  We should not be surprised by this!  Before his crucifixion, Jesus himself told his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).  If we are to understand God’s intention for the Christian church, we need to better understand both Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus’ Ascension

Sometimes well-meaning teachers talk about Jesus’ ascension as if the problem is just to get Jesus’ physical body out of the way so that his spiritual presence (via the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost) can empower believers simultaneously all over the globe.  This is not the Bible’s teaching!  No, Jesus ascends to the heavens physically, but more importantly he ascends in authority.  The ascension of Jesus (see Acts 1) points to the fact that Jesus is now exalted as Lord of all creation.  It is in the ascension that Jesus takes up his rightful place “at the right hand of the Father” as the creeds put it.  During his earthly ministry, Jesus’ most common title for himself was “son of man,” an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14.  Daniel sees one “like a son of man” who comes before the Almighty and is given authority to judge the nations.  Jesus alludes to these verses during his trial before Caiaphas, and the song of all creation in Revelation 5 echoes these ideas.  Paul certainly understands Jesus in these same terms in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1.  Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.  It is in Jesus’ ascension that he takes up this mantle of authority.

To be the church, we must rightly understand the sovereignty of Jesus.  As someone has put it, if Jesus isn’t Lord of all, he isn’t Lord at all.  Jesus is Lord over all creation, over all nations, over all people, and -- don’t miss this -- over the church.

What does this mean?  It means that the church doesn’t belong to us.  When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added).  Jesus is Lord of the church.  So all our positions of authority, whether as pastors, as teachers, as members or tithers or committee members or volunteers, are under the authority of Jesus.

This is obvious, right? If it is so obvious, why do we strive to control the church?  Why do we battle to the death over the worship schedule, the stewardship program, or the color of the new carpet?  Why is it so hard for people who have received some position in the church to share that authority?  Why do so many Christians have a complex about trying to control things?  If we strive to get our own way, to have our own control, we are not living in the ascension of Jesus Christ.

The ascension means Lordship for Jesus, and it means freedom for us.  It means that there are very few hard and fast ironclad rules for the church.  What ironclad rules there are have to do with the Lordship of Jesus, not with the structures or traditions of the church.

In the ascension Jesus takes up his authority, his sovereignty over all time and all space.  When we face a decision, it is Jesus’ word alone that matters.  When our circumstances seem difficult, we can trust that Jesus is working to shape and lead his church.  When the work of the church is too difficult for us, we can confidently ask Jesus to raise up workers -- and then we can confidently share the load without trying to control the outcome.

While it may seem that this is all obvious, the church has too often been held captive by human desires for control.  We must do more than pay lip service to the Lordship of Jesus.  We must learn to trust him to be Lord in fact, not just in name.  How does this work in practice?  It has to do with Acts 2, with the Father’s gift to the church -- the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Just before he ascended into the heavens, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the promise of the Father.  So in Acts 1, they wait in a very active way, studying the scriptures, praying, and dealing with some leadership issues.  Then in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes on them with power, just as Jesus had promised.  Eventually -- after six more chapters of hanging around Jerusalem -- the disciples move out into Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ that they can do this.  Every time these Jesus-followers opt for their own agendas, they fail.  Every time they choose to operate in their own strength, the movement falters.

The Church of Jesus Christ can only be the Church of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we are operating by any other power, we are not operating as the Church that Jesus intended.

Look back through Christian history with this lens and you see a fascinating landscape.  Movements rise and fall by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Individuals arise at just the right time in history and wield amazing power because they trust in the Spirit.  

Modern students of history are often tempted to secularize history -- to view it as a purely human chain of causes and effects.  Jesus’ followers must never give in to this temptation.  We need to remember (as Paul boldly proclaims in Acts 17) that the events of human history are Spirit-driven events.  

I am not saying that all events are caused by God.  The debate between strict predestination and open theism is far beyond me, though I believe Scripture tends to favor those who give God more credit, not less.  However, it is important to recognize that God is active in history, moving his followers to build his kingdom, to speak truth to power, and to proclaim Jesus in all ages and all places.

In the early 1900’s a group of Christians experienced a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit complete with miraculous healings and gifts of “glossalalia” or speaking in tongues.  Since that time, the word “Pentecostal” has usually referred to these Christian sects that expect the miraculous gifts and intervention of the Holy Spirit.

However, Mark Noll has described “Pentecostal” in a deeper and wider sense.  I quote him at length from a lecture at Roanoke College in 2006.

The simple demography of the world situation today forces -- or should force -- Christian believers in the West to reexamine questions that they may not have thought of for quite some time.  

I'm a Presbyterian.  Presbyterians are defined by:

A. Resistance to change,
B. A desire to have lots of committees, and
3. [sic] An inability to move past a mile or two an hour on any kind of conceptual issue. 

The world -- the Christian world we live in today is not a world made for Presbyterians.  It is a world changing fast, that's demanding Christian and theological reconsideration.
For example, how close is the world of spirits to the world in which we live?  In other words, what is to be made practically of the traditional Christian belief in the supernatural?  All Christians in one variety or another believe in forces beyond nature, in a God who acts for his own purposes when he wishes.  In most of the Christian world today, however the abstract belief in God's ability to act supernaturally is connected to a strong belief that God acts supernaturally, practically, in the world almost all the time ...  

[Noll describes a work by a Canadian author on images and experiences of Jesus in West Africa, and the sophisticated theological reflection that grows out of these images and experiences.]  

What I was impressed by was how standard, how ordinary, the expectation that God would normally, often, in the regular course of things, act for his own purposes, to bring about physical healing ...  

[Noll next describes a friend of his who leads seminars in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world on Bible reading.]  I asked John, "Now, how many of the people who come to your seminars -- and they would be Baptists, they would be Presbyterians, they would be Nazarenes, they would be Catholics, as well as many from independent churches -- how many of these people would be Pentecostal and charismatic?" He shakes his head and he says, "Every single one."  

They all are.  They all are expecting God to act immediately. 

Well, I don't.  I'm an academic Christian who thinks through things, and I want the Lord to kind of take his time.  But on such questions, it actually might not mean a whole lot what I think, very very soon.

Mark Noll has his finger squarely on one of the most important divides in Christianity today.  Christianity is not divided so much between Catholic and Protestant, or rich and poor, or Arminian or Calvinist.  Those divisions are real, but less important than this simple question:  Does God act freely, commonly, often, even daily, by his Spirit, to intervene for his own causes in the created world?  Those Noll labels "Pentecostals" would say a firm "yes!" to this question.  The rationalist protestantism I grew up with might more likely say a cautious, "Maybe."

Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds across the globe.  Much of this growth is happening in Africa and in China.  The growth that is happening, whatever denominational label it has, is a "Pentecostal" kind of Christianity in this specific sense: It is a Christianity that expects God to act immediately, supernaturally, in tangible ways.  It is a Christianity that is filtered more through the book of Acts than the book of Romans.

In 2011 Pastor Paul Johansson from Central spent some time in Ethiopia and Tanzania as part of his sabbatical.  One of the conversations he had during that time included observations about the Lutheran churches in Kenya and Tanzania.  In the 1960's, a charismatic revival broke out across the globe, including East Africa.  The Lutherans in Kenya discussed the revival and said, "This is not what our Lutheran churches are about."  They rejected this revival, and the Lutheran church in Kenya today has a few hundred thousand members, much the same size today as it was in the 1960's.  Next door in Tanzania, the Lutherans -- about the same size in the '60's as the church in Kenya -- embraced this charismatic revival as a legitimate work of the Holy Spirit.  The church began to grow by leaps and bounds, and today there are more than five million Lutheran Christians in Tanzania.  The Lutheran church in Tanzania continues to be Pentecostal in its expectation that God will act in a daily, supernatural way.  It continues to grow like mad.

Those who are doing cutting edge work in theology today have to speak about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the world.  We cannot cling to a rationalistic, Enlightenment-based distortion of Christianity that we think somehow reflects the Protestant Reformation, but that loses the heart of the New Testament.  Theology today must find a way to speak with clarity about this kind of expectation, this kind of Pentecostal expectation that God will act.  This is pneumatology, the study of the ways of God's Spirit and the difference that this Spirit makes in the life of the believer and of the church.  If Noll is right -- and I believe he is -- then this expectation cuts across every denomination, every tradition.  Expectant Lutherans have far more in common with expectant Catholics than they do with more rationalistic Lutherans.  This Pentecostal expectation has not exactly undone the Protestant Reformation, but it has certainly created a new watershed within Christianity.  On one side of the divide, the church is growing deeper and wider.  On the other side it is shrinking.

What does this have to do with pastorates?  Everything.  If pastorates are a program initiated by humans in response to a need within our churches, they will fail.  But I believe that the Spirit of God is moving through churches in the world today.  Not surprisingly the Spirit has started with churches where human beings hold the least power -- churches among indigenous peoples in the global south, churches in the secularized cities of western Europe, churches in the chic, agnostic populations of the Pacific Northwest in the United States.  Among these power-poor churches the Spirit has started to create Jesus-centered communities that exist in the Spirit’s power.  These communities are thriving for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that they actually work.  In a short time this book will examine the why, what, and how of pastorates.  First we need to take one more historical detour into the Protestant Reformation.

An excursus for Lutherans and historians

Protestant churches take great pride in Martin Luther’s theology.  We beat the drum of “justification by grace, through faith” and claim our theological inheritance as descendants of the Protestant Reformation.    Luther’s rediscovery of the New Testament’s teaching on justification has rightly been the idealogical cornerstone of Protestantism since the 1500’s.  

But what if we inherited Luther’s theology, but missed out on other critical parts of his teaching?  

Luther never tried to create a systematic theology.  As far as we can tell, Luther had little interest in writing timeless theological statements.  In nearly every case, he wrote theological statements that were firmly rooted in the practical concerns and contexts of his day.  This is why it’s not hard to find Luther saying things that sound completely contradictory.  To make sense of Luther, it is tremendously important to understand what context he was addressing.

Luther had a kind of conversion experience around 1514 as he was preparing to lecture on the book of Romans.  This conversion amounted to a paradigm shift that would shake western civilization.  It sounds simple enough in the beginning -- Luther realized that the “righteousness of God” in the book of Romans referred not to God’s holiness that gives God the right to smite sinners, but rather to the gift of righteousness that God gives to those who trust in Jesus, and to God’s character in giving this free gift.  

Luther spent the rest of his life working out the implications of this paradigm shift.  One of the greatest questions Luther grappled with was what this shift in understanding means for the church.  Almost immediately Luther saw that much of the church’s hierarchy, much of the church’s traditional practice (including indulgences that started the Reformation rolling in 1517 as Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church) did not fit with this simple teaching that God makes people righteous as a gift for Jesus’ sake.

In 1520, Luther published three critical books that laid much of the groundwork for the Reformation.  In these three books (An Address to the German Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of the Christian) Luther laid out basic doctrines that drove the Reformation forward -- the priesthood of all believers, the authority and accessibility of scripture, and the nature of Christian vocation lived out in community.

For the next decade, from about 1520 to 1530, Luther developed these ideas -- all rooted in the basic truth of justification by grace through faith -- and their practical implications for the church.  Obviously, if scripture has authority and can be interpreted by any Christian, the people need to be able to read the Bible.  So Luther translated the New Testament in 1521-22.  In 1526, Luther published On the German Mass which gave some specific guidelines for worship in the evangelical churches (more on this in a moment).  In 1528, Luther and a few others visited many churches in Saxony and realized that the churches desperately needed some basic teachings to help priests and people alike understand the basics of what it means to be a Christian.  After these visits, Luther wrote his catechisms -- The Large Catechism intended mostly for pastors, and The Small Catechism intended for use within households.  Both of these instruction books were designed to help Christians understand the basics of what it means that we are justified freely by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  

Throughout this decade, in many of his writings, Luther teased out the implications of justification for the church’s life.  Too often theologians have read Luther’s writings about justification but have not studied the practical consequences of this doctrine in his other works.  Luther himself was deeply concerned about practical matters.

Students of Luther at the beginning of the 21st century would do well to remember that Luther’s world was quite different from our own.  Luther could not have imagined a world in which the church’s hierarchy was divorced from worldly power, even though he often railed against the abuses of power in the church.  Luther was immersed in “Christendom,” that system in which the Christian Church stands in league with worldly powers and functions as a great political power in its own right.  As we read Luther today, it is important to translate some of his ideas and advice for our own times, when the church has been pushed largely to the margins of society and the church’s own political power ebbs with each passing day.

Yet in Luther’s thought and writing there are hints of what he dreamed for the church beyond Christendom.  It is worth noting that Luther constantly sees the community of Christians, the church itself, as the first consequence of justification.  Christian community is not just a byproduct of salvation.  Rather, Luther sees Christian community as the necessary consequence of our justification.  For example, in Luther’s Small Catechism, his explanation to the second article of the Apostles Creed (“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord …”) lays out in great beauty the reality of justification:

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.  At great cost he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature.  He has delivered me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Immediately following this explanation, in his explanation to the Third Article (“I believe in the Holy Spirit …”) Luther talks about the reality of Christian community created by our justification:  

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all my sins and the sins of all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
Throughout the remainder of his life, the Christian community was critically important to Luther.  No doubt his passion for the church was deeply shaped by his experience of living in community in the Augustinian cloister when he first became a monk.  Throughout his career he yearned for the church to function as a gospel community, living out the consequences of justification.

When, in 1534, Luther and his wife Katie were given the building that formerly housed the Augustinian monks in Wittenberg, they created something of a house church of their own. With their own children and numerous students who boarded at their home, their house became a boisterous place full of theological conversations serious and comical (many are recorded in the volumes called Table Talk in Luther’s Works) as well as more focused prayer and worship times.  Luther loved to pull out his lute and play Christian songs, some that he had composed himself. 

In 1536, Luther wrote what he thought of as his theological will and testament, The Smalcald Articles.  When we consider how important the experience of Christian community was to Luther, it is worth noting that in The Smalcald Articles, when Luther writes about the gospel, he explains that justification is communicated to us through the word and through the sacraments, two categories that are familiar to any Lutheran theologian.  “Word and sacrament” has almost become shorthand for the Lutheran understanding of the church.  However, Luther immediately adds a third category that he gives equal weight with Word and sacrament.  He says that the gospel is also communicated through “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”  By this Luther is referring to that experience of Christian community in which Jesus-followers hear each other’s confessions (formally or informally) and declare God’s love and absolution to one another (formally or informally).  

In short, Christian community was absolutely critical to Luther as the first consequence of the doctrine of justification.  Luther would have resonated with the idea that “the gospel creates community, and must be lived out in community with those it is trying to reach” (Reggie McNeal, Missional Communities).

Luther was very realistic about conditions in the evangelical churches in Germany.  He recognized that they could handle only so much change at one time.  In the 1520’s the churches of Germany were reeling from both theological and political shifts.  Luther’s writings had created enormous changes in the German churches.  At the same time, zealots took Luther’s writings as an excuse for their own violence in the iconoclast movement in 1522, and political tensions between the classes broke out in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1525. In just a few short years Luther and the other reformers had made enormous changes, and it took time for people to adapt and grow into these changes.  Some of the resulting societal changes were bloody and bitter.  Because he saw the potential for anarchy firsthand, Luther was careful to slow the pace of change when chaos threatened.  Yet at the same time, Luther dreamed of more.  

In the aftermath of the Peasants Revolt, in 1526 when he wrote On the German Mass, Luther allowed himself to dream in writing about what the church might look like someday.  First Luther described the Latin mass and the German mass which were both in common use in the evangelical churches at that time.  But then Luther went on:

“The third kind of service should be a truly evangelical order and should not be held in a public place for all sorts of people. But those who want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the gospel with hand and mouth should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacrament, and to do other Christian work.  According to this order, those who do not lead Christian lives could be known, reproved, corrected, cast out, or excommunicated, according to the rule of Christ in Matthew 18.  Here one could also solicit benevolent gifts to be willingly given and distributed to the poor, according to St. Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 9.  Here would be no need of much and elaborate singing.  Here one could set up a brief and neat order for baptism and the sacrament and center everything on the Word, prayer, and love.  Here one would need a good short catechism on the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Our Father.  In short, if one had the kind of people and persons who wanted to be Christians in earnest, the rules and regulations would soon be ready.  But as yet, I neither can, nor desire to begin such a congregation...for I have not yet the people for it, nor do I see many who want it. But if I should be requested to do it and could not refuse with a good conscience, I should gladly do my part and help as best I can.  In the meanwhile the two above-mentioned orders of service must suffice … until Christians who earnestly love the Word find each other and join together.” 

Sadly, Luther never saw this dream realized.  No doubt some of those conversations and prayers in his own home were a bit like this.  Other leaders down through the years succeeded in limited ways in creating this kind of Christ-centered community.  Count von Zinzendorf and the Moravians experienced a bit of this life together.  Philip Jakob Spener and the pietist movement he founded began to push in this direction.  John and Charles Wesley created groups that prayed and held one another accountable in their methodical way.  Many tiny congregations across the frontiers of North America must have worshipped in much this way in the 1800’s.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced this kind of community life with his students in the illegal seminary at Finkenwalde.  But especially among Lutherans, the patterns, hierarchies, and liturgies of the state churches of Europe resurfaced again and again to dominate the church’s community life and to disrupt Luther’s dream of dedicated believers meeting in homes, sharing communion and baptisms, centering everything on the Word, prayer and love.

The state churches of Europe had grown out of Luther’s temporary solution (again, trying to avoid chaos) to the question of authority in the church.  In the early 1520’s Luther himself asked the princes to step in to take care of the church’s needs for discipline, ordination, and the like.  It seems clear from Luther’s writings that he fully expected this temporary solution to last a short while and then to be replaced with some more desirable solution.  However, the way history unfolded, Luther and the reformers never found a better solution to the question of church order.  Within a few decades, this “temporary” measure had been transformed into a state church system in which the government paid the clergy and churches were regulated by and loyal to the state.  The hierarchy became entrenched.  The clergy and the state both recognized that lay-led movements of groups meeting in homes could be a potent source of political resistance to the state.  So the church and state hierarchies across Protestant Europe frequently found themselves in the curious position of outlawing home Bible studies!  In each of the Protestant areas of northern Europe, however, the Holy Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel drove again and again toward dynamic Christ-centered community.  The Word raised up leaders who founded communities.  Each of the countries in northern Europe has a slightly different history of non-clergy Christian leaders outside the state church system.  These leaders were persecuted by the state church because they preached in public, met for Bible study in homes, or formed unauthorized church bodies outside the state church’s authority.

In America things were a bit different.  The American Lutheran churches were actually making great strides toward creative ministry and cooperative work with other denominations in the mid-1800’s.  For these American Lutherans, it was easier to see the church as a voluntary organization rather than a state-supported structure.  Cooperation between Lutherans and other Christians was becoming more and more normal.  Lutheran distinctives were not obstacles to cooperation any more than the Anglicans’ Book of Common Prayer or the Presbyterians’ Westminster Catechism.  In the mid-1800’s, however, a flood of immigrants began to arrive in America, most of them from the Lutheran countries in northern Europe.   Immigrants were looking for stability and familiarity in worship, and the American Lutherans recognized both their responsibility and their opportunity.  These successive waves of immigration from Europe swamped the reforming work within American Lutheran churches.  “Home missions” was the term the American Lutheran churches used to describe their massive efforts to show hospitality to immigrants from the Lutheran countries of Europe.  These immigrants were understandably seeking something familiar in the midst of the upheaval in their lives, so the churches went back to forms of worship patterned after the state church liturgies in the old countries.  In the late 1800’s, hundreds of new congregations were founded speaking German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and other languages of Europe.  These massive home missions efforts were hugely important, and they shifted the course of American Lutheranism for generations.  It took a hundred years and more for generations of immigrants -- and their descendants -- to be assimilated into American culture and to begin to learn again how to cooperate with other Christians.

Today those European immigrants’ great-grandchildren rarely remember their European roots.  They speak English, surf the internet, talk and text on smartphones.  If they worship in a Christian church, they probably sing worship lyrics projected by LCD projectors on gigantic screens.  They are no longer drawn to the hierarchical church systems or high-church liturgies of the old country.  Those that are Christian are probably not worshipping in Lutheran churches.   Home missions was a success, more or less, in that the immigrants were well served, many churches were founded, and for a few generations the Lutheran churches grew along with the birth rate of the immigrant population.  

That wave of increase has passed.  In any case, caring for European immigrants is not the primary task facing American Lutherans in the 21st century.  Today we face many challenges -- including the following:

  • How can churches function with less worldly power without compromising our mission?
  • How can we effectively create leaders who will be faithful to the gospel?
  • How can we make disciples of Jesus here and now?
  • How can our Lutheran roots inform a mission that is appropriate for the needs of the 21st century?

The answer to these questions may well be tied into the question Luther asked in 1526: 

Have we come to that time in history when Christians who earnestly love the Word can find each other and join together?

If our answer is yes, Luther gave us a template, a pattern by which we can create gospel-centered community in which we can live out the reality of justification by grace through faith.  If we look around us, all over the world the Holy Spirit seems to be raising up this kind of community.  On every continent, whether among persecuted Christians in Beijing,  in the shadows of empty cathedrals in London, or in the trendy suburbs of Seattle, groups of Jesus-followers are meeting in homes.  They are experiencing the joy and fullness of Christian community centered in the Word, prayer and love.  Amid the crumbling ruins of the traditional church, the Holy Spirit is on the move.  Martin Luther’s dream for the church is being realized.

The global south

I remember listening to a missionary in the 1980’s, recently returned from Africa, who talked about a model of leadership training that was growing by leaps and bounds in Africa.  It was called “theological education by extension” or TEE.  In this model, students did not travel to a seminary to take several semesters of classes.  Rather, the teachers traveled to the village where the students lived.  In these scattered villages, the professor led classes over a weekend or maybe a week.  The students were probably already leading local churches and many worked at tentmaking jobs in addition.  They took a few days to study in order to be better equipped for ministry.  This model did not produce theological sophistication in its students but rather equipped them for the fast, portable work of leading local congregations.  TEE was a response to rapid growth of the church.  To the great surprise of many in the west, African Christianity had begun to grow by leaps and bounds, and TEE was one of many desperate moves to try to provide biblical leadership.  

About the same time liberation theology began to echo out of Latin America.  In a bid to deal with the consequences of corrupt politics, a hierarchical Catholic Church, and devastating poverty, small groups of Christians called “base communities” began to live together, sharing their meager wealth and their spiritual lives.  They began to read the Bible differently, recognizing that God had a “preferential option for the poor.”  Without a doubt much of liberation theology was deeply influenced by Communism, but it was also influenced by Acts 2 and other passages in scripture.  These Christian communities started within Catholic roots but rapidly expanded beyond the Catholic Church.  As pentecostalism grew by leaps and bounds in Latin America, many Jesus-followers took a page from the flexible leadership and communal lives of these base communities.  

After Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China, many missionaries thought the Christian church within China would be devastated.  All the missionaries had been expelled, after all, and there would be a serious lack of Christian leadership.  When China began to reopen after a few decades of being entirely closed to western Christianity, the first Christians to visit this new China were shocked to find a vibrant, under-the-radar Christian presence in house churches, led by pastors who had never been to seminary but who had been educated in the “school of suffering.”  That church had grown dynamically in the absence of professional leaders.

In the global south, the church was growing by leaps and bounds.  Two characteristics of these growing churches are worth noting:  First, they were not passive, but active, because they were gathering in home-sized groups where each member had definite roles and responsibilities.  To borrow language from Bonhoeffer’s classic book Life Together, there were few if any “unemployed” people in the church, in the sense that they were non-involved in the life of that church or passive in regard to its ministry.  Second, they were led not by degree-wielding, seminary trained pastors, but by minimally trained, spiritually gifted leaders.

Please note that I am not arguing against the existence of professional pastors.  Ephesians 4 makes clear that one of Jesus’ gifts to his church is the leadership of pastors.  However, I believe that professional pastors have made serious mistakes in the way we lead the church.  We have too often failed to disciple new leaders.  Instead, we have chosen to focus on our own gifts and abilities.  We have failed to find effective models for equipping the saints to do the work of ministry and instead, we have done ministry ourselves while people watch us.  We have organized our churches in such a way that our own roles as preachers and teachers are highlighted, often to the exclusion of other gifts and other leaders.  

Pastorates are a powerful tool to help the church function as it was intended.  Precisely because they do not encourage passivity, pastorates can help fill the void in leadership development in our churches.

If we pay attention to the Spirit’s movement over the last several decades, we have to acknowledge that on the level of local leadership, a seminary education is not necessary to a healthy church.  I’m not suggesting that theological training is of no value; quite the opposite.  Theological training as has been traditionally done at the seminary level will increasingly belong at the level of oversight, not at the level of local shepherding.  The idea that we have to require a four-year degree (or more) before a person can lead a house-sized congregation flies in the face of what God has been doing for several decades in the global south, and what God has been doing for centuries around the edges of churches in the centers of worldly power.  

Today we are seeing these same patterns -- local gatherings of moderate size, meeting without the burden of mortgages and salaries, led by gifted persons who are passionate for Jesus -- expanding across the increasingly dechurched western landscape.  Networks of missional communities have taken root in England, in continental Europe, in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the United States.  Something is happening as western churches are listening to and imitating their brothers and sisters in the global south.  The Holy Spirit is calling us to a way of being the church that is flexible, portable, and easily replicated. The pastorate is one particular model of this movement of the Spirit.

Pastorates -- just bigger small groups??

I am utterly convinced that the Spirit of God is moving across the globe, creating a revolution in the church that is rooted in biblical community.  In many parts of the world these biblical communities are simply house churches.  In North America where we live with an image of “church” as a specially dedicated religious building, it might be more helpful to refer to these groups as “mid-sized communities” in order to distinguish them from the more familiar “small groups.”  

Small groups -- groups of 8-15 people -- have been popular in the church since the days of Serendipity in the 1970’s and before.  Without a doubt small groups have been a great vehicle to create deep relationships and in-depth biblical study in certain situations.  But pastorates, mid-sized communities, are quite different from small groups.  Traditional small groups have some significant weaknesses that have become all too familiar within church leadership circles.  Mid-sized groups like pastorates, properly led, are strong where small groups are weak.  One of the greatest temptations for churches considering pastorates is to build small groups -- possibly slightly larger than average small groups -- and call them pastorates.  Trouble is, there are certain dynamics to mid-sized groups that simply don’t happen in small groups.  So let’s take some time to distinguish between small groups and pastorates.  

There’s always a temptation to settle for smaller groups.  Small groups are more comfortable -- everyone can have a chair around the living room.  (Note:  The most common objection from people who first learn about pastorates is, “How do you find houses big enough for 30-40 people?”  I immediately tell people to stop counting the chairs in their living room and accept that it might be a good thing to have people sitting on the floor, the stairwell, the windowsills.  Almost any average sized house in North America is large enough to host a pastorate.  This minor bit of crowding helps people get beyond their personal space issues and creates a collective energy for worship and for the Spirit’s movement.)  Small groups allow everyone to participate in one big conversation.  Small groups allow us to really get to know each other intimately.  Trouble is, as we pointed out above, for exactly these reasons small groups don’t grow, and they don’t function to make new disciples.  We get used to each other and comfortable in “our little group.”  It’s awkward for newcomers because they don’t feel like they’re part of the group, and they will probably not return.  A small group may settle for just “Bible study.”  Bible study is good and valuable, but many groups have studied the Bible for decades without ever growing significantly in numbers, in faith, or in mission.  It’s easy for a small group never to serve beyond themselves.  

One young pastor in his first parish was quite excited to find that a small group had been studying their way through the entire Bible every year for six years.  They met together each week and dug into the Word under the leadership of one gifted teacher within their group.  When the new pastor encouraged the six members of this small group to begin to teach others, they were horrified.  “Oh, no!  We could never teach anyone else.  We don’t know enough yet!”  Their small group was comfortable and even though they had studied the entire Bible for six years, they did not want to reach out beyond themselves.  Perhaps less obvious but equally important, the small group allows people to maintain a distance from the need to develop and exercise their own gifts.  

So what can a pastorate do that a small group can’t?  Fact is, pastorates are better at many things than small groups.  As we’ll see later, pairing pastorates with a smaller-than-usual form of small groups makes a complementary structure that is hard to beat.

Pastorates are better at evangelism.

Small groups don’t do evangelism well.  Once a group is established, it’s hard for anyone else to join.  If you are bold enough to visit an established small group, you will bump up against inside jokes and conversations that leave you on the outside.  Group members already know a lot about each other and your presence as a newcomer makes conversations awkward.  This is why many small groups choose to be “closed” groups that don’t take in new members.  Pastorates are never closed.  If you visit a pastorate, you will find half a dozen small knots of conversation and you can be welcomed into any of them.  Relationships are more open, and people come and go from the group fairly regularly.  As a newcomer to a pastorate you’ve also got a better chance of finding someone you can connect with.  Because pastorates tend not to get as in-depth in Bible study and discussion as small groups do, newcomers are less likely to feel stupid, like everyone else knows the Bible through and through.  Since a pastorate is larger -- 2-3 times as large as  a small group -- there’s less pressure to know everyone’s name early on.  It’s much easier to be a newcomer.

Also pastorates tend to do more activities than small groups.  Small groups tend to focus on just one activity -- usually Bible study in church groups -- and that’s it.  Pastorates, however, have a social gathering three or four times each year.  Pastorates seek out mission activities like volunteering at a food shelf or landscaping a school’s flower bed or holding a garage sale to raise money to support a mission project.  These additional activities appeal to many people who would never come to a group that was just doing Bible study.

Pastorates are better at leadership development.

One person can lead a small group, but pastorates are far too diverse and too large for one person to lead.  At a minimum it takes a team to lead a pastorate, and if the leaders are wise, they’re constantly delegating tasks out to potential leaders within the pastorate.  Again, this kind of natural leadership development is structured into the pastorate model.  Over time, people’s spiritual gifts and natural strengths rise to the top within the pastorate.  Quite often, new leaders emerge who serve within the pastorate.  These individuals may find that their gifts grow as they are used, and they may find new opportunities to use their gifts in a larger context.  If their gifts allow, they can also feed back into the larger church, so the pastorate network becomes a leadership development engine for the whole church.  Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton in London says that when, for a short time in the 1990’s, they gave up pastorates in favor of small groups, their leadership development dried up as well.  When they went back to a pastorate structure after a few years, they began to see new leaders emerging once again.

This leadership development happens because the pastorate is too big for one person to lead.  Pastorate leaders have to intentionally recruit others as often as possible.  Over time the various activities and relationships within the pastorate become a potent place for new gifts to be identified, called out, and developed.

Another key to leadership development within pastorates is that the pastorate provides a perfect place to try new things and fail.  Most of us learn and grow far more from failure than we do from success.  A pastorate becomes a supportive community where failure is met with encouragement and the opportunity to try again.  Too many potential leaders don’t weather their first failure well, and they never dare to attempt anything of the sort in the future.  With the encouragement of a pastorate, fledgling leaders may see that what they perceived as failure was, in reality, simply the first shaky steps toward success.

Pastorates are better at multiplication.

Once a small group is established, it’s almost impossible to get it to multiply.   From the very start, pastorates talk about multiplication.  They actively seek to grow “too big” so that their pastorate can give birth to another.  Because the relationships within the pastorate are less intense, less intimate as a rule than those in a small group, multiplication becomes a real possibility.  Because leaders are growing and developing constantly within the pastorate, it’s natural to consider whether they’re ready to step out and lead a new pastorate on their own.  This multiplication creates a sense of expectancy and excitement.  The entire pastorate model drives toward this growth and multiplication.  A large part of this growth happens because of the new leaders that are being developed.  As individual leaders begin to realize their gifts, they are more confident to move into forming a new pastorate with the support of the larger congregation and the love and encouragement of their original pastorate.

Pastorates are better at mission.

Because small groups tend to focus on just one thing, it’s often hard to add in a missional aspect to the small group.  Pastorates, however, are diverse and there is often a person in a pastorate who functions as a “mission champion” keeping the pastorate focused outward toward some missional activity.  Some pastorates collectively sponsor an orphan through World Vision.  Others financially contribute to support a missionary.  Others adopt a local program to aid homeless people.  Others volunteer to host a worship service in the larger congregation, serving as ushers and greeters.  Others send some of their members to volunteer in the church’s Alpha course.  

Pastorates are better at getting beyond themselves.  Anyone who has tried to coordinate activities for a group knows how tough it can be to coordinate schedules.  Pastorates include enough people that even if not all the people can show up, enough will come to make the mission work worthwhile.  Recently one of our pastorates booked a day with a local organization, “Feed My Starving Children,” that packs non-perishable meals to be sent all over the world.  This pastorate committed to 96 slots, then invited a couple other pastorates to join in.  Not only did they step up and do this amazing activity together, but this evening of volunteering together drew in quite a few newcomers who experienced the joy and excitement and camaraderie of these pastorates.  Cooperative mission resulted in evangelism!

There is certainly a place for small groups within the church.  At Central we have emphasized both pastorates (groups of 25-35) and our own brand of small groups that we call D4D groups (groups of 3-5).  We find that these two kinds of groups, along with regular large-group celebrations, create a healthy sense of Jesus-centered community.  Pastorates focus on word and sacrament, multiplication, mission, and caring for one another.  The D4D groups focus on building in-depth relationships, digging deep in to Scripture, and creating community that includes a lot of accountability.  These two are complementary.   What effectively happens is that the church begins to function at three distinct but interrelated levels:  the “celebration” or large-group gathering of a few hundred for weekly worship; the “congregation” or pastorate, a mid-sized gathering; and the “cell” or very small group which meets for accountability and in-depth study.

Most often, it’s helpful for individuals to stagger their schedules.  What often happens is that a pastorate will meet twice a month on the first and third weeks; the D4D group will meet the second and fourth weeks.  This keeps overall time commitments manageable.

Pastorates do many things better than traditional congregations.

Not only are pastorates better at doing many things than traditional small groups, they are also better for many things than the traditional congregation.  Much of what the church does happens best in pastorates rather than in the larger congregation.

Pastorates excel at pastoral care.

One of the greatest things about pastorates is the level of care they can provide both for their participants and for others.  Several of our pastorates have walked with a member of their group through significant illnesses, and some have experienced the death of one or more of their members.  In a congregation, a pastor often strives to provide significant spiritual care during this kind of crisis, but a single visit, or even two or three, is usually the best the pastor can provide.  

In contrast, pastorates have often set up around-the-clock care for a person in need.  They fill each other’s freezers with meals during a hospitalization.  They have done fundraisers to help cover medical costs.  They become an extended family at a time of death, walking through grief with a new widow, for example, in ways beyond what one ordained pastor can provide.  Recently one of our pastorates walked through lung cancer and death with a member.  A few weeks before Adeline’s death, she and her husband Hartley celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.  She was not able to move out of her home, but the pastorate hosted a wonderful anniversary party for the two of them.  Pastorate members greeted guests at the door, provided refreshments, and made sure every guest understood Adeline’s limitations.  A few weeks later the entire pastorate attended Adeline’s funeral along with hundreds of other people.  That evening was the regular pastorate meeting.  Even though he was exhausted at the end of a very long day filled with grief, Hartley was there and the pastorate suspended their regular plans as Hartley shared story after story of his 68 years of life with Adeline.  The pastorate continues to walk with him through his grief, and he recognizes how important the pastorate is in his life.  

Pastorates excel at getting God’s Word into people.

The trouble with so many of the ways we do church is, as we’ve examined, that people are so often passive.  Any teacher will tell you that the more active a learner is in the process of learning, the better the material will be absorbed and applied.  And that is exactly the key -- not only absorption, but application.  

In a pastorate, there are usually two or three people involved in directly teaching and proclaiming the Word of God.  This means that you have two or three people digging deep into scripture as they prepare.  If they are properly coached and encouraged, this act of preparing to teach can be fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to work in these teachers to deepen their knowledge of scripture and their ability to apply it.  

Participants in the pastorate not only hear and discuss God’s Word.  Traditional small groups also do this.  But the pastorate is actively seeking ways to apply that Word immediately.  Pastorates are actively inviting others in, and they are seeking ways to do the mission work of the gospel in the world through serving in some hands-on way.  This means that the Word that is heard in the pastorate is applied, and this means that the Word has greater opportunity to transform the lives of individuals and to transform the collective life of the community.

Pastorates excel at discipleship.

Mike Breen, who has worked with pastorate-sized groups for many years, points out that the basic problem with institutional Christianity is that its structure imitates the structure of social life that dominated the Middle Ages, a system known as feudalism.  In many of our churches, a “lord” (the ordained pastor) and a few “nobles” (the staff, perhaps, or a church council or board of elders) have nearly total control over a large group of people who are responsible to do the work of the “serfs” (the members of the congregation).  In return for their work, the “serfs” have a claim on the “lord” to feed them and protect them.  Breen points out that this goes a long way to explain the conversation that happens in so many church parking lots after worship on Sundays.  “I’m just not getting fed at this church” is a comment and criticism heard far too often after worship.  This attitude and assumption about what’s supposed to happen in worship sets us up with a faulty paradigm for what the church is about.  

Breen goes on to say that Jesus rarely fed the masses.  Instead what he did is he invited people in (“Come, follow me”) and then challenged them (“You give them something to eat”).  This invitation and challenge is the basic framework for discipleship.

Pastorates are full of invitation and challenge.  We invite people in to attend, participate, eat, enjoy.  About the time people really start to appreciate the fellowship of the pastorate we challenge them to serve beyond themselves.  Individual pastorate members may be challenged to share their testimony, to provide teaching, or any of a number of other leadership functions.  Anyone who has been around Christianity for any length of time -- and many who are brand new to it -- recognize that this is what it’s all about.  We are putting into action what has only been theoretical for too long.

One of the keys to the success of the pastorate model is that pastorates are expected to live out the gospel.  Pastorates are expected to make disciples.  And they do.  The most effective disciple-making churches are those that structure themselves at all three levels of the church -- celebration, congregation, and cell -- capitalizing on the strengths found at each level of Christian community.

Implementing Pastorates

So what do pastorates look like? What are the practical details of implementing pastorates in a congregation?

Very few congregations can simply start a wholesale pastorate launch successfully.  Pastorates are close enough to small groups, close enough to more traditional worship services, close enough to mission teams, that a congregation with experience in any of these areas will find pastorates morphing into “what we already know.”  

Because of this, it’s important to lay some groundwork before implementing pastorates.  First, it’s worth taking time to get to know the model.  Do some research beyond this book.  Go to Holy Trinity Brompton’s website -- the church that started Alpha, the church from which we learned about pastorates -- and find out how they conduct their pastorates.  The Alpha USA website also has a library that contains quite a bit of information about pastorates.  Nicky Gumbel, vicar of HTB, has written a small booklet called “Pastorates: Life at the Heart of the Church” that is a helpful resource.

Once you’ve done some research, gather some interested people.  Share the vision of what pastorates are and why you believe they’re a good fit for your church.  Gather a group of potential leaders.  Pray together for your church and for God’s Spirit to help you discern if this is the appropriate vision for your church.

If it seems good to you and to the Holy Spirit to move forward, this gathering of people can become a prototype of a pastorate.  Make clear to this group of people from the very beginning that you are hoping they will become champions of the pastorate model and that you’re hoping they will become leaders of the pastorates that form in the future.    It’s important to plant these seeds from the start; otherwise the natural affinity people build in the life of a pastorate will make planting new pastorates very difficult.  

Meet together for a defined period -- three months at a minimum, probably six months maximum.  During this period build your pastorate with great care on the model described below.  This initial prototype will become the template in people’s minds of what a pastorate is supposed to be, so it’s critical to make this as much like the pastorate model as you can.  

After that time of learning, growth and discernment, discern what is the best way for this group of people to give birth to multiple pastorates.  Launching three or more pastorates in this phase will help later on; having multiple pastorates in the life of the congregation will help your church to avoid some of the initial resistance to growth and allow some diversity within styles of pastorates.  

A word of caution: In most churches, only about 15% of attenders are willing to jump on board a new program of any kind.  While it’s fun to think what your church might look like if everyone was part of a pastorate, it might take a while to get there.  It may be easier to launch pastorates for 10-15% of your worship attendance to start with.  If your church has a strong history of participation in home-based groups, you may be able to start with a slightly higher percentage.  However, in this case it’s critically important to help your leaders buy into the pastorate vision or the inertia of the church will pull the life of the pastorate back to the style of whatever groups have been dominant in the church before this.

Recruiting and training your new pastorate leaders is critically important.  The Book of Acts contains several examples of how seriously the early church took recruitment of new leaders.  Acts 1, Acts 6, Acts 13, and Acts 20 are all examples of how the early church dealt with recruiting leaders.  The books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are primarily about leadership issues.  This is important stuff!  Choose those who are your best leadership, who have the Spirit-driven gifts to shepherd people, who are experienced in handling God’s word well.  Choose them with prayer.  Choose them in the context of confidential, open conversation among one or two of your leadership team members.  Don’t have a leadership team?  Start one just for this purpose.  Pastorate leadership is too important to go solo on recruitment.

At Central we have handled training a few different ways.  Our initial training generally covers about six hours of theological and biblical material, description of the pastorate model, discussion of shepherding and leadership.  One of the most important ingredients of our pastorate leadership training is that we run through an actual pastorate evening complete with food, worship, word, communion, and prayer as part of our training.  This tangible experience is especially helpful to those who have less experience in actual pastorate life.

Six hours is not really much training, but it’s enough to launch.  Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your church, you may want to move to a general sign up next, encouraging people to find a location and time of the pastorate that works best for them and plan to attend.  Pastorate leaders should be encouraged to recruit their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.  Nicky Gumbel talks frequently about HTB’s pastorate leaders being encouraged to “mine the church” -- to look around on a Sunday morning at worship for those who may not be involved in a pastorate and to invite them.  

One of the most important parts of our pastorate leaders training at Central is talking through the “non-negotiables” -- the four strands of our particular DNA for pastorates in our church.  I encourage you to think through the non-negotiables in your own context, then incorporate them into the vision of pastorates you share with your leaders.  The four non-negotiables at Central are printed in a booklet we use in training our pastorate leaders.  Here is a lengthy excerpt from that booklet, detailing the four non-negotiables that have governed our formation of pastorates at Central: 

1. Meeting together.

A few years ago, one of our pastors answered the church phone on Christmas Eve.  The conversation went like this:
“Hello, Central Lutheran Church.”
“Hi -- is this Central Lutheran?”
“Is it the big brick church?”
“The one with the cross on top?”
“The one right across from the high school?”
“Yes, that is the church.”
“Okay, good.  We’re just trying to remember which church we belong to.  What time are your Christmas Eve services?”

The caller considered himself a member of Central Lutheran, but couldn’t even remember where exactly the church was.  The New Testament knows nothing about “membership” in this sense.  If you belong to a group of Jesus-followers, you meet regularly with them.  Membership is about relationship, not about having your name written on a database somewhere.  The book of Hebrews says, “Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some …” (Hebrews 10:25).  So in  a pastorate, we meet together.  Pastorates are groups of about 25-35 people who meet together in someone’s home.  

If you’re like most people, you might be thinking, “My house doesn’t have room for 35 people!”  Stop counting chairs!  Most medium-sized homes can easily handle a pastorate if we are willing to be cozy, to have younger ones sitting on the carpet or the stairway.  In fact, this short-term crowding can pay huge long-term benefits of building up the community and creating a sense of excitement in worship.  

There’s always a temptation to settle for smaller groups.  Small groups are more comfortable -- everyone can have a chair.  Small groups allow everyone to participate in one big conversation.  Small groups allow us to really get to know each other intimately.  Trouble is, for exactly these reasons small groups don’t grow, and they don’t function to make disciples.  We get used to each other and comfortable in “our little group.”  It’s awkward for newcomers because they don’t feel like they’re part of the group, and they will probably not return.  A small group may settle for just “Bible study.”  Bible study is good and valuable, but many groups have studied the Bible for decades without ever growing significantly in numbers, in faith, or in mission.  It’s easy for a small group never to serve beyond themselves.  

One young pastor in his first parish was quite excited to find that a small group had been studying their way through the entire Bible every year for six years.  They met together each week and dug into the Word under the leadership of one man within their group who was a gifted teacher.  When the new pastor encouraged the six members of this small group to begin to teach others, they were horrified.  “Oh, no!  We could never teach anyone else.  We don’t know enough yet!”  Their small group was comfortable and even though they had studied the entire Bible for six years, they did not want to reach out beyond themselves.

What’s more, like in that Bible study group, it’s easy for a small group to be led by one individual.  In a pastorate, one person can’t handle all the leadership needs, so new people must grow into these tasks.  The pastorate is better at evangelism, better at mission, and better at leadership development than the small group.  

2. Word and Sacrament

During the Reformation in the 1500’s, Martin Luther and his followers defined a church as a place where the Word of God is taught in its purity and the sacraments are administered correctly (Augsburg Confession, Article VII).  Since that time, many Christians have used the phrase “word and sacrament” as a shorthand way to refer to what the church does when we meet together.  We are centered in God’s Word, the Bible.  We baptize as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28, and we share in bread and wine as Jesus commanded at the Last Supper.  For some people, these tasks seem more suited to a large worship gathering, and not right for someone’s living room.  This says more about our comfort level than about what is biblical or correct.  It is helpful to remember that the New Testament churches all met in homes, and their leaders had no seminary degrees.  

During the Reformation, Martin Luther dreamed of a time when believers could gather in pastorates, though he didn’t use that term.  Luther wrote, “those who want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the gospel with hand and mouth should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacrament [of communion], and to do other Christian works … Here one could set up a brief and neat order for baptism and the sacrament and center everything in the Word, in prayer, and love” (Luther, “The German Mass”).  The goal is not to do a formal worship service in someone’s home; rather, the goal is to gather for worship and discipleship in a home around the very core, around Word and sacrament.

When we gather as a pastorate, a leader will have a message prepared.  Sometimes the pastorate leader may delegate this task to another member of the group, especially to a leader-in-training.  This talk does not need to be an elaborate sermon.  Most pastorates have a simple teaching time followed by discussion, often in smaller “buzz” groups.  The leader can prepare this short teaching by carefully studying God’s word in a prayerful, loving way, then applying it to his / her own life and to the life of the group.  

Pastorates should set aside time regularly to share communion. So a pastorate meeting schedule might look like this:

January through March -- meet twice a month
April – meet once for a party
May through July – meet twice a month
August – meet once for a party
September through November – meet twice a month
December – meet once for a party

This three on, one off schedule allows time for everyone to take a break (especially leaders!) and for special social gatherings like barbecues or potlucks that provide great opportunities to invite newcomers.  So, in this schedule, pastorates should plan to share communion at least once in every three month session.  Some pastorates will want to celebrate communion together more often. 

For some, this business of sharing communion in a home may feel strange at first.  The meal may not be as formal or as solemn as we prefer.  It is good to remember that communion is not only about repentance; it is also about celebration.  (There are detailed instructions for leaders about sharing communion in the pastorates starting on page 12.)

3. Multiplication

This fact may surprise us:  There is no support in the New Testament for a church that is not growing and multiplying, both spiritually and in the number of participants.  The number of stagnant or declining churches today is a sign of deeply rooted disease.  

In contrast, we fully expect pastorates to be growing and multiplying; in fact, this is a critical part of the pastorate’s mission!  Pastorates should be intentionally growing in numbers to the point where they reproduce, giving birth to a new pastorate.  

Neil Cole, in his excellent book Organic Church, says that “96 percent of conventional churches in America will never give birth.”  He goes on to state:

“Many of our churches do not even want to multiply.  For many in Christian leadership, church planting is a scary term.  It connotes pain, hardship, and loss.  The separation of relationships, the cost in resources, and the expense of starting churches like their own is too intimidating.  This sort of thinking has kept the local church in bondage and fear.  

The way church multiplication has been taught scares people.  It is often taught that when a group gets past fifteen in size, it is essential that it divide into two groups.  No wonder reproduction is not attractive to church members!  This feels more like a divorce than reproduction.  Imagine if, in order to reproduce, humans had to cut off a limb, plant it in soil, and hope that it sprouted another body.  Ouch!  I suspect that if God had designed our reproduction in this manner, we would all choose extinction.

Actually, reproduction is not hard.  It is natural.  Dare I say, it is even pleasurable … Inbred in all living things is a desire to reproduce.  It drives us … Reproduction is the product of intimacy, and we are created to enjoy intimacy.  Even among churches, reproduction is the product of intimacy -- with Christ, His mission, His spiritual family, and the lost world” (Neil Cole, Organic Church, pp. 91-93).

How can pastorates grow?  Some of this growth will happen naturally as participants invite others into the community.  Pastorates are encouraged to do what Nicky Gumbel, who developed the Alpha Course, calls “mining the congregation.”  Seek out and invite those from the wider church who may want to share in your pastorate.  The church will publicize pastorate times and contact information to make it easy for people to try out pastorates, and to keep trying until they find one that’s a good fit for them.

Pastorates are also encouraged to have social gatherings, especially during April, August, and December.  These social gatherings provide a great opportunity to invite friends to meet the group, which will make it easier for them to feel comfortable attending the pastorate in the future.  

Another strategy for pastorates to grow involves sending a few participants from the pastorate to help on another ministry.  There are many potential ministries where pastorates could serve and build connections with others.  In the course of helping with this ministry, pastorate members will build relationships with participants.  It is natural after a time to invite participants to the pastorate.  Alpha is especially suitable as an introduction to pastorate life as Alpha focuses around the basic truths of Christianity lived out in community relationships -- but any relational ministry can provide a valuable on-ramp to life in the pastorate.  Building relationships and intentionally inviting others into the pastorate are key.

The point is to be intentional about multiplication.  As the number of people attending the pastorate grows, the pastorate leaders must be intentional to talk about giving birth to another group.  New leaders should be identified and given the chance to develop their gifts for leading, teaching, and administration.  Eventually (probably after a year or more of growing in numbers and developing leaders) the pastorate can send out the core of a new pastorate.  This newborn pastorate can then grow to maturity and give birth to its own children.

A word of caution: the greatest temptation for groups within churches is to become inward-focused, self-centered, and closed to outsiders.  We shrink until we feel comfortable, and all the while we tell ourselves that even though our numbers are stagnant or declining, we are “growing spiritually.”  While we believe we are experiencing greater knowledge of the Bible and greater intimacy with each other, we are in fact becoming closed off to the very world God loves so much, and we are turning aside from his purpose for his church.  We cannot be growing and healthy if we fail to bear fruit.  Multiplication is not optional for the church of Jesus Christ.  It is as we pursue this task that we will experience our greatest fulfillment and our greatest joy as a church!

4. Mission

Multiplication is part of our mission.  We are called to multiply and give birth to new pastorates.  Our mission also extends beyond this task.  We are called to find some specific way to serve the world’s needs.

The greatest paradox of Christianity -- and really of all existence -- is that we find our life when we lose it.  Jesus said this repeatedly.  Yet many “churches” are totally consumed with paying their own bills and maintaining their own buildings for the sake of their own congregation, and they give little or nothing of their thought, their time or their resources beyond their own existence.  Eventually they become totally self-consumed and die.  

Once in a while you hear a story of a dying church that, in desperation, decides to give themselves away.  Surprise!  As they do this, they experience new life that seemed impossible a short time before.  Why does this shock us?!  Didn’t Jesus say, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”?  (Matthew 10:39)

This sense of being called to a mission beyond ourselves is part of the very fabric of pastorates.  One of the first tasks of the pastorate leader will be to identify a “mission champion” who can work closely with the pastorate leader to keep the needs of the world and opportunities to serve in front of the pastorate.  Pastorates can adopt overseas missionaries and support them financially.  Others might volunteer together on an Alpha course or other ministry.  A pastorate might adopt a food shelf or homeless shelter or school.  In some concrete way, each pastorate must -- for the sake of its own life and health -- find a way to serve in mission beyond itself.  

Reviewing the Practicalities

So let’s take just a couple minutes, for those who are more organized among us, and review some of the basics of the pastorate model:

Pastorates are mid-sized groups of 25-35 people -- a mixture of ages, both men and women, children and teens and senior citizens, single and married -- who meet in homes approximately twice each month for fellowship, worship, hearing God’s word and prayer ministry.  They engage in mission beyond their group, and they intentionally work toward growing in numbers and birthing new pastorates.

Pastorates meet on a regular schedule.  HTB has set up a three-months-on, one-month-off schedule that makes a great deal of sense.  At Central we’ve imitated HTB’s schedule with slight modification.  Each month, pastorates meet twice a month for their regular gatherings.  Three months each year -- April, August, and December -- pastorates have no regular meetings but are encouraged to schedule some kind of a purely social gathering.  These socials are a great time to invite newcomers to the pastorate.  These three months off each year also provide a break for the leaders to be renewed and refreshed.

A Typical Evening

A typical pastorate evening looks something like this:  About six p.m., people arrive at the pastorate.  Snacks or a light meal are available and people gather in groups of three or four to catch up on each other’s lives.  There are a couple newcomers, and a few people make a point of introducing themselves and welcoming them, thanking them for coming, getting acquainted with them and making connections with their lives.  

About six-thirty, one of the leaders calls everyone together into the living room.  The room isn’t nearly big enough for everyone to have a chair, so some people sit on the floor, others stand in the doorways.  There’s an older couple that get the seats of honor in a pair of overstuffed chairs, and a pregnant woman sits gratefully on the couch.  Several children and a couple teens are tucked here and there around the room.  One leader welcomes people and says, “I thought we’d start with a little time for worship.  I was listening to this song this week and thought how fitting it is for our pastorate right now.  I’m going to play it on my ipod -- if you like you can sing along, or just listen and connect with God as you listen.”  As the song plays, about half the people sing along. 

When the song comes to an end, another leader stands and says, “If you’ve got your Bible, we’re in John 11 tonight.”  Most, but not all, of the people have Bibles, so there’s a lot of sharing back and forth between those sitting next to each other and between parents and kids.  The leader reads five or six verses and then begins to talk.  He tells a story of losing his own father, and connects his experience to Mary and Martha’s grief, to Jesus’ presence with the, and with Lazarus being raised from the dead.  The whole talk lasts about ten minutes.  

When he’s done, he hands out a half sheet of paper on which he’s written three questions that dig deeper into the talk and the scripture reading.    The pastorate breaks up into four different “buzz groups” that each moves to a different room, while most of the kids choose to head outside to run around the yard.  The buzz groups talk in groups of five or six about the three questions.  This takes another fifteen minutes.  

Then in each group, a leader or a leader-in-training asks, “How has God been working in your life this week?”  Some groups don’t have much to say, and move quickly to general prayers for their pastorate, for the church the pastorate is part of, or for other concerns.  In a couple of the buzz groups, however, people have specific areas they feel God is really at work, and the buzz group surrounds them and prays for them in very specific ways.  This prayer time rapidly becomes one of the most valued parts of the pastorate as participants learn that they can not only share real needs and concerns, but that the group will surround them and pray for them without trying to “fix” them.

Shortly after the prayer time, it’s eight o’clock.  Parents start rounding up children and the pastorate breaks up.  By eight-thirty, the hosts wipe down the kitchen counters and put away a few extra chairs and put their own children to bed.

Pastorates are not complicated.  They are profoundly relational, centered in the core belief that when Jesus’ people gather together, he’s present among them.  What you just read is one possible version of a pastorate evening.  There are many variations based on the needs of each pastorate, the strengths of its leaders, and more.

Size, Schedule, and Newcomers

I often refer to pastorates as “mid-sized” groups to distinguish them from the “small” groups people are so familiar with.  However, a pastorate is not primarily defined by its size.  A group of 30 people meeting in a home may not be a pastorate if they function more or less like a small group.  A group of a dozen people might be a strong pastorate if they function like one.

Small groups usually function like a single-celled organism.  The emphasis in a small group is on being together -- together in the same conversation, together in a discussion about a Bible passage, together around a table enjoying a meal.  

One main principle of pastorates is that there is never just one conversation going on.  Tim Matthews, the pastor who has overseen the pastorates ministry at Holy Trinity Brompton for the last five years, says that when he sees his pastorate starting to all share in the same conversation, he’ll intentionally turn to someone next to him and start a new topic.  That way there are at least two conversations going on.

What’s the big deal?  Why worry about having more than one conversation at a time?  Simply this: If we function as a single cell, it limits how many people can function in leadership, how many people can comfortably join the group, and how many people’s needs can be met through the group’s time together.  Pastorates always function with more than one cell, more than one conversation.  

In every facet of a pastorate’s gathering, you’ll see this principle at work, with one possible exception.  The possible exception is that during worship and word time, the pastorate is usually all focused together, just as a larger congregation gathers as one unit to praise and to hear God’s word.  So in this way, a pastorate functions a little like the larger church gathering, the “celebration.”  In every other time, however, the pastorate functions with multiple cells:  During the meet-and-greet time, there will be a half dozen tiny knots of people enjoying independent conversations.  After hearing the word, the pastorate may separate into buzz groups for conversation and prayer.  Even going out into the neighborhood or into the world in mission, the pastorate usually has several smaller knots of people working together as multiple cells.  

It is often tempting to have one large group discussion in a pastorate.  However, this is a way of growing the pastorate down into a small group and should be avoided.  

Scheduling is another way pastorates function differently than small groups.  As noted above, pastorates meet twice each month for a three-month term, then take a month off (April, August, and December).  Because pastorates are significantly different from small groups, it’s wise to encourage people to form their own cell groups to complement the life of the pastorate.  At Central we call these cell groups D4D groups (Designed For Discipleship).  They are groups of two to five men or women -- groups are gender specific.  They are not expected to multiply, but rather to grow deep together into God’s word and into one another’s lives over time.  Most often they meet twice each month, ideally on the “off” week when the pastorate is not meeting.  D4D’s function most often as closed groups, not inviting newcomers in.  As people observe D4D’s and want their own, they’re encouraged and supported to form new groups.

So pastorates, by virtue of the fact that they’re always multi-celled, are inherently able to welcome newcomers.  D4D groups are not expected to do that.  Those who crave the stability, depth, and intimacy of the small group are able to experience it, and yet the pastorate provides an engine for evangelism, for mission, and for leadership development.  Pastorate leaders always try to cater to the newcomer so that the discussion avoids intensity that might be off-putting to a newcomer.  That kind of conversation is more appropriate to the cell group.

What about children?

In our experience at Central, by far the biggest challenge we’ve experienced is how to incorporate children into the life of the pastorate.  We should note at the start that pastorates are inherently good for families.  Children see their parents taking time to nurture their relationship with Jesus and to spend time in his word and with his people.  As much as possible, then, children should be included into the pastorate life.  As noted above, there may come a time during the evening when children have their own activities or duck out after some time in worship and the word.  In other pastorates, parents choose to keep their children in the pastorate throughout the evening.  With younger children, parents will usually take turns overseeing the children in a separate area of the house.  

Note that the goal of the pastorate is not to have a quiet, solemn church service-type atmosphere.  There is ample room for children to be involved and even noisy.  More experienced parents can mentor younger parents who may feel self conscious about the activity level of their children, and if a child needs special attention a pastorate usually includes several adoptive grandparents or aunts and uncles.  

Personally, over time one of the greatest gifts I’ve seen in pastorate life is the impact it has on children.  Children who grow up in this kind of Christ-centered community are shaped by it.  They recognize that being part of a relational community that prays and worships and studies God’s word together is just normal.  As they grow older, they will seek out this kind of community, not settling for a “normal” life as the world defines it -- a life that is barren of significant spiritual relationships.  Also, children grow with a sense of kingdom possibilities and a heart for the mission of God in the world.  They learn along the way as naturally as breathing that God wants to bring healing, to speak light into the darkness, and that they may well be called to have missional adventures in the name of Jesus!  These things grow naturally out of the life of the pastorate.

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.

Counting the cost

When we start reading the things Jesus really said, as opposed to the things we think he said, we often get surprised.  For example, when Jesus started to draw a crowd (see Luke 14:25ff) he advised them to consider the cost of discipleship before they made a commitment to follow him.  “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost … ?”  It’s a question worth thinking about.  What will pastorates cost our church?

I see the cost of pastorates primarily in three arenas.  First, pastorates change the way we do leadership in the church, and ordained pastors -- and some members -- usually have a vested interest in keeping the leadership structures from changing.  We will need to count the cost of changing our structures of power, accountability, and privilege if we are going to build effective pastorates.

Second, pastorates will require diverting energy from other programs and ministries.  We may need to funnel our best leaders away from other areas in order to develop strong pastorates.  In fact, some other ministries may need to go away in order to allow us to build pastorates.

Third, while pastorates don’t require much cash to start, they have the potential to change the cash flow of the church.  Pastorates may fall in love with doing ministry through their pastorate, and they may begin to see that direct, hands-on involvement as better than a centralized program of giving through their congregation.  If pastorates start directly sponsoring missionaries, giving to local food shelves, and caring for their needy neighbors, it may change how tithe dollars flow through the local congregation.

All of these changes require calculation and resolve from leaders.  It is tragic to see church leaders who want to build pastorates, but then want to rein them in when they start to gain momentum.  For the moment, let’s take a look at the role of pastors.  This section will also incorporate a great deal of the story of Central and how this staff-led church came to give away a great deal of power to pastorates.

What do pastorates mean for the current leaders in the church?  Specifically, what does a pastorate structure require of the church’s pastor?

One of the most drastic changes the church has experienced in the last century has to do with the status of clergy.  A century ago, pastors were important people.  They enjoyed prestige in the community and deference from nearly everyone, even other professionals.  Even the United States tax codes recognize the status of clergy through special exemptions, deductions, and allowances.  In implementing these special classifications for clergy (of all faiths, though by far the majority of people able to take advantage of these have been Christians), the government has affirmed that the church provides services that are critical to the general welfare of the United States and therefore, without discrimination or bias, the U.S. government wants to support the work done by clergy.  Many of these special tax classifications are being eroded away today.  The benefits accorded to the clergy are changing.

Partly because of increasing education among the general population and partly because of a decreasing respect for the church as a whole, pastors no longer enjoy as much public authority and prestige as they did in the past.  While those of us who are ordained might grieve for these changes, we have to recognize that God is at work here.  These changing perceptions are no surprise to him.  

It is important for pastors to realize that Jesus had a great many things to say about power and how it is exercised in the gospel community.  Rather than exercising power over one another, Jesus said, leaders in this community are to be servants.  Rather than seeking our own advantage or control, leaders are to give away power.

This idea of giving away power is deeply personal for me.  Before I went to seminary, I served in various non-ordained roles within the church for many years.  I enjoyed not being a pastor, helping other lay people to recognize that they, too, could live lives wholly dedicated to following Jesus.  Radical Christian lives were not just for pastors.

As I served in the church, I became increasingly frustrated by a variety of “glass ceilings.”  Over and over again I encountered limits to what I could do in the church because I was not ordained.  At a retreat in February, 1994, I vented my frustrations to a friend who was also a pastor.  I complained about how my Lutheran church loves to talk about the priesthood of all believers, but then we create systems where pastors have power and the rest of the church sits by, passive.  I railed about how pastors function like a good old boys’ club, holding the authority to make decisions on behalf of the church, then making those decisions in ways that protect their own power base.  Paul listened to my tirade attentively.  When I was through, he quietly nodded.  “I think everything you say is true.  Pastors are often guilty of protecting their own power.  We create systems that preserve our own authority in selfish ways that hurt the church.  Do you know what will change the church, Jeff?” he asked.  

I was still quite frustrated and I became a little sarcastic.  “No, what’s going to change the church?”

“The only way these things will change is if good people who understand what you have been saying get ordained and then give away their power.”

It was like the Holy Spirit used his words to stick a pin in my ego.  I could almost hear my indignant rage leaking out like helium out of a balloon.  Within a week my wife and I had made plans to sell our house and I put in my application to seminary.  Since that time, my heart has been bent on being a pastor who gives away power.  I have returned again and again to Ephesians 4, where the apostle Paul describes how God gifted the church with pastors (and other leaders) in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  So if pastors try to do the ministry ourselves, we are working against God’s plan for the church, working against scripture.  The ministry -- the mission of the church -- is properly the work of God’s people, who are to be equipped and empowered by pastors and other leaders.

When I completed seminary and began serving two congregations in western North Dakota, I discovered (not for the first time) that it is not only pastors who resist the priesthood of all believers.  Often members of congregations enjoy being armchair quarterbacks in the church, able to second-guess decisions without taking responsibility.  Others take a perverse pride in having hired a pastor to do the work of the church on their behalf.  Many who bang the drum loudest for what they think is traditional Lutheranism also carry the most resistance to Luther’s idea that every Christian is ordained a priest in their baptism, authorized and responsible to carry out the ministry of the church.

As I have pursued the vision of pastorates for the last seven years, I have constantly been challenged to give away power in big and small ways.  One of the earliest lessons -- and one that is repeated most often -- is that if the gospel is going to create community, I have to give up the traditional pastor’s role of “answer man.”    Today when I sit as a participant in the pastorate my wife and I attend, I sit and listen, and if someone directs a question to me, I redirect it to the person leading our pastorate.  I find that this accomplishes several goals.  First, other participants are forced to grapple with their own questions and answers rather than simply looking to the pastor for the correct answers.  Over time this practice creates greater learning and develops in those who participate the ability to read and interpret the Bible for themselves.  Second, the leaders of our pastorate are reinforced, encouraged, and empowered in their leadership as they learn to lead through what are sometimes difficult issues.  Third, I tend to learn a great deal as I listen to the perspectives of my brothers and sisters in Christ!

In our church (meaning Central Lutheran), we have laid the groundwork for many years to empower pastorate leaders.  After a major staff transition in 2002-2004, we focused most of our pastoral attention on building toward this empowerment.  (At the time “pastorates” were not even remotely on our radar.)  The first steps of this empowerment included focusing our staff attention on teaching the Bible and on helping people understand what it means to have a dynamic relationship with Jesus.   (We were beginning with a congregation that was self-focused, biblically illiterate, and overwhelmingly complacent about everything from participation to mission.  The sad truth was that our new mission statement at the time, “Making Jesus Known”, caused quite a bit of controversy in some quarters.)  At the same time we intentionally created group experiences and raised up leaders to oversee those short-term groups.  We developed a strong Alpha ministry and trained a cohesive team of leaders who understood many different tasks -- set-up, clean-up, cooking, prayer, group leadership, administration, childcare, hospitality, and more -- as many different tasks that worked toward a common goal of evangelism and discipleship.  Alpha also created a natural association in the minds of both leaders and participants between relational groups and spiritual growth.  We used other small group experiences throughout the church to reinforce that connection.  To put it another way, belonging and believing were tied together.  This is a biblical idea that too often gets lost in our churches.

Another aspect of the culture changes we pursued during these years included saying “no” to many things that did not directly serve our mission.  In those days our mission statement was “Making Jesus Known.”  A worship team that enjoyed playing together but refused to pray together (it seemed to them like an exclusive practice) was held accountable and eventually dismissed from leadership.  We realized that families had fallen into a pattern of simply dropping their children off for Sunday School and then going out for brunch, and nothing we offered for adults seemed to draw them in.  So we did away with Sunday School, instead offering a children’s education time during worship for children who began and ended the worship service sitting in the sanctuary with their parents.  

These examples highlight a painful fact: You can’t give away power within structures that function to keep people ignorant, complacent, and avoiding responsibility.  Sometimes the structures themselves need to be changed in order to help people discover a willingness to take on authority and accountability.  

Along with our “Extreme Sunday Makeover” that deep-sixed traditional Sunday School, we began to teach parents intentionally that they are the primary faith educators of their children.  That simple message returns again and again as a challenge and encouragement to parents.  Many have stepped up and taken on their God-given authority as parents to disciple their children.  Others have walked away from Central and have gone looking for a church that still offers Sunday School.

Another challenge of giving away power is that it will not only challenge complacent pew-sitters; it challenges controlling pastors.  Many pastors lament the unwillingness of people in the pews to take responsibility.  However, these same pastors are unwilling to give up control.  You can’t ask people to take ownership if they have no say in the outcome.  Pastors have to go through an intentional process to give away power.  First the pastor -- the one who holds nearly all the power in the traditional Protestant model -- needs to discern a specific area in which to give away power.  Second, the pastor needs to back away from meeting everyone’s needs in that area.  In effect, the pastor has to create a vacuum where ministry is not being done, or highlight an area in which ministry is lacking without stepping in to meet people’s needs.  If there are no legitimate needs, why would people step up to take ownership?  Third, the pastor needs to recruit people who are willing to do ministry, equip them with both authority and with skills, and then walk alongside them as they begin to do ministry.  It is fascinating to read about Jesus’ methods in this regard.  In Luke 9, for example, Jesus first gives the disciples authority to complete the mission.  Only after he gives them authority does he instruct them and send them out.  Too often in our churches we are guilty of giving people jobs to do but no authority to make changes necessary to complete the job.  

As we learn to give away power within the church, we find several New Testament texts taking on new depth and meaning.  We read 2 Timothy 2:2 and discover that the New Testament vision of leadership development is multi-generational.  That is, as a pastor it’s not just about how I raise up leaders; rather, it’s about whether those leaders can raise up still more leaders who will be able to train and equip others.  So in effect, I can’t judge the effectiveness of my leadership development until my spiritual grandchildren are training faithful disciples.

When we read Ephesians 4, we discover that the reason Jesus gives leaders to the church is in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  In other words, as a pastor my job is not necessarily to do the work of ministry myself, though of course some of that will happen; rather, my job is to multiply the number and quality of people doing ministry by giving other Jesus-followers the tools they need.  What is more, only through this process of equipping the saints and releasing them to do ministry will we come to maturity, to the knowledge of Jesus.  

Think about it.  This is the same pattern Jesus followed with his disciples.  He walked with them, taught them, and lived with them, for a brief time.  Then he gave them authority and sent them out to do specific ministry.  He continued to walk with them through this process as they returned and reflected on their ministry, then went out again.  As they grew and matured and experienced successes and difficulties they became more and more able to do the work of ministry they had seen Jesus modeling.  The ministry of equipping is very near the heart of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Pastors and church leaders would do well to imitate him!

Launching Pastorates at Central

I am always tempted to run ahead of the Holy Spirit.  When I first heard about pastorates in the fall of 2006, I wanted to go back to Central and start them within a month or two.  The story of implementing pastorates at Central is a story of God frustrating and thwarting my plans again and again, until in God’s timing, the church was ready.

In the fall of 2006 I was riding a wave of excitement in ministry.  Among other pastoral duties, I had been leading Alpha at Central for nearly three years.  A few months earlier we recruited an “Alpha Leadership Team” (ALT) who took ownership of our Alpha ministry.  The idea was to create a body of leaders who would see Alpha as “their” ministry.  Partly this was a way to deepen and develop leaders, and partly a way to avoid the turnstile of volunteer recruitment every time we started a new Alpha course.  I spent the summer of 2006 simply cultivating relationships within the team.  Those relationships began to overflow into ministry, and that fall we ran our largest ever Alpha course, with 80 guests.  The two dozen adults on our ALT did amazing work and they rapidly became a cohesive relational group as well.  In addition to working together to lead the Alpha course that fall, we shared food in each others’ homes and met together to study and pray.  

In November several members of the ALT attended an Alpha Conference together.  (By the way, if you are not familiar with Alpha, you should check it out at -- it can be a powerful tool for discipleship and evangelism and culture change.  It is also an effective partner ministry with a network of pastorates.  Alpha excels at helping churches build relational groups that become a powerful vehicle for the gospel.)  At that Alpha conference, Nicky Gumbel, pastor at Holy Trinity Brompton in London and the author of the Alpha course, talked in some depth about his own church’s experience in leading Alpha.  When he fielded questions from the audience, someone asked, “What does your church do after Alpha?”  I had been leading Alpha for five years by this time, first in western North Dakota and then at Central Lutheran just outside the Minneapolis metro area, and I knew this was a crucial question.  On Alpha, guests experienced Christian community in which they heard the gospel, many for the first time.  They were introduced to Bible study and worship and prayer.  For many, the experience was literally life-changing.  But after Alpha, a disturbingly high percentage drifted away from what they had experienced because we lacked an effective follow-up plan.  

Nicky’s answer surprised me.  He said, “We’ve tried many other programs after Alpha, but none of them really work.  Every time you transition from one program to another, you lose people.  So at our church, we’ve had pastorates for years and years.  That is what we call our relational groups.  They’re bigger than small groups, and they meet in homes.  We simply help people move from Alpha into pastorates.  Often we combine a couple small groups from Alpha and create a new pastorate.”

I was fascinated.  I recognized the truth of what Nicky was saying, but the solution -- mid-sized groups that maintained the relational sense of belonging that guests experienced on Alpha -- was a different solution than I’d ever dreamed.  Nicky went on and talked about how pastorates worked to develop leaders, how effective they were for evangelism, and how they became the engines driving the church’s mission in diverse and creative ways.  He hinted at a few of the contrasts between traditional small group ministry and the larger pastorates.

After the conference I began doing more research on pastorates.  Little had been written about this model by that time, but I found a few accounts online of what was happening in London and elsewhere.  I started to strategize about what such mid-sized groups might look like at Central.  As I said above, I began to make impulsive plans to implement pastorates within a year or two.

Meanwhile our ALT was leading a ten-week Alpha course twice each year, in the winter and in the fall, and we continued to grow closer together as we shared ministry and met in each other’s homes and cared for each other’s children and dealt with each other’s tragedies and triumphs.  

Central is a fairly large church, with around 800 people in worship each weekend.  Theologically speaking, we are deeply committed to our Lutheran roots; in practice we look a little more evangelical than many Lutheran churches.  We are led by a dynamic staff, and I knew I had to convince the staff if we were going to shift our ministry to emphasize pastorates.  I began having conversations with various staff members about this model, sharing my excitement for what this could look like.

One key moment for us came when, in the winter of 2007, Dr. Skip Sundberg from Luther Seminary spoke at our church.  He referenced a little-known document written by Martin Luther that described a sort of house church as Luther’s preferred form of worship -- yet not a form that was feasible to implement in the 16th century.  That quote (see page ???) led to a lot of conversation within our staff over the next several years.  Looking back, it’s clear that the Spirit was planting seeds that would bear fruit much later!

In 2008 our staff went away together for a planning retreat.  As we talked about what Central needed as a congregation, various members of the staff shared their concern that we needed to focus on two priorities: building relationships and developing leaders within the congregation.  Late that evening I excitedly shared what I had learned about pastorates.  I talked passionately about how they could address our need to create a sense of community within the congregation.  I talked about their potential for leadership development and more.  Finally we agreed to sleep on it and talk more in the morning.

The next day our staff, led by our senior pastor, rejected the idea of pastorates in favor of a lengthy congregational assessment tool that would give us a deeper, better understanding of our real needs.  I was furious.  I fumed.  I pouted.  It was so obvious to me that pastorates were the right course of action!  In private I shared my frustration with Paul, our senior pastor.  He acknowledged what I was feeling but stayed firm about our need to do more comprehensive research into our congregation.  Then he said, “If you feel so strongly about this, maybe you should start a prototype of a pastorate.  Create one and see where it goes.”

As an associate pastor, I know the importance of submission to leadership even when I don’t fully agree with a decision.  So in that case, I let go of my plans for the whole congregation to implement pastorates, and began to focus my attention on plans to create a prototype.  I continued to lead Alpha, and I knew that with a little tweaking our ALT could function as a pastorate.  I began to share about pastorates with a few key leaders of our ALT, and they were enthusiastic.  We began to lay out plans for a prototype pastorate.

Then the storm hit.

2009 was an intense year.  At that time, we were aligned with a denomination that was debating major changes in the way we interpreted scripture.  Central was dealing with the echoes of that debate in minor ways, but we knew that if things broke loose, we might be facing a significant conflict.  Our church’s leadership had made clear that if the denomination chose policies that disagreed with scripture, we would be forced to change our affiliation.  Anticipating this debate, we had quietly spent a few years laying groundwork through biblical teaching and clear position statements approved by the church council and the congregation.

Not wanting our attention to be consumed by these debates about denominational policies and politics, we decided to launch a large, multi-pronged Alpha emphasis that fall.  We would have five separate venues for Alpha running at different times and locations through the week.  Our ALT was mobilized and ready.  Many members of the ALT took on new leadership roles and we recruited a mass of volunteers.  

At the same time, we were laying the foundations for launching new worshipping communities.  We brought on another associate pastor who would manage these new worshipping communities.  He planned to begin one of these new worshipping communities that fall by hosting an Alpha course at our local YMCA, and the church was eagerly anticipating that launch.

In August, our denomination held a national convention at which it voted to change its policies regarding the interpretation of scripture.  At Central, we began to schedule forums and votes to begin the process of changing our denominational affiliation.  The political battles began to brew.  Many of the old guard in the congregation used this political and biblical battle to air their under-the-surface frustrations with our current pastors and staff.  You could feel thunderstorms brewing on the horizon.

In September we started to train Alpha leaders.  The five-venue Alpha emphasis would launch later that month.  I was so excited!  This emphasis would stretch my leadership and push our ALT to take their ministry to the next level.  I felt a little like Dwight Eisenhower on the eve of the Normandy invasion, planning strategies and looking forward to one of the greatest tasks of my life.

September 4th was a beautiful Friday.  I had the day off.  In the middle of a gorgeous late summer morning at home, I experienced the worst headache of my life.  I was airlifted to a hospital in Minneapolis and hospitalized for fifteen days due to a bleed in my brain.  I did not return to work until mid-October.  A few days after I was hospitalized, another of our staff was permanently paralyzed in a terrible car accident.  Shock waves rolled through Central.

In my absence, others took over our Alpha campaign, and it taxed our volunteers and staff severely.  At the same time, the political battles around changing our denominational affiliation hit a boiling point.  Our constitution required two votes, 90 days apart, with a ⅔ majority at each vote choosing to change affiliations.  Between the two votes, an organized opposition group led by retired pastors who felt a need to remain loyal to their denomination held closed-door meetings where they accused our current staff of being bigoted and hateful.

In the end, almost 300 people left Central and formed a new congregation.  Dozens of friendships were strained, some to the breaking point.  

God has perfect timing.  If I had my way and we launched pastorates prior to this storm, they would certainly have been destroyed and lost in the turmoil.  All my hopes and dreams for pastorates at Central would have come to nothing.  All my eagerness to run ahead of the Holy Spirit could have destroyed the pastorates I hoped for.  My frustrations at the delay turned out to be a small price to pay for God’s perfect timing.

It is no surprise we spent most of 2010 licking our wounds and repairing the damage.  Finally toward the end of that year things began to stabilize.  As the politics and pain in our church began to settle down, I remembered Paul’s words a couple years before about establishing a prototype pastorate.  We had taken a break during 2010 from offering Alpha courses, so that fall I collected the Alpha Leadership Team and we formed the proto-pastorate I’d long anticipated.  We spent a few months intentionally gathering for worship, prayer, scripture, and (of course) food.    I intentionally taught this core group of leaders about the pastorate model and explained that this group would be a prototype, not an ongoing group.  What they were experiencing now, I hoped, would become a pattern for the entire church.

The proto-pastorate was a great success, and many of the participants grieved that it would not continue.  We knew, however, that we were called to spread these experienced leaders around, and we had been clear from the start that this group would not continue.  During the season of Lent 2011 we looked at launching a wider trial of the pastorate model.  We called these temporary pastorates “Life Together Groups.”  We recruited many key leaders, most of whom had experienced community life as part of the ALT and the pastorate prototype.  These individuals had been trained in hospitality, leadership, and evangelism through Alpha.  They had also learned how to talk about their faith openly.  

We carefully built teams of leaders in order to form a core for each of the Life Together Groups.  We spent two long evenings training them in the specifics of the pastorate model.  We publicized Life Together Groups to the congregation and beat the drum for this exciting new way of being church together.  Many of our existing groups in the church chose to open themselves up (LTG’s were larger than any of our current small groups) and welcome newcomers, transitioning to this new model.  During February and March 2011 we launched a dozen LTG’s.  Most of them thrived and enjoyed their time together immensely.  When we came to the end of Lent, about half of these groups chose to continue meeting.  

In the meantime we had learned a lot about leadership training, about the kind of support our LTG leaders needed, about how to handle worship in a home-based group, about the needs for specific plans for children in the LTG’s.  The groups who had navigated these challenges well tended to be the groups that kept on meeting after Lent.

During the remainder of 2011 our leaders took stock of what God had done during Lent.  We prayed and talked about where God was leading Central.  Prior to launching the LTG’s earlier that year, we had focused for several months on the twin priorities of “training and equipping people to do the work of ministry” and “discerning God’s design for the body of Central.”  As we revisited those two priorities, pastorates seemed more and more to be where God was leading us. Our LTG experience from Lent verified that pastorates would certainly be an effective way of training and equipping people to do the work of ministry.  Discerning God’s design for Central seemed more and more to include decentralizing the ministry, empowering people to function as leaders, and building Christ-centered, mission-capable communities within the larger body.  Pastorates definitely fit the bill.  Our senior pastor who had frustrated me so when he turned us away from pastorates in 2008 became the greatest champion of this new structure.

Early in 2012 we began to have conversations among the staff about what our leadership would look like if we transferred our energy into pastorates.  What would have to change?  We talked openly about the fact that in the past, our work had been roughly 80% about details (programs, administration, etc.) and 20% about investing in people.  If pastorates were to work, we needed to reverse those percentages. What would need to die if that was going to work?  These would become critical questions as we moved forward.  We also talked about possible timelines, realizing that if we were going to implement pastorates effectively it would take us at least three years.  We knew it would be easy to add pastorates as another program to our current slate of activities.  but if we wanted to be a church where pastorates were part of our core DNA, that would take a lot longer.  It would require significant changes in the way we as staff spent our time.

At the same time, we realized that pastorates are not the total solution to every need.  Pastorates do some things very well, but we knew we would need another vehicle for in-depth relationships.  So we also began working toward smaller groups that would include 3-5 people of the same gender, committed to share life together and grow deep into God’s word together.  These “Designed For Discipleship” (D4D) groups, as we called them, would be a complement to pastorates, providing deeper relationships and long-term accountability.  One of the signs of our commitment to this model is that we as a congregation agreed to change our bylaws to reflect that pastorates and D4D groups would be the primary discipleship vehicles for our church.

Starting with the Life Together Groups that were still meeting, we began to recruit new leaders and talk about pastorates not as a temporary program but as an ongoing commitment.  We realized that the pastorate leaders play a make-or-break role in this way of doing church -- they would be given authority to function like pastors within the limited context of their pastorate -- so from the start our three primary pastors agreed that we all three needed to approve a candidate before they would be recruited as a pastorate leader.  We brainstormed lists of potential leaders and began to have one-on-one conversations with each one. 

By early February we had a full slate of candidates to launch eight pastorates.  Some came from Life Together Groups that agreed to morph into the pastorate model.  Others had experienced Alpha and LTG’s and were starting out fresh as pastorate leaders.  We spent a couple long evenings with these new pastorate leaders, talking with them about the theology and vision behind pastorates, about our four non-negotiables, and about the practicalities of the leadership role they were taking on.  The second evening we spent about half our time doing an actual pastorate evening, worshiping together, studying scripture together, eating together, praying together, sharing communion together.  

In March we rallied the congregation to sign up for pastorates.  Pastorate leaders were encouraged to recruit people to their pastorate through their own connections.  In April the pastorates gathered for a social time together, sharing a meal and getting to know each other.  In May the pastorates launched.  For that first year all of these pastorates would work through the gospel of Mark.  We had written a study of Mark that helped reinforce their identity as a pastorate and encouraged them to put the four non-negotiables into practice.  

(Note: One glitch we ran into early on was that our pastorate leaders often chose to use the Mark study notes as a Bible study, thinking it would be easier to simply have their group discuss the study questions.  Our intention in providing the Mark study was for our leaders to use the notes as a resource as they prepared a talk on the scripture passage for that week.  Instead, most of our groups became Bible studies.  While this bore good fruit, it also pulled most of our pastorates back into functioning like a very large small group.  We’ve been working for a few months now to transition our leaders away from Bible study toward a prepared talk, launching into several “buzz groups” that can then discuss the talk and the scripture before praying together in the buzz group.  While at first our leaders were intimidated by the idea of giving a talk, soon they realized that preparing a ten minute talk on a given scripture passage is a lot less work, and requires a lot less technical skill, than leading a meaningful small group discussion.  It also helps the group live into its pastorate identity where there is never just one conversation going on at any given time.)

The pastorates were off and running.  Community takes time to develop, but early reports from the pastorate leaders were encouraging.  Over the first few months they saw increasing levels of sharing, eagerness to build relationships and study scripture, and a steady stream of new people coming into the various pastorates.  A couple of the pastorates encountered challenges nearly right away.  One Bible study group that tried to morph into a pastorate decided they liked being their own small group better, and they gave up on trying to function as a pastorate.  (To this day they continue meeting together as a Bible study.)  A couple of the pastorates grew in numbers very quickly to the point where they had to think about raising up new leaders and giving birth to a new pastorate.  Several pastorates struggled with how to have a meaningful worship time without musicians in their group.  Others faced challenges presented by the presence of active children.  Pastorate leaders struggled not to take it personally when participants stopped coming or when they invited people who turned them down.

All in all, the pastorates have functioned amazingly well.  The original eight pastorates grew down to six; since that time, we’ve launched two new ones and are working on two more.  After just over a year, these groups continue to grow, to recruit new people, to do creative ministry.  The relationships between participants have deepened dramatically.  Some of our pastorates have dealt with the death of members or have cared for members with serious medical issues.  Some have discovered a passion for mission work either locally or globally.  Some are embracing the task of discipling their children through their pastorate meetings.  All are experiencing a whole new style of being the church together.  Many people in the pastorates are discovering new gifts for ministry.  Our church staff functions largely behind the scenes to provide resources, encouragement, and ongoing training.  The saints are being equipped to do ministry.


  1. I have just started to read your manuscript for your book about Pastorates. I am a pastorate leader here in the Twin Cities< am excited to share this post once I have completed it. You make a lot of great point that I will be using to encourage people to join Pastorates.

    1. David, I'm curious if you've been able to move toward implementing pastorates in your context? I'd love to hear from you either through these comments or via email at Blessings!

  2. I have been checking out a few of your stories and i can state pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog testament