“Pastors fail, not because they cannot preach, they fail because they cannot lead.” Pastor William E. Yaeger
Not every church expects the pastor to lead. Some see the pastor as hired help, an employee brought in to do a job at the direction and vision of the Board. Other churches expect pastors to “marry ‘em, bury ‘em, and visit ‘em in the hospital.” Some expect the pastor to be the local mystic, coming down from the mountain to tell the people what God has to say. Each expectation can be quite valid, depending upon the values and direction of each unique church.
Every local gathering of Christ followers has to decide “if” they want the pastor to lead. There are pastors who can’t lead and pastors who won’t lead and pastors who aren’t allowed to lead, but at the end of the day, most churches would benefit from a pastor who leads. Only a leader can move a church into a future of spiritual health and numerical growth. I’ve never seen a church drift into health and vitality, just as I have never seen a person drift into physical strength, or moral character.
Arguably, there is no greater need in the church today, than for a pastor to lead and mentor and equip as described in Ephesians 4. The next generation is especially in need of stable, mature, strategic leadership that fosters moral character and spiritual integrity. No matter how successful the ministry, success without a successor is failure, so passing the baton of leadership to the next generation is not optional. This means that the spiritual, moral and technical investment in future leaders is essential for the life and health of the church, for generations to come, should the Lord tarry.
A quick scan of current ministries across the country, reveals that mentoring the next generation of Christian leaders, Christian educators and pastors, is not a high priority. Few churches understand that mentoring and pouring into the next generation is more strategic than any program in the church. Jesus modeled the type of ministry I am describing when He poured his life into a few chosen men who would carry on the ministry after he was gone. These men provided the needed leadership for the church, that laid a foundation that has lasted to this day. Jesus had time to preach to the multitudes, but he focused his best energies on discipling a few, who were willing to become fishers of men (though they never asked for that). Without the leadership provided by Jesus’ disciples, the church would have become like so many other movements, after the founder and chief visionary dies, the movement flickers and dies. It becomes an essential priority for every pastor and every Christian leader to follow Jesus’ example of investing in a few chosen men, disciples who will reproduce themselves in the life of another disciple.
The late Dr. Howard Hendricks, the inspired Christian Educator at Dallas Theological Seminary commented,
“every person needs a Paul, someone to teach and mentor him/her, and every person needs a Timothy, someone to mentor and disciple.”
Picture one hand up to a mentor and one hand down to a men-tee. If everyone applies this truth, then everyone is being cared for by someone. Then the burden of leadership in the local church is easy, because everyone is sharing the load together.
Ultimately, a disciple is one who disciples!
Practically, we all need to ask the question, “who is my Timothy?” Who am I helping to become more like Jesus, just as someone is helping me? Just as parenting is essential for the survival of our race, so spiritual parenting is essential for the expansion of our faith in fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations.
My high school years were marked by the benefit I received froom colllege students who were training to be pastors. They were interns, being equipped for full time Christian service.
These leaders-in-training, learning the ropes from seasoned pastors, were challenging me to seriously study the Bible, meeting with me before school and in small groups while facilitating the launch of a Christian club on my high school campus. These Interns were learning the ropes of effective ministry, while being supervised by seasoned pastors. As these college students had one hand up to their mentor, they had one hand down to me, an inquisitive high school student.
This was my first exposure to a church that was serious about equipping men and women for full time Christian service. This leader-breeder ministry served as many as 25 Interns at one time, and equipped well over 150 people who today are serving as missionaries and Pastors and Christian Educators around the world. This was a sacrificial investment in the next generation. It required great selfless sacrifice to equip such immature and boneheaded interns like me.
My life is a story of learning to equip others in ministry, as I was equipped. As I attended seminary, my research paper was titled, “A Volunteer Staff Training Manual.” My assumption then has proven to be true over these many years of ministry, that volunteers need a leader with vision and direction, providing next steps in an ever expanding ministry. Many volunteers express a willingness to serve and give, yet insecurity and fear of failure immobilizes the best of them. They need someone to come alongside and encourage them in the battle, someone who understands the realities and discouragements that come from investing time and energy into people who are struggling with the deceitfulness of sin.
The passion of my ministry is to come alongside Christ followers and help them to identify their greatest areas of potential influence, then to leverage who God created them to be, to make the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God. That is a vision worth pursuing and a life worth living, to the glory of God.