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We must expect different things from Pastors | What America can learn from the European Church | Part 4

April 2, 2012

[This is the fourth post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]

When I trained at seminary to become a Baptist Minister, there were a number of assumptions that were made about what that ministry was going to look like.

The major focus was on theology, because of course it would be my job to make sure that my future congregation understood the Bible in the right way.

Other key components included pastoral care and a little on how to preach.

I had no training in leadership, no training in what it means to be a disciple or to disciple others (other than Bible study), no training in how to build or facilitate effective evangelism.

My training was equipping and shaping me to fulfill a certain role; one that most churches in the UK expect their Pastors to perform and one that most Church leaders go along with. The role I was being trained for was this:

  • To look after the people of the church and care for them
  • To teach the people and to feed them spiritually.
  • To help them to be comfortable and healthy as they try to live good lives in a difficult world.

The huge problem with this is that it’s a million miles away from the model of discipleship presented in the Bible. In fact, it could be argued that it’s the exact opposite. Jesus said:

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 25-26)

A benefactor is someone who provides for other people and in return is able to exercise some degree of control over their lives. The provision of a benefactor can be financial, intellectual, social or spiritual; sometimes it can be all of these.

Pastors in the Church seem to have entered into a ‘benefactor agreement’ with their congregations, where they are expected to be the providers of what people need pastorally and spiritually.

We have ‘taken hold of that for which the Church has taken hold of us’ instead of taking hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us.

When we do this, we effectively become like a ‘shell’, insulating people from the life of discipleship that Jesus has called them into, instead of a skeleton supporting and helping people to disciple others.

The church becomes like a crab or a wood louse, with the staff surrounding the people with care and teaching, catering to their needs. But what we want to see is the church operating like a human body; arms, legs and torso supported by the skeleton and working together to achieve the commission that the head gives it.

Jesus’ commission is ‘Go and make disciples.’ Are we primarily doing that as leaders? Are we helping the people in our church to do that? If we are not, then are we really fulfilling the commission that Jesus has given us?

In a city with rock-bottom levels of church attendance, we have seen folks coming to know Jesus on a weekly basis. We are seeing hundreds come into our missional communities each year in a country where the average church congregation size is 38. And we are not just producing consumer-Christians, but believers who get straight back out there, discipling others. Why is that? What have we done that is different?

I believe that it starts with us as leaders.

  • Rather than providing pastoral care, we should be building a culture and supporting structures so that our people care for each other.
  • Rather than providing spiritual food, we should be equipping our people to access God’s Word and receive food from Jesus directly.
  • Rather than making people into clients for what we provide, we should be making disciples who can in turn go and make disciples.
  • We can do this by ‘pruning’ out a lot of the management we do, and then start living the life. We form a core community, live life-on-life and reach out to others to bring them into the Kingdom. Like Jesus, we identify and call a group of disciples to go on the journey with us and ask them to do the same. We percolate this throughout the whole church.

We do our job of making disciples and let Jesus do His job of building the church.

Paul, along with Rich Robinson, are spearheading much of our 3DM efforts in the UK. To check out their blog, click here.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Naomi Hill permalink
    April 2, 2012 3:40 pm

    brilliant… how to keep putting it into action!?!

  2. April 2, 2012 3:55 pm

    Reblogged this on levitasetgravitas and commented:
    Some great concise thoughts that are true of the U.S. as well and the direction the Church in America is heading.

  3. Marc Horton permalink
    April 2, 2012 4:05 pm

    Are we looking at rewiring and re-plumbing existing churches, or construction, re-construction or no construction?

  4. Jon McCranie permalink
    April 2, 2012 6:22 pm

    Let me summarize for you. When I knew that God was calling me to preach and acknowledged that publicly, all the other preachers that I knew kept telling me “the call to preach is a call to prepare” – and tried to tell me which seminary to go to.
    I had made my choice but then circumstances altered my pathway. And altered it, and altered it.

    I served three churches, one of them for 18 years, and I never did get to go to seminary. I never made a disciple, but participated as God made plenty. I never led anyone to Jesus but worked with many as the Holy Spirit lead them to Him. You see, God called me to preach. And Preach I did and do. I was okay as a pastor and some folks said I was really good at it. But having never gone to seminary, I could only preach Jesus and Him crucified. Sound familiar? Most of my Theology is based on the Book of John with a little of Ephesians and Hebrews for good balance. But if you write a test on what it means to be saved and how to help someone else learn that, I’ll pass it with flying colors. I have a mentor and I am a mentor and most of those I mentor, mentor others…

    Now, there is nothing wrong with Seminary…uh…I don’t guess. I know some guys that went and came back ready to tackle the devil. And I know some that went and came back tackled. My point is haven’t we blown all this out of perspective when we spend so much time talking about leadership when in fact we simply need to help those who need help and not try to franchise them…just help them get out and reach the lost for Jesus.

    But let me say this. I now have a pastor and he has to spend a lot of time catering to the washed…and that is fine because I love being able to have time to spend with the unwashed…

    • April 3, 2012 1:46 am

      Well said. You “get it.” Keep on getting it. Blessings, Kelly

  5. April 2, 2012 8:23 pm

    absolutely spot on! – from a pastor of 40 years

  6. David Morgan permalink
    April 3, 2012 8:31 am

    Excellent thought, but not easy to achieve!

  7. April 3, 2012 1:11 pm

    I learn all this at Southeastern FWB College. Now I still am working on fleshing it out, in my life and church

  8. April 3, 2012 3:55 pm

    “Rather than providing pastoral care, we should be building a culture and supporting structures so that our people care for each other.”

    I love the majority of what you’re saying in this post. I would argue that “pastoral care” is a very specific function of persons who are trained in this very specific discipline. There is a difference between the sort of care and presence provided by a trained pastoral caregiver and the sort of care and presence provided by a community of friends and family. This does not mean that one is “better” than the other or that one is more necessary than the other — just that both are essential parts of pastoral care. For some situations, there is no substitute for one-to-one pastoral care and counseling (such as times of crisis, grief, addiction, etc). The care family members and friends provide in these times is, of course, essential and invaluable. However, a pastor cannot simply work to “build a culture and supporting structures so that our people care for each other” and then think that he or she has done all that is required of a pastor in providing pastoral care to those in need. That, I’m afraid, would amount to shirking an essential pastoral function.

    • April 3, 2012 4:29 pm

      Andrew, I think we’d definitely agree with this sentiment. In the churches that Jo and I were part of, we actually had someone on team who only did “pastoral care” in the type of discipline that you are speaking to. I think what we are arguing for is that 90% of the pastoral care that people expect should be done by the church itself, not just pastors. Great thoughts!

    • May 5, 2012 5:02 pm

      I agree with both Andrew and Mike. Yes 90% of care should and can be achieved by the church family itself, leaving the most specialist care to be provided by trained church members (voluntarily) or occasionally staff. However, now we have many mature Missional Communities in Sheffield we are observing that there is a gap in what the average MC leader is able to offer. Because they are regular people with jobs/families etc, they sometimes lack the insight or experience of people trained as ‘ministers’ (as Andrew is suggesting) so that members of MCs do at times miss out on this kind of pastoral role which is perhaps less care-giving, and more directive/nudging people in the right direction.

      In Sheffield we are currently wondering about whether to make available specific ‘pastors’ to oversee groups of MCs to plug that gap, the kind of people who know your name and your story, and can speak prophetically into your situation as a result.

  9. April 4, 2012 5:58 pm

    I’ve seen this dream come true in the youth ministry at our church. We have a solid team of adults that I Huddle who are there to teach students to Encounter God, train & Equip them for the work of the Kingdom, and model the tactics that they can use to Engage the lost, last, and least. It’s a 3D strategy to see Ephesians 4:11-12 happen in our midst. It works with adults too, if they’ll make time for the Kingdom.

  10. May 9, 2012 5:01 am

    Well said! Church is a group of people called together to a cause. All to often we find our selves in protection and comfort mode rather than seeking His kingdom which is our call.


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  3. Is Church about the Superstar Pastor? | What America can learn from the European Church | Part 5 «
  4. What America Can Learn from the Church in Europe « Christianity 201
  5. Blogs, Links & Quotable Quotes – Sandy Matheson
  6. Benefactor or Discipler? How are you leading? |
  7. Are you building an organization or a missional family? | What America can learn from the European Church | Part 6 «
  8. Weekend links | Mike Breen
  9. Is Church about the Superstar Pastor? | What America can learn from the European Church | Part 5 | Mike Breen

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