The role of pastor is divinely designed to prepare others for ministry, not to perform all the duties in ministry. Pastors are not called to “do ministry” but to “equip believers” to minister to one another (Ephesians 4:11-13). Yet some pastors prefer to hoard ministry to themselves rather than equip others.
Some pastors are like the occasional church sound-guy that doesn’t want anyone else fiddling with the soundboard. If you have encountered this sound-guy, you likely first concluded that he probably knows best. After all, he is able to find that buzz, has saved the day multiple times, and uses words you don’t understand. You reason that you are an idiot and “that you should not concern yourself with things too marvelous for you” (Psalm 131:1). But as time passes, you wonder if the system has been intentionally designed so no one else can possibly run it. The sound-guy has built the sound-system around himself, for himself. In the same way, some pastors build ministry around themselves, for themselves, for at least three reasons.
1. Job Security
Just as the sound-guy designed a system where he is necessary, some pastors are hesitant to develop others for ministry because they fear they will become unnecessary to the church. They reason, “If others can do the tasks people think I am paid to do, then what will happen to me?” While the desire of a pastor to provide for his family is understandable and commendable, a kingdom-minded pastor loves the idea of “working himself out of a job.” He understands he is an interim pastor, given temporary responsibility for a group of people, and he wants to fulfill his calling—to prepare people for ministry, not hoard ministry for himself. Ironically, the leader who works himself out of a job will always have one, as there will always be a need for godly leaders who are committed to developing others.
Just as the sound-guy builds a system that necessitates him, some pastors need to be needed. They love to hear statements like “I can’t image anyone but you praying for me at the hospital” or “We do not know where our church would be without you.” Ministry can stroke the ego of an insecure leader who purposefully neglects preparing people for ministry because he needs the affirmations. It takes a secure leader to prepare others for ministry, a leader who realizes he/she is already approved by the Lord, already accepted by Him. And because His approval and acceptance is perfectly and permanently fixed on the leader, the leader is liberated to prepare and equip others.
Releasing ministry to others is impossible for the leader who holds tightly to ministry as his or her reason for being. Ministry can be an attractive idol because it is rarely called out as sinful. It is an idol that others applaud you for. If ministry success is our god, we are likely to take the shortest path to greater and greater “victories,” but preparing and developing people is never on the shortest path. If ministry idolatry plagues us, we are hesitant to relinquish the ministry that fuels and drives us. Instead, we want to be the one, the man, the hero. We are only excited to equip others if our hearts are filled with awe and wonder that we belong to Him.
Eric Geiger is a Vice President at Lifeway, leading the Resources Division. He has authored several books including the bestselling church leadership book, Simple Church.