Not long ago I wrote an article about the danger of the super-pastor, and how pastors often (subconsciously) perpetuate the problem. In the article I briefly touched on leadership & discipleship multiplication as a key to effectively eradicating the super-pastor syndrome. I didn’t have time in that piece to go into more detail about creating a culture of multiplication, but I thought it was worth a conversation so over the course of three articles I want to lay out for you the biblical case for multiplication, the barriers to multiplication and four models of multiplication. This is the first of the three articles.
The biblical plan is a culture of multiplication. There really doesn’t seem to be any question on this point. God never intended Lone Ranger pastors to tackle ministry on their own. Unfortunately we have developed a pattern, particularly in the US church, that perpetuates this myth. We’ve even nuanced our verbiage to reflect it. When a pastor does ministry we describe their behavior as “pastoral.” We say things like, “So and so is particularly pastoral.” What we mean by that is that they are good at serving the ministry needs of others. This is tragic, in my opinion, because scripture seems to indicate that church leaders are not called to do ministry as much as they are called to prepare and deploy the church to do ministry. Consider Ephesians 4:11-16.
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
This text pretty simply lays out four simple truths about church leaders and their responsibility to the church.
God gives the church leaders.
Leaders are not in their role simply because of giftedness, or desire, though both of those things are important. Leaders exist in their roles, first and foremost, because God has ordained that they be there. A church leader’s role is a commission; an assignment from the God of the universe. It cannot and should not be approached with lazy, half-hearted effort. The text says more than that leaders are simply given to the church though, it specifically says that leaders are given, as a personal gift from God. The idea here is that church leaders are intended by God to be a good, and gracious gift to the church. I wouldn’t recommend that you go to your church on Sunday and point out to them that, as a leader, you are God’s gift to them (that probably wouldn’t go well), but you ought to be encouraged by this fact. In God’s good providence, he intended for you to be his good gift to the church, and he intended the church to be a good gift to you.
Leaders equip the body.
God gives leaders to the church, yes, but notice that God doesn’t give us church leaders so that they can do ministry. He gives us leaders to equip the body to do ministry. This is a radically important distinction. As I previously said, we have even modified our vocabulary to indicate that when we assume certain aspects of pastoral leadership that are focused on serving the needs of others we are now known as “being pastoral.” This gives away a belief that what it means to be pastoral is to minister to the needs of others. While this is noble, and while the pastor should certainly be a servant, we do a disservice to the people we serve, the church as a whole, and the kingdom of God, if we personally do the ministry that God has called the whole church to do. Not only that, though, the bible is clear that the ministry won’t be done well, when we assume that posture, and the church will not grow, when we assume that posture.
Does this mean that church leaders shouldn’t be engaging the church in ministry? Absolutely not! It means, however, that they serve the church through ministry because their responsibility as a member of the body is to minister – just like every other member of the body – but their vocational responsibility is to equip the church for service.
The body is built up.
The ability of the church to be built into the image of Jesus is dependent upon the leadership training and handing off ministry. Notice the ways that the church grows when the leadership equips the body to do ministry, rather than simply doing the ministry for the body. They grow in unity, knowledge, doctrinal stability, gracious speech and the character of Jesus.
This pattern is a reversal of our typical behavior in the church. We have developed a pattern of expecting maturity before we give people ministry responsibilities. Paul, in Ephesians 4, turns this on its head. He wants us to understand that unless we turn people loose with ministry responsibility, they will never grow into maturity.
Jesus is glorified.
Finally, all this is done as Jesus enables it to be so, and it is done to bring him great glory. Notice the patter in the text.
- Jesus brings the church together (unity in diversity)
- Jesus makes the church grow
- Jesus increases the church’s capacity to love
- Jesus helps every believer to reach their potential
This is the dream for every church leader I know. They want the church to grow into, and be, every one of these things. Could it be that God gave us a plan to make it happen, and we’ve simply missed it all along?
Micah Fries is the Vice President of Lifeway Research, and author of a volume in the Christ-Centered Commentary Series.