HOW TO SLOWLY KILL YOUR CHURCH

As I was looking for a flock to shepherd this morning, I came across a medium sized church looking for a lead pastor-teacher. You get an education looking at the job descriptions and expectations congregations have for their preacher. You might think that a church looking for a preacher would ask themselves first and foremost, “What does God say preachers must be and do?” and then write that down as a job description, since that is God’s job description. But no, usually they turn to the business world. They craft a job description and have expectations for what looks like the CEO of a corporation, not a preacher of God’s Word.

One of the important resolutions every preacher must make is to make sure he does what God wants him to do, not what men want him to do. This may seem obvious, but many preachers, especially those just out of seminary, fall into the trap of trying to please men rather than God. This leads to failed ministry and exasperated preachers of the Word.

Men tend to want to run the church like a business, but God describes the church as a flock, a body, a family, and ministry. Men gravitate towards wanting to live by sight, but God wants us to live by faith. The larger a church gets, the more "businessmen" tend to show up in leadership, rather than shepherds who fulfill God's instructions to them to shepherd the flock through teaching, preaching, and discipling people in the Word. Thus larger churches can become mostly concerned with money and things, rather than people.

The Scriptures command those who are called to work hard at preaching and teaching, to work hard at preaching and teaching. Kind of a no brainer, but still very often overlooked. Preachers are to "take pain with these things [study, prayer, preaching, sound doctrine, and teaching] and be absorbed in them." They are to "devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word." They are to "preach the Word, being ready in season and out" which means THE BULK OF THE PREACHER'S TIME MUST BE SPENT READING, STUDYING, PRAYING, MEDITATING, AND WRITING. This not an option, this is what God requires – of every preacher. No exceptions!

Preachers need to read, study, pray, write, and meditate on the Word of God. This requires them to be secluded to a large degree. Though they may be very social people, they are called upon to engage in pursuits that require them to spend the bulk of their time away from people and in the Word and prayer. People might interpret a pastor who is obeying God as "hiding from His flock," and granted, preachers can be like ground squirrels who only pop their head up on Sunday morning never to be seen again until the next Sunday. Others might perceive a pastor doing what God wants him to do as "failing to shepherd the flock," and for many, that accusation is just. Yet for those who are taking pains to do what God commands them to do, the exact opposite is the case. What the flock needs more than any other thing is to hear a clear word from God. They need clear, engaging, doctrinally sound, expository sermons and inductive Bible studies that allow God to speak and minister to His people, from the text of Scripture, through the preacher.

Just read the Pastoral Epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) and notice the emphasis on preaching, teaching, instructing, etc. That is how GOD WANTS PASTORS TO SHEPHERD THE FLOCK. We often put expectations on our pastors that God never places upon them. Take visitation for instance. How many churches write on their preacher’s job description that their preacher must visit people? Most churches expect their pastor to be "THE VISITOR" to the congregation. But look in the Bible. Who is called upon to "visit orphans and widows in their distress?" Every Christian! The entire body of Christ, not just one person. Yes, a faithful pastor will do some visitation, but so will everyone else in the body of Christ who wants to obey the Lord.

I could create a very long list of cultural expectations on pastors that are really God's requirement for every believer. Things like evangelism, discipleship, counseling, prayer, giving, serving, practicing the one-anothers, are for every believer to obey. You see, we violate the Scriptures and harm the church when we expect preachers to do what the entire congregation should be doing. Think of it this way. How many people are called, gifted, and trained to put together an expository sermon that is doctrinally sound, engaging, encouraging, challenging, and practical? Probably very few in a church body. Yet preaching is what God says must be the main task, focus, and pursuit of every preacher. Preaching must take up the lion's share of corporate worship.

We harm the church when we place upon our preachers tasks that everyone or many can do in the church. By spreading the preacher out too thin, he is forced to neglect, to one degree or another, the most important task of corporate worship, the preaching of God’s Word. When preaching is at a low ebb, the health of the church is at a low ebb. As preaching declines, the health of the local church declines. Spiritually healthy churches and quality preaching are inseparably linked. There is no such thing as a spiritually healthy church with bad preaching. Thus by expecting the preacher to do what God has not called him to do, we harm the entire church. The preacher is not called upon to be an example in doing every ministry, but to be an example and do the ministry God has gifted, trained, and called him to do. His ministry.

Consider as another example singing in the church. The New Testament letters contain two short texts on singing. But how many texts are devoted to preaching, teaching, instructing, reproving, rebuking, exhorting in the Word? They are legion! Yet most churches have more music than preaching and teaching during their worship service. Why? Two reasons. First, either the preacher doesn’t understand what God requires and commands him to do or the church expects their preacher to do far more things than God requires. Thus being distracted, the preacher doesn’t have time to put together decent sermons. Bad preaching then leads to an anemic congregation that has low discernment, which leads to doctrinal error, ungodly people in leadership, and the death of the church.

God wants to speak to His church! He speaks to His church through the preaching of His Word. He uses faithful preaching to both save sinners and grow them in Christ. It is that simple.

It used to be that pastors had an office at home. They were secluded and showed up for services and key events to preach, teach, and visit people before and after services. They understood that the health of their local church depended largely upon the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God. God counsels, disciples, and ministers to people through the preacher from the pulpit ministry. The health of every church is first and foremost derived from a healthy pulpit ministry. This is how God has designed it. It will never change. Therefore we must stick to God's plan.

Today we put preachers in an office, in a building we call the church, surround them with people, noise, distractions, phone calls, emails, text messages, walk-ins, and expect them to "take pains with and be absorbed in study and prayer" while allowing the entire congregation, and even many outside the congregation, to have instant access to them. If they don't respond quickly we get offended! We see they read our text and yet 30 minutes has gone by and they have not replied! End of the world! Think about it. You used to have to write a letter to the pastor, it would take three or four days to get there, he would write back, and another three or four days would pass. The church didn't crumble. People would either figure out a way to talk to the preacher on Sunday, or seek out the counsel of another mature believer, or read the Bible for themselves. Imagine that!

What many want is a "fast food" approach to ministry, which doesn't work. You don't prepare good sermons and Bible studies quickly. You don't grow in the Lord quickly. You don't have deep quiet times with the Lord quickly. You can't practice sinning for ten years and get over it in an hour session with the preacher. Spiritual growth takes time, and this happens when the godly disciplines are practiced over time. It happens when people are exposed to the truth over and over again, over time. Yet people see the church as a business, offering a service, and spiritual growth is one of the products the church is pedaling and the preacher is often seen as the main salesman.

When people want spiritual growth they need to talk to the pastor "right now!" It is bad business practice to not be able to talk to a sales rep immediately. You can't expect them to wait until Sunday, or to actually read and study their own Bible so they can have the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God counsel them. 

It escapes the notice of most churches that God has already told every pastor what they must do as preachers. The job description is already written. There is one God glorifying job description for preachers found in the Bible. You will find it mostly in the Pastoral Epistles, Acts 20:17-35, I Pet. 5, etc. If you are going to give God glory in the ministry as a preacher you should know what God requires of you and you should be committed to do what God requires. You must resolve to stick to God's job description for you found in the Word of God.

What church wants a pastor who is in sin? What church wants a pastor who desires to please men above God? I can tell you with much grief and sadness—most churches! Most churches don't want what God wants for their preachers. I do believe they want what is best, but they don’t know what is best for they are not preachers. They haven’t asked themselves the fundamental question, “What does God want our preacher to be doing according to the Bible?” Instead, they go to the business world. They form a committee and talk about it. Heaven forbid, they hire a headhunting organization to “find them a pastor.” They put the most critical decision for the health of a church into the hands of people who have not asked, nor do they understand, what God requires of every preacher. Thus with all good intentions, well meaning people kill their own church.

This is how death occurs in many cases with some variation. A local church starts to grow. Operating expenses and ministry increases. The budget increases. Needs increase. The church realizes they need more things done, more organization, more structure, which is all good and fine. But they often want the preacher to be the CEO, the organizer, budget man, administrator, counselor, trainer, visitor, etc. As the church grows, the preacher gets stretched further and further. He has a harder time trying to do what God commands him to do so the quality of his sermons decline. With the decline in sermon quality comes an overall spiritual decline in the entire church.

Everything in the church is harmed when the pulpit ministry is harmed. People who don’t have good preaching become vulnerable to fads, trends, church growth gimmicks, false doctrine, and sin. They can’t worship God in spirit and truth because they aren’t getting the truth they need from the pulpit. Thus emotion rather than truth become the test of “good worship.” If people “feel good” about a service they think they have worshiped well. Under a weak pulpit ministry congregations are sure to lose discernment. They will fall prey to false teachers and temptation. The church becomes more unholy.

This leads to ungodly and or unbelieving people getting into leadership. When the truth is compromised, those with strongest biblical convictions can’t handle it, so they leave because the weak leadership won’t take a stand on the truth. Thus the church becomes weaker still, the leadership becomes less discerning still. Optional things start crowding out the sermon “hour,” which becomes the sermon “moment.” Eventually, the gospel is not even heard. Sin runs rampant in the lives of the congregation, and the social gospel takes over. Thus a local church that once was alive is now dead. It is full of dead, but very religious and liberally minded people who are careful to “love,” by which they mean tolerate sin, and their theme verse is “judge not, less you be judged,” contra (I Cor. 5).

Below is an example of a job description for Lead Pastor at a medium sized church that was recently posted. Think about what the Scriptures command preachers to do in the Bible and then read the job description with all of its expectations below. As you read ask yourself if you are placing extra-biblical expectations on your pastor or not? Consider what God says and encourage and free your preacher to do what God says he must be doing.

 

PREACHING

1.         Preach and teach the Word of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments.

2.         Primary teaching responsibility on Sunday mornings, church meetings, and other gatherings.

3.         Fulfill the predominant teaching role of the church, and find guest teachers when absent.

4.         Work closely with the Worship Pastor to plan themes consistent with the preaching series creating a comprehensive worship experience.

5.         Consult with Vision Team on Sermon Series to ensure church wide vision is being addressed from the pulpit.

6.         Provide sermon content/themes to the staff in a timely manner to allow for preparation of slides, music and the bulletin.

VISION CASTING

7.         Continually clarify and highlight the vision of the church through the Sunday morning worship experience and leading the staff and ministry leaders to regularly communicate the same vision.

8.         Work closely with the staff and Vision Team to identify ministry priorities, which will move the church towards its vision.

PASTORAL CARE

9.         Care for the needs of the church congregation. It is understood that the Senior Pastor is not able to make every visit, or to provide direct care for every person, but the Senior Pastor will be the leading edge in showing genuine care for the congregation. Situations involving critical illness or death are to be given priority and emphasis.

10.      Assist the Prayer Team in communicating prayer requests and needs.

11.      Actively engage with visitors attending the church.

12.      Meet regularly with the staff for growth, vision sharing, planning, and insuring teamwork.

13.      Meet one on one with staff members and select lay leaders as appropriate to counsel, impart wisdom, instruct in their area of ministry, plan, and guide them in spiritual development.

14.      Administer the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, according to the practice of this local body of believers. 

EVANGELISM

15.      Lead us in fulfilling our church’s responsibility to witness for Christ.

16.      Lead us in a public witness through ministries of compassion and justice.

COUNSELING

17.      Provide spiritual counseling as needed to congregants, within the boundaries of the Senior Pastor’s training, or refer congregants to professional counselors.

18.      Provide pre-marital counseling as needed, within the boundaries of the Senior Pastor’s training and schedule.

PERSONAL LIFE

19.      Keep your life in harmony with the Word of God, striving in word and deed to be a worthy example of Christian living.

20.      Keep your practices consistent with the church’s rules, ethical principles, and ministries.

GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES

21.      Leading with authenticity in accord with the church’s Constitution and Bylaws.

22.      Provide general leadership for all the ministries at this local church, and give pastoral leadership to our congregation’s board, ministry committees and activities.

23.      Act as a member of the Vision Team, assisting the Vision Team chair in the creation of an agenda, scheduling meetings, and acting as a member of the Team in creating policies, making decisions, choosing new members, etc.

24.      Act as a member of the Business Board, assisting the Business Board in the creation of an agenda and an annual budget for the approval of the Vision Team, scheduling and leading meetings along with the Business Board Chair, and acting as a member of the Board in making decisions, choosing new members, etc.

25.      Act as the manager in charge of the church staff and lay leaders, supervising and coordinating all work of the other members of the staff.

26.      Lead and explain tithing and stewardship to the congregation as appropriate.

27.      Interview, hire, terminate, train, and counsel staff.

28.      Encourage the church to support the mission of the church.

29.      Be at and normally lead regularly scheduled staff and production meetings.

30.      Lead or oversee the Benevolence Fund, and procedures for utilizing that Fund.

31.      Timely communication to staff, leadership, and congregants.

32.      Maintain a continuing education plan for skill building and self- improvement.

33.      Be actively involved in the life of the church.

34.      Be actively involved in identifying and training future leaders.

35.      Represent Colorado Ridge Church at local events and pastor meetings.

36.      Officiate at weddings and funerals, within the Senior Pastor’s schedule.

37.      Lead (or delegate as appropriate) membership classes and other adult education classes.

 

Ha! What do you think? Do you think a preacher can devote the bulk of his time to study, prayer, meditation, writing, preaching, and teaching of the Word of God and meet all of the other expectations above? No, he cannot. Churches all over the world are hurting for lack of clear, doctrinally sound, and engaging expository preaching. The church needs to remove business expectations from their preachers and encourage them to do what God says they must do. They must ask themselves when seeking a preacher, “What does God require of all the preachers in His Word?” Whatever you do, don’t kill your church in a slow painful way by distracting your preacher. Pray for him and encourage to obey God’s calling on his life. Expect your preacher to obey God’s job description, nor yours. And no, I didn’t apply.