To people who aren’t a regular part of the church culture, Church seems to be largely irrelevant.
To some it seems quaint, maybe even nostalgic but irrelevant in the modern (or postmodern) world ; to others it somehow manages to be both slightly dangerous and irrelevant at the same time. In other words some outside the church have affection for it and some hate it but few feel that we really need it.
Even in the church there are too many who have bought into the idea that the church is largely irrelevant for anything beyond our personal family circle and the occasional ceremonial purposes of weddings, funerals and certain holidays. Most disturbingly, even those of us who are supposed to be in charge of steering the mission of the church often act as if we don’t really believe in the power and importance of the church. This is not to say we don’t believe in the mission of the church (Discipleship) but that we are very tentative in believing that the vehicle God has chosen (the church) can do the job. This is not so much a critique of pastors as it is of the difficulty of doing a job we see as both incredibly important and largely futile.
“The four toughest jobs in America are, in no particular order, president of the United States, president of a university, CEO of a hospital and pastor of a church.” Peter Drucker, arguably father of the modern day business consulting movement
A recent extensive study revealed some disturbing statistics about the emotional health, satisfaction and apparent success of pastors. We’ll look at details in an upcoming blog, but for now suffice it to say that a majority of pastors feel discouraged and inadequate to the task and would quit if they could afford to do so.
But the truth is that the mission of the church has not changed since first commissioned by Jesus and never will change until the mission is complete. Furthermore the power of the church has never ceased to be grounded in the fullness of Christ’s power; so why does the church feel so irrelevant and impotent? Why does the impact of discipleship seem so small and the “how” feel so mysterious and elusive to the typical American Pastor?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I do think we have to continue to pursue the answers diligently and not merely settle for doing good. So much time and energy is spent on so many other good things but if we fail to disciple we fail to be the church whatever else we do. It may be good but it’s not Church.
In my experience the vast majority of Pastors are neither lazy nor dishonest. They are sincere and hard working. Prestige and money are not their lot or their goal (except for a very few exceptions) and they serve only because they are gripped by the mission and yet many of them feel equally gripped by a sense of desperation, futility or at least frustration.
I am not a church growth expert. In 25 years as a pastor, I’ve never broken the five hundred barrier and for most of my pastorate we settled in around 200-300. My last church plant never surpassed 150 and lived most of its life at 75 and ended at less than that. But my churches have seen discipleship happen, not sporadically but regularly. I’ve learned from both mistakes and successes and continue to learn as I now coach pastors and inspire congregations to a better understanding and implementation of discipleship.
- I’ve learned that pastors benefit from a gentle but unwavering voice from outside their church exhorting them to focus focus focus on discipleship.
- I’ve learned that leaders almost always succumb to the pressure to figure out how to disciple before they have explored and articulated why they should disciple, what discipleship is, and who is appointed by God to do it. This results in horses of discipleship remaining immobile as they stand firmly out of place behind the carriage of form.
- I’ve learned that very few pastors have ever thought at all about the statement in Titus that it is Grace which disciples us and therefore very few pastors, when contemplating how to disciple, have ever come up with a plan which works with this power of God in their community.
- I have learned that God is mighty and pastors are not incompetent and discipleship does happen in almost every church; yet the majority of pastors still feel like they are failing and long to be even more effective without knowing how.
Pastors need help
Like a lot of churches this blog has historically been a scattershot of ideas and approaches including everything from puzzles to essays to devotional to fiction. Like the churches again, this unfocused pursuit of good things has mostly served to dilute any potential for strong impact in any of these areas.
Pastors deserve help.
So going forward this blog will be focused and devoted to helping pastors and other church leaders to turn their churches, into thriving communities of discipleship. If you are a pastor, church leader, lay leader, or Joe Saint interested in seeing discipleship happen in your church, visit often and invite your pastor, church leaders and key men and women to join you here.
Going forward all the pieces of this website will focus on three things for pastors.
- First I will offer you things to receive. These will be completely free gifts from my experience past and present to help you in your very important work. Blogs, studies, tips, prayer connections, networked resources and so on. Gifts, truly free, of encouragement and help just to be received.
- Second I will call the pastors to believe. Just like we do with our churches I will challenge you to explore more deeply your suppositions about your role and the church’ role and replace or affirm them with powerful true convictions which will change the way you do church. I’d love to see us form a pastors forum on this site where we can challenge each other to be part of this process, iron sharpening iron across denominations.
- Finally I will challenge pastors to achieve. For those who are ready but need help to truly do something unique and powerful, I will offer resources beyond this website. Coaching, conferences, and other resources. Together we will customize a plan fitting your church and your gifts and calling. I will become your friend, partner and coach behind the scenes helping you achieve what you have always desired, a thriving community of discipleship. The cost of this will be determined between the two of us based on your unique needs and abilities.
As part of receive, For the next ten Mondays I’ll be posting a series here outlining the essentials for building a thriving community of discipleship.
If you want to get a jump on things start asking the question “Why should we disciple?”
Don’t stop at your first answer. For example you might say “because Jesus told us to.” That’s very true and a good reason but now ask “Why did Jesus command it. Why is that mission so important to God?”
If you really want to get ahead, read Ephesians 1-4 while asking the why question and see what thoughts percolate.
I founded Discipleship Matters to help churches with leadership retreats, pastoral coaching, guest speaking and conferences as another supporting voice in your work of discipleship. We can create a custom long term plan (anywhere from 6 months to 2 years) or arrange an al-a-carte conference. (If the information in this series intrigues you, I’d specifically suggest the Big Ideas conference where I help you and your leaders work through these important first questions on your way to a unique plan of “How” to build a thriving community of Discipleship). I value you and the work you do and want to help if I can in anyway. Call me at 505-393-5433 (LIFE) or email me at Pastormac_@mac.com (put Discipleship Matters in the subject if you want to get my attention right away.)
See you next week,
(Part two is now up: click here)
Smiling at the future,