By Micah Fries
An octopoda is a family of eight-armed creatures. The obvious star of the family would be the octopus—gangly, fluid and able to manage substantial tasks because of their eight-armed ability. I have a feeling a number of church leaders are under the impression that they are somehow a part of this family tree.
To be fair, there were many times, as a pastor, when I liked to imagine I was an eight-armed leader. Overfilling my schedule, serving like Superman, coming to the rescue, counseling whenever asked, you know the drill.
Pastors have long grown accustomed to this kind of behavior. In fact, we have developed a kind of vocabulary in the church today about these kinds of characteristics. We call it being “pastoral.”
This is rather unfortunate as it can unnecessarily overburden pastors. But beyond that, it strips church members of their responsibility to serve as ministers, and it ultimately inhibits the church from growing as God intends it to. Listen as the Apostle Paul instructs the church at Ephesus:
“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,” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
God’s Word points out to us here that pastors, and other church leaders, have a responsibility to equip the body to serve, or to minister. In other words, it is the entire body’s job to be “pastoral.”
Of course in the New Testament, particularly in 1 Peter 5, we see at least three primary words that describe the pastor’s responsibility to the church.
The pastor is to serve as an elder, as a bishop and as a shepherd. In too many cases we have practically limited the office to just one of those three responsibilities.
However, if you will notice in Ephesians 4, God has designed the growth and maturity of the church to be dependent on the leadership’s ability to rightly train the members of the body to serve in ministry alongside each other.
In other words, if every member of the church is not being pastoral, the church will never reach God’s intended maturity or unity. To say it more strongly, the church is dependent on the ministry of the church as a body, and not the pastor as a “super leader,” to be what God designed the church to be.
This is not to argue that pastors should not minister, only that their ministry should be a part of their responsibility within the church body, not because they were appointed to a particular leadership post.
They should serve, as any member of the church should, although I would argue that there is an element of their service that should serve as an example to the rest of the body.
With all that said, how are pastors supposed to equip their people? The typical pastor, the octopodan pastor, is already far too reminiscent of a juggling clown. How is this always-busy pastor supposed to make time to equip people?
First of all, it is important that a change in strategy must be applied. The pastor and the church must decide that the pastor is going to stop trying to do it all, and they are going to work toward developing a team that can work together.
Beyond that, though, I would recommend pastors find tools to help them equip their people. One of the most exciting new tools I’ve seen in quite some time is MinistryGrid.com.
MinistryGrid is a web-based application that allows pastors to assign training videos to their people. The church can then study on their own time, wherever they want, and on whatever device they prefer to use.
That alone is an incredibly valuable tool. However, MinistryGrid is even stronger because church leadership has incredible access, which allows them to monitor their church’s progress.
MinistryGrid is being launched with more than 1,000 training videos on every imaginable topic for a local church or ministry—everything from helping parking lot attendants serve well, to securing your childcare facilities, to theological training from some of the best seminary professors in the nation.
MinistryGrid offers a revolutionary new method to train people at an incredibly low cost, in a way people will enjoy using.
Pastor, go ahead; take a break. Step back from the business of trying to do it all. Recognize that God did not call you to that. God called you to serve, and to work hard doing so, but He also gave us the church to serve alongside as we work together to advance God’s kingdom. That is a pursuit worth having.
MICAH FRIES (@MicahFries) is the former director of ministry development at Lifeway.