Blog: BEING A RELEASING PASTOR
Our glocal.net team was in Johannesburg, South Africa working with Godfirst Church and PJ Smyth. It was an awesome time and God was very present. You can follow my tweets at @bobrobertsjr or @glocal_dot_net to see pictures and follow the trip. As we talked about what it meant to be a pastor or staff member at a church that’s releasing its people into the city and the world the question was asked, how does that change our role as pastors and ministers? I’ve thought a lot about that because it really does change your role. Releasing people isn’t just an add-on, it’s a way of ministry and life that is far beyond a Sunday experience. When this happens, the ministry is extended far beyond the church walls into a glocal kingdom context and that is a radically different way of seeing disciples, people, and the world. Here are some things I shared with them, I’m sure there are many more.
From being general controller to being primary releaser. A lot of pastors, myself included, have dreams and visions of what the church God has called them to is to look like. I think we have too big a vision that God wants to do through us, and too small a vision of what he wants to do through everyday disciples. “I want to lead a church where thousands come to faith and Christ and lives are transformed and we’re growing and starting other churches.” Good vision. “I want to lead a church where thousands who come to faith in Christ are released all over the city establishing God called ministries to serve the city and the world and multiply disciples like crazy in every domain to see my city transformed.” Better vision. As pastors, we can see salvation and church growth as the primary end of our vision – God sees so much more. In order for the Great Commission to be fulfilled, for Jesus to be magnified, and for our world to be changed much, much more than that will be required. Even if they don’t believe our gospel, our world is in need of the disciples of Jesus living like disciples, loving and serving others. The problem is, in our context we really haven’t seen it that much so it has limited what we dream of. Our response will be not to just measure it all by what we see on Sunday but as PJ Smyth says, “What we see the other 6 days of the week!”
From being the hero to being the hero maker. One of the benefits of being at a church long term and starting it is you have led many of those people to faith and Christ, and you see many of the changes that have come. I remember in the early days of our church there were news stories on our name, how we “advertised” and how our worship services were different. Those interviews always included me. Not anymore. I love it when the media calls our church because of work we do with Vietnamese, Mexicans, Muslims, city makeovers, special needs – and they have to interview our members! I used to think the senior pastor was the chief spokesperson for the church – I don’t anymore. The senior pastor is the one who defers to the stories of the people in the church. My story is their story – or I don’t have a story, if I want to be a pastor. You celebrate those heroes, and as you celebrate them and tell their stories and they tell the stories, other people begin to believe their calls and dreams are also possible and begin to move forward.
From focusing on just their needs to focusing on their call. I remember as a boy, on occasion, some preacher would give an invitation for those being called into the ministry. Primarily what they saw was “preachers” being called to preach. Every single Sunday, we should be “calling” out people to the ministry – and it shouldn’t be merely vocational ministers like me, but the masses, the everyday disciples. That means when I call them out, most of them will still be a part of our church. This affects what I preach, how I lead, what I measure, and how I prepare people. At GodfirstChurch I had a doctor, an engineer, a banker, several university students all come up to me at the end of each service and tell me how they believed God had called them to their vocations to serve the world and share the good news of Jesus. Sadly, the body of Christ is way ahead of pastors in terms of seeing the world and the body of Christ being salt and light – we still hold them captive to our buildings, programs, ministries, and agendas. THEY must be our agenda.
From being the preacher/teacher to being the preacher/equipper. If this is the kind of church you are going to lead, it will impact how you preach, what your new members class is, how you disciple, how you do body life, the classes that you offer – and everything else. Global affairs, urban studies, protocol, engagement . . . these are the new disciple courses that every disciple is taught. YES, book studies, prayer, all of that is still critical, but not being connected to the city and the world that we live in is incredibly IRRELEVANT! Not only is it irrelevant, it’s ineffective and leads to isolation and tribalism.
From speaking from the mountain to crawling in the trenches. As pastors we can speak from on high like a Moses. I believe the model of the 21stcentury will be more like a Joshua than a Moses. We will have to get dirty in our city – know the needs of our city and the gifts of our people. A pastor becomes the connector-releaser. If you don’t know your city, if you don’t know your people – all you can do is exegete Scripture for self improvement. If you know your city, exegesis becomes truth that determines and undergirds what God has called everyone to do. The pastor should know more about their city than anyone else.
From being the keeper of status quo to being a culture creator. I’m as guilty as any pastor – I want to get the systems and processes in place and keep them oiled and greased and moving so things keep moving forward. I have to remind myself sometimes what moving forward is. It isn’t just doing the same old things better. It isn’t just measuring more of the same old metrics. Being a culture creator happens when people are inspired, equipped, and released to fulfill what God is doing and those stories start emerging. I’ll never forget when we came up with our T-model of discipleship – our members came up with it. One of them said, “It isn’t a class or simply your teaching that brought us to this – it was the culture that was created.” I didn’t have a sermon series on culture creation. There was no intentionality to create a culture- but what I did was encourage people to move forward with using their jobs to serve Jesus and others and the result was that created culture. Instead of having “church” projects it became “disciple” engagement – and that little difference made all the difference.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.