Pastors Need to Learn How to Accomplish More By Doing Less

Jesus teaching, All Saints, Landbeach
Jesus teaching, All Saints, Landbeach (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Learn to Accomplish More by Doing Less

 

If you’re like me you probably are finding yourself increasingly overwhelmed and bombarded by technology.  Technology is a wonderful thing but it has taken the ability to multi-task to almost unbelievable levels.  While technology has opened incredible doors and opportunities, it has also eroded our ability to focus. What has ended up happening is that in some cases technology is causing us to do more but accomplish less.  Over the past few years, I have witnessed something similar happening to many Pastors.

 

One of the primary issues that I see facing most Pastors is that they are simply trying to accomplish too much.  Rather than focusing on doing a few things very well, they settle for having a lot of activity with very little quality. The simple truth, however, us that we need to learn how to accomplish more by doing less.

 

At the beginning of the week I shared a post entitled “Attention Pastors: Working Harder Isn’t Always the Answer.”  In that post, I shared the story of John, who is a hard-working and dedicated Pastor who is literally wearing himself out and ruining his family because he is working so hard in the ministry.  John is very frustrated by the fact that he is working 60-65 hours a week in the ministry even to the point of neglecting his family but still the church remains plateaued.  The issue that John is facing is that even though he is working hard, his efforts aren’t producing any results.  What John needs to do is to learn the key of accomplishing more by doing less.

 

John doesn’t realize it but he has taken his church as far as he alone is able to take it.  In other words, he has reached the limit of his own ability to keep up with the congregation. He has spent twelve years as the Pastor of New Antioch Baptist Church, but has given very little effort in training and equipping his lay leadership.  Even when the church went out and hired an Associate Pastor to help him, John refused to give over any of his responsibilities.  John is working as hard as he can but no matter what he does, he can only do the work of one man.  What he needs to do is to stop working harder and start working smarter.  Simply put, John needs to learn the art of accomplishing more by doing less.

 

If John is going to move the church off this plateau he must reconsider what his primary tasks are as a minister.  In Ephesians 4:12, the Apostle Paul says that the role of the Pastor is to, “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  This means that as Pastors, our primary goal is not to do the work of the ministry on behalf of the church, but rather to equip the saints so that they can carry out the work of the ministry.  John has been so busy doing the work that he has given little attention to the work of equipping the saints.  If he wants the church to move off this plateau and to once again start growing he will need to invest heavily in equipping others to take over the ministry.  That means that he will have to stop doing some of the busy work that is keeping him from accomplishing his primary task and focus on equipping others to do the ministry.

 

Jesus teaching in the temple
Jesus teaching in the temple (Photo credit: freestone)

Invest More Time in Equipping Others to Do the Ministry

 

No matter what area of the ministry we serve in — whether it be as Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Minister of Music, Minister of Youth etc.— our primary task is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  The word translated as equip means to makes someone completely adequate or capable for carrying out a task.  There are many ways that we can carry out this task.  For instance, we can do at least part of this task through the teaching and pulpit ministry.  But effective Pastors know that more ministry skills are caught and not taught.  In other words, while we certainly need to give ample time to teaching about the ministry from the pulpit we also need to spend time personally mentoring and training church members for the work of ministry.

 

Bruce is a good example of how effective this approach to ministry can be.  Bruce has a simple but powerful philosophy that guides his ministry— never do anything in the ministry alone.  He lives out this simple philosophy by inviting church members to take part in the ministry with him through the week.  Bruce began this simple process many years ago, by simply inviting one of his deacons named Sam to have lunch with him once a week and go make a few hospital visits together.  It wasn’t long before Bruce realized that Sam was starting to take the lead on hospital visits and was mentoring one of the other Pastors.  “The whole thing started by accident,” says Bruce, “I was just looking for someone to go visiting with but it ended up being so effective that I just started doing it all the time.”  After about six months of mentoring Sam, Bruce decided to start meeting with another one of his deacons named Ted.  Once again, within about six months Ted started taking over and mentoring another deacon.

 

“It took about two years,” says Bruce, “but we eventually had all the deacons involved in actively meeting with another deacon and making hospital visits. So we began to focus on taking this ministry beyond the deacon board.”  Bruce set a goal of developing an active mentorship program through the deacons, in which, he equipped them to mentor and disciple other men in the church.  The effects were startling, soon the women in the church were looking for a similar program and the deacons wives began a similar mentorship program.  Today, nearly 70% of the church is involved in the mentorship ministry. The effects on the ministry have been startling.

 

Rather than spending all of his time doing the work of the ministry, Bruce started to focus on equipping others for the work of the ministry.  It did not take long for this to expand far beyond what Bruce could have accomplished alone.  It did not take long before Bruce started to notice organic ministries begin to grow up within the church.  One group started to minister to the homeless, another to unwed mothers.  Soon there was a group of men visiting prisoners in the jail and women who were volunteering to cook meals for the homeless.  Sunday School teachers began to adopt the equipping model of ministry by training new teachers who served as assistants and started new groups.

 

The most important difference between Bruce and John becomes clear when you ask them about whether they enjoy the ministry.  For John the ministry has become a burden.  It is wearing him out, ruining his family, and sucking the joy right out of his soul.  But for Bruce, the ministry has never been more enjoyable.  The difference is not in their locations, the personality of their churches, and certainly not in the God they serve.  The difference is in their approach.  John has decided to approach the ministry thinking that he must do all the work.  Bruce, on the other hand, has decided to approach the ministry with a Biblical mindset of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.  John is trying to do ministry by giving it more gas, whereas, Bruce has decided to give the church some traction upon which it can move forward.

Which path are you going down?

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Review of “Creature of the Word”

ImageI have been reading “Creature of the Word” by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger and have found it be one of the most thought-provoking books on the church that I read in a long time.  The premise of this book is that gospel must be the centerpiece for everything that the church is and does.  They write, “without the life-giving gospel driving and defining both us and our churches — there really isn’t much of anything that makes us alive, nothing that other people, groups or organizations aren’t doing.” (p.5)  This is an essential point and one that every member of the church needs to taker seriously.  If the gospel is not at the center and driving force behind what we are and do as a church, we have lost our distinctive nature and purpose.  The authors go on to say, “…just as an individual must continually return to the grace of Jesus for satisfaction and sanctification, a local church must continually return to the gospel as well.  Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series.  Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless.  And dead.”   A key point in their discussion is the confusion that exists concerning the nature of the gospel.  They point the fact that in many churches the gospel is thought of primarily in terms of as an “individual message that causes individual transformation” rather than efficient cause, which forms the church. This is a key theological premise of the book— the gospel forms the church.  Furthermore, they build on the idea that the gospel is the center from which we understand all of Scripture and it is the Word of God that forms the church.  This is a key point and one that was fiercely debated during the reformation.  The Roman Catholic church taught, and still teaches, that the church formed the Word of God.  The reformers argued that the Word of God forms the church.

Having laid out this basic premise the authors then go on to show how the church is formed by the Word of God through a specific pattern— indicative then imperative.  For those, who are not familiar with these terms the indicative is used to describe what God has done on our behalf and form the basis (or reason) for the commands (imperatives).  So for instance, in 2 Peter 2:9 the Bible says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession [indicative], that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous life.[imperative]”  This pattern is repeated throughout the Scripture and in the remaining chapters of the book the authors show how the church is shaped by the Word of God.

Every Pastor needs to read this book and carefully consider how to get it into the hands of his people.  This will not be an easy book for many in the church to read and it will challenge many of the preconceived notions that people have about the church and the gospel.  In my own ministry, I am considering using this book in our Sunday night small groups during the summer months to help ground the church more deeply in its understanding of the gospel.  I would highly recommend that every Pastor and church member read this book and deeply think about how it can apply to their local situation.