In my last post I outlined one of the roadblocks planters face: grappling with how we understand the role of a pastor while doing the work required of a planter, and arguing that this pressure can be felt from the heart, from the pews and from the bleachers.
The challenge is, we can speak to planters about the pragmatics of what they need to do, and we can give them the tools and training to launch a growing church…but for planters who love the God’s Word, we need to give them more than that. We need them to have – first and foremost – the conviction that not only is the mission biblical, but what they’re doing, but how they’re doing it, is biblical as well.
In his article, “Some Reflections on Pastoral Leadership” Don Carson argues that when we consider the words used to describe leaders in the New Testament – overseer / elder / pastor – the one we often skip over the implications of is overseer.
It’s worth reading the whole article to see how he gets there, but he says three things (paraphrased) that are worth noting:
- The best pastoral leadership is shaped and drenched by the proclamation and application of God’s Word.
- Yet if this is reduced to what we often call “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (study, prayer and preaching – Acts 6:4) then we’ve failed to grasp that a “comprehensive ministry of the Word demands oversight”.
- And this oversight, this pastoral leadership, needs to express itself in areas such as (but not limited to) organising and leading teams, casting vision for growth, mobilising and equipping the church for outreach, creating and maintaining structures.
I’m sure you see where I’m heading with this. And I’m sure you can see the reason I’m riding on the coat-tails of better biblical scholars than myself. Because this discussion is not academic. How we understand the job of pastoral leadership has a direct effect on the fulfilment of the mission we’re called to. As Carson identifies, if this important aspect of pastoral leadership is ignored, the church can drift, systems become half-baked and accidental, leadership pipelines are stunted…which in the end affects the very thing we long to see: people growing in maturity, seeing people won for Christ and more churches planted for the glory of God.
A final word before we get practical
It’s taken a while to clear a bit of ground before I give 5 practical tips for planters and coaches in my final post. No apologies for that. We’re not first and foremost pragmatists. Our first and defining framework is God’s Word and God’s mission. And if we’re fighting an internal battle as we plant (or as we coach planters) as to what the job is and how that understanding shapes what we do, then we’re making a difficult job more difficult…for no biblical reason.