There seems to be a perception in church life that basically a pastor will succeed or fail independent of what a congregation does or does not do. It is almost as though he swoons into a church at the call of the people and either works wonders or he does not and is considered to be a failure. First of all, the ways we usually measure success and failure in a ministry are totally bogus and are rooted in the business model which has totally captured our understanding of what is, and what is not deemed “success.” The business model looks for full buildings, full treasuries, and satisfied customers. This perception is only bolstered by the advent of the mega-church. It is perceived that every church in America is either (a) a mega-church or (b) a mega-church want-a-be. I hardly believe that is actually the case.
Let me let you in on a little secret. A pastor’s level of external success at a church is directly related to the degree by which he can motivate the congregation to do the work of ministry. There is a sense in which if he cannot get people to attend, give, serve, disciple, worship, etc. then he has failed; providing that he makes the case that doing these things are of necessity. There is also a sense that, as far as how God measures success, if he tells his people the truth and does so in a loving and caring manner then he is a success. I heard once of a track coach who had highly successful track teams, going to state and competing on a very high level. Interestingly enough the coach of this team was confined to a wheelchair. His success came not in his ability to run himself, or participate in the field events, but in his ability to motivate and teach the fundamentals of track and field. A pastor is in a somewhat similar position. The pastor is handicapped in that he cannot go into your office and invite people to church, but you are in the position to do so. He cannot go into the classrooms at your school, but you can. He can hardly go up and down the streets of your neighborhood, but you can cultivate those relationships with your neighbors. He can hardly go to your family reunion and share Christ, but you can. He can hardly bear witness among the parents of your son’s baseball team but you can.
When you fail to bear witness for Christ and invite people to church, the pastor’s perceived success at a church is hindered. When you never quite get around to sharing or ministering the whole body suffers and is less that it has the potential to be. When you fail to give of your financial means, the whole body suffers and it is often the pastor who gets the blame for the tight budget.
The pastor has to wear a great many hats as he leads your church, some of which are night and day different than the other ones. Think about it – a pastor is expected to be the most kind, helpful, and sympathetic individual in the church when there is a need, yet turn around and be like Jesus cleansing the temple the next minute when that sort of response is called for. He is expected to explain the plan of salvation and baptism to a 6 year old with clarity then turn around and explain it to the self-proclaimed atheist with a PhD from U. Cal. Berkley! He is expected to delivery the fruits of a week of in-depth study from the pulpit on Sunday morning, yet have ministered faithfully all week, done counseling, visit the hospitals, talk with those who dropped by, and drop everything and talk on the phone when someone calls. He is expected to have wonderful daily quiet times, spend hours each week in prayer, read the latest books, be on top of current events, be a model husband and father, attend community events, take calls anytime day or night, and be available for lunch or coffee at a moment’s notice. In order to help your pastor succeed you must be able to understand his world a little bit better.
You need to ask and answer the question – “What can I do to help?” Over 22 years of pastoral ministry, spanning 6 churches, I have done all of the following, many of these multiple times. See if you can pick out anything on the list you could do to give the pastor more time to do other things he desperately needs to do: prepared sermons, prepared lessons, wrote a weblog, wrote and compiled the church newsletter, prepared PowerPoint presentations, done marital counseling, led persons to Christ, engaged in discipleship, wrote letters and postcards, visited the hospital, prayed with someone, met with salespersons, ran errands, picked up office supplies, taken out the trash, wiped off tables, done the dishes, vacuumed the carpet, interior and exterior painting, mowed the lawn, watered flowers, swept tile floors, cleaned out closets, patched a leaky room, trimmed trees, planted flowers and shrubbery, watered flowers and shrubbery, laid tile, sharpened lawnmower blades, changed the oil in the lawnmower, hung drywall, fixed running toilets, cleaned out the refrigerator, repaired guttering, spot treated carpet stains, hung doors, led the singing, taken and accompanied youth on outings, taken youth to camp, prepared meals for those in need, given money, changed light bulbs, gone on mission trips, helped persons move, invited people to church, cleaned out the oven, stained and varnished woodwork, built shelves, replaced wall switches and outlets, replaced faucets, spread gravel, removed fence posts, built retaining walls with railroad ties, helped with benevolence needs, washed windows, cleaned up water damage with a shop vac, laundered towels used in baptisms, filled baptistery, unloaded dumpsters to lighten the weight, unlocked the doors for repairmen, cleaned toilets, mopped floors, watched children, installed playground equipment, cleaned out fence rows, picked up trash in the yard and in the building, set toilets, removed stumps, changed the church sign, took van in for repairs, stacked chairs and tables, moved furniture, made copies, recruited volunteers, poured cement, stuffed envelopes, addressed envelopes, did strategic planning for the church, performed funerals, ministered to the bereaved, answered the phone, etc., etc., etc. Do you get the picture? The vast majority of the things that any pastor often finds himself having to do, could be done by others as the shared responsibility of the church body. Is there anything on the above list that you might be able to do?
Perhaps your greatest contribution is in helping with the little things that will help allow the pastor to devote more time to study and prayer. The very reason deacons were chosen in the early church was so that the leaders of the church could devote more time to prayer and the ministry of the Word. The church of Jesus Christ is best served when the body functions as our Lord intended and we all do our part. There is not only a job, but a true ministry for every person in the local church. Some do much while some do little. Whatever we do, let us do it mightily as unto the Lord!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor