pastoral care

A Pastor is More than a Teacher

Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

There’s more to being a pastor than teaching. Every pastor knows this. As pastors, we may know this at one level but what we know and how we handle our responsibilities are two different things.

And for good reason.

A senior/lead pastor needs to be somewhat like a Swiss Army knife.

You know those knives with all those extra gadget extensions like screw drivers, can openers, toothpicks, tweezers, and more with those bigger versions? Oh yeah, and a few different knife blades.

I remember seeing a magazine ad of someone who built a house with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. I remember thinking—why would you want to do that?

Sometimes, like on a Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, I can remember wondering something similar…Why do I do this? Am I really cut out for this? Am I really making a difference in people’s lives?

The average churchgoer doesn’t have a clear sense of all that a pastor does. Even those who are regular attendees and involved in some area of serving don’t really know or understand a pastor’s responsibilities.

I also know church staff members, including assistant pastors, don’t realize the pastor’s continuing responsibilities and workload, especially in smaller churches.

The work of a pastor

As I’ve shared with many church leaders and staff over the years, no one knows the weight of responsibility a senior/lead pastor bears on their shoulders than another senior/lead pastor.

It’s like parenthood. You can have many years of experience and a PhD in children’s education and development but it will never be the same as the reality of being a parent.

When our family was younger and I was pastoring the church we planted in Southern California, Susan and I were foster parents. It was a great experience for us and our family. Yeah, it was tough at times to keep all the plates spinning but it was good.

It was also a valuable time of preparation for what the Lord led us to do in the Philippines for almost 25 years.

Foster parenting was also a lot like pastoring.

Since I did both I could see some parallels. The biggest takeaway was the sense of responsibility we carried with the limited to nonexistent authority.

People only respect authority to a point and that point is different with everyone. Plus, certain limitations are imposed by law—civil and moral, as they should be.

So, why do I say there’s more to pastoring than teaching? Because it is easy to retreat to the study desk to work on messages when faced with the continuous demand of pastoral care and leadership.

For one thing, studying and preparing for messages seems a lot more spiritual and worth our time investment than dealing with all the responsibilities of a pastor, especially the mundane things.

Responsibilities like resolving conflicts, cleaning the sanctuary and setting up chairs, or listening to people tell you what they think you should do, teach on, care about, or how you should let them be in charge of some ministry.

Yeah, I’d rather study God’s Word, thank you!

Options

When I first sat down to write this, I had several things in mind about pastoral leadership beyond teaching ministry and the preparation needed for it. Things like administration, counseling, discipleship, equipping leaders, facilities, pastoral care, and so much more.

But that would be one long blogpost! So, I came up with another option.

Our vision statement at Poimen Ministries is—Strengthening pastors, to strengthen churches. Our goal is to strengthen pastors in ways we were strengthened by other pastors or in ways we wished we could have been strengthened to do the work God gave us.

Of course, we relied on God’s grace and guidance while pastoring but there were many things we learned the hard way. We want to shorten the learning curve of seeing new or different ways to lead God’s people.

We want to be a set of fresh eyes for fellow pastors. We believe we have an obligation to share what’s been poured into us by the Lord and other experienced pastors.

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to come alongside a couple of pastors in tangible ways. This required me to do some commuting on weekends, which gave me the opportunity to listen to podcasts.

I mentioned this on my personal blog but this past couple of weekends I’ve listened to some of the great podcast content our director Pastor Bill Holdridge has recorded through interviews of other pastors.

In the next few blogposts, I’ll be highlighting some of the specific content of these podcasts and adding some further encouragements.

Until then…

How can we help you?

What are areas of pastoral ministry and leadership you’d like to know more about? Are there specific resources that would be helpful to you as a pastor?

We’d like to know! We want to strengthen pastors—that’s our calling.

So, let us know how we might be able to encourage or help you! Drop us an email or call us, or fill out our contact form online.

 

Resources

Click on the link– How we serve to see what we currently offer through our team of pastors

And check out our growing list of fresh podcasts hosted by Pastor Bill Holdridge– Strength for Today’s Pastor

Leadership Transition—Jesus Style

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Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader begins and completes leadership transition. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus, as He washes the disciples feet the night before His death on the cross (John 13:1-17).

We see how His example of confident yet humble leadership—servant leadership—prepares and makes the way for leadership transition. This is a follow up to a 2-part post on 8 Qualities of Servant Leadership—Part 1 / Part 2.

Some of these things I learned along the way in my own experiences with ministry transition but they became more clear when I stumbled upon them here in John 13. I’m sure more can be gleaned from Chapters 13 through 17 of John but this is a good start.

5 Ways of leadership transition—Jesus Style

Know the Way (verses 1, 3)

The Lord was confident in who He was as God’s Son. He knew where He came from and where He was going. He knew the way His disciples needed to go as leaders and He showed this by loving them to the very end in the fullest way.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves nor our abilities, but in the Lord and who we are in Him. Every leader within God’s kingdom needs to be confident in their identity as a child of God. If we’re not, why should anyone put their confidence in our leadership?

Knowing the way is basic for us. The first step is to deny ourselves—our selfish nature—die to our self, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24). It’s a way of faith guided by the Holy Spirit. The people we lead need to be confident that we know the way.

Walk the Way (verses 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples’ feet. Everything Jesus did was a model for all those who follow Him.

He showed them how to lead by how He walked through daily life—the way Jesus carried Himself in various situations and public settings, and how He interacted with people other than His followers.

We also see the impact of Jesus’ life example as a young man among leaders in the temple (Luke 2:46-47)—an essential element of His leadership even in His youth.

This example of walking the way was carried on by leaders such as Paul and Peter to those whom they led and mentored. This is central to God’s design for leadership.

Show the Way (verses 6-13)

Showing the way is simply an extension of walking the way but moves beyond example to help others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a relational and interactive manner.

Here in John 13, we see this of Jesus in His dialogue with Peter and then His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching but a relational discipleship process. We see Jesus do this often throughout the gospels.

In the early days of the Jesus Movement, this type of discipleship was common. It’s not today. It requires time and commitment because it’s intentional and relational. I believe this lack of interactive discipleship has weakened the church.

It’s resisted or avoided in many ways because of the distractions and insistent demand for people’s attention in our culture. Healthy leadership transition requires interactive leadership that shows the way.

Make a way (verses 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is making way for others to step up and into leadership roles. It may require creating opportunities for others to move forward in leadership or allow for innovation and creativity beyond existing leadership roles.

This requires a willingness to look beyond ourselves as leaders. Jesus had this vision from the beginning. It was always in mind in everything He said and did. Jesus knew His time on earth was short and that raising up leaders for the new church was essential.

Regardless of our leadership role we are responsible to raise others up who can take our place. Pastors don’t always have this in mind but they ought to because of unforeseen situations and knowing when to step away in later life-stages.

Step away (verses 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It’ s usually a matter of timing—the Lord’s timing not ours. For pastors, this timing can be difficult to know but it’s important to prayerfully consider it.

How a leader steps away is also important. If it’s done too quickly, it’s likely to fail. If it’s done awkwardly or too slowly, it’s difficult on everyone involved. Planning on a transition—choosing to step away—may not be something we want to do, but it’s wise.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas knew Saul (Paul) was gifted by God and called for the work in Antioch and beyond. Paul gave detailed exhortations and encouragements to both Timothy and Titus for handling and leading ministry transitions.

Stepping away requires self-denial on the leader’s part who steps away. The timing is difficult for those of us who are church-planters and founders of ministries. It’s a lot like letting go of our young adult children as they grow into their own lives.

5 Ways to transition leadership summarized—

So, for a healthy ministry transition—whether pastoral or ministries within or beyond the church—here are 5 ways Jesus demonstrated His transition of leadership.

  • Those we lead and mentor need to be confident we know the way.

  • Those who follow us need to see how we’ve walked the way if we expect them to lead as we do.

  • We need to provide an interactive and living example that shows the way for others under our leadership.

  • We need to look for and create opportunities for others to step into leadership as we make way for others to lead.

  • We need to be attentive to when and how to step away from our role as a leader or pastor.

If you’d like more information or guidance on pastoral transitions, please let us know. It’s what we do at Poimen Ministries!

8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader

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In a previous post, I shared the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an example of servant leadership. As mentioned in that post, the idea of servant leadership has become more popular wherever leadership is discussed. However, transferring talk into action is always a challenge.

Knowing why we need to be servant leaders is answered by Jesus in John 13:12-17. But knowing how to do it—how to actually be a servant leader—is not always clear.

First of all, for pastors and leaders in churches it is fitting for us to be servant leaders because that’s how we see Jesus lead. This is reflected in what Jesus says about Himself and for His followers in Mark 10:43-45—

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is also the very nature of Jesus—

… and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matt 11:29)

But what if you aren’t a pastor or leader, at least not in a recognized sense?

All believers are leaders in some way in various roles in life. Wherever we have influence in people’s lives—whether among family or friends or at work—as believers, we are called to be examples and this is an important qualification for any leader.

Even within the church, whether we are recognized by others as people having influence, we are called to fulfill God’s purpose for our life within His church body (Eph 4:15-16).

Here are the first 3 of 8 characteristics of a servant leader, as seen in the leadership of Jesus in John 13:1-17.

1– Motivated by love (verse 1)

This is always our first priority. We are to be compelled by love to serve others with our leadership—not ambition, nor obligation.

We need to see people as Jesus saw them and love them as Jesus loved them. Jesus had compassion on people as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was compelled by His love for the Father. It was always His number one priority. But is it ours?

When Jesus “knew His hour had come,” it says Jesus already had loved His own and would now show them the fullness of His love. Who does this include? Those who seek and follow Him near and far, then and now, even those who've ignored Him and His love.

It says He “loved them to the end.” This is expressed in the well-known declaration found in John 3:16.

His all-important mission—the purpose of Jesus being sent to earth by the Father—would be completed through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Are we as leaders compelled by the love we have for Jesus to serve as He served?

2– Humility based on confidence (verses 2-3)

If our confidence is based on anything else than our personal relationship with the Lord, it is a feeble confidence—empty of any spiritual authority. In fact, we need to be emptied of any confidence in ourselves so we become confident in Him alone.

Jesus had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Jesus knew who He was, where He had come from, and why He came from heaven. Jesus willingly stripped Himself of His glory to fulfill His Father’s will.

His relationship with His Father, His mission, and His nature as a Son were His base of confidence—not His position as Messiah.

Godly confidence is relational. It can’t be gained by any other means—education, hard work, recognition, nor anything else—and no one but the Lord can confer it upon us.

Godly confidence is relational

John’s narrative in the first three verses are given as a backdrop to illustrate this simple lesson in servant leadership.

Because Jesus was the Son of God—His confidence based in His relationship with the Father—had freedom to stoop down as a servant to wash the disciples’ feet. It was intentional and relational.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example… (John 13:14-15)

As leaders, our motivation for serving is love and our confidence to serve needs to be based on our relationship with the Lord.

3– Denial of self and giving ourselves to God first (verses 4-5)

The picture of Jesus stripping down to the role of a common servant, then stooping down to wash the disciples’ feet is an extraordinary display of servant leadership. It gives us a mental picture of the Son of God transformed into the servant of God (Phil 2:5-8).

It’s important to remember that in serving others we are not their servants but servants of God. This is the example of Jesus in John 13.

Jesus was denying Himself in this lowly act of service after submitting Himself to His Father’s will. This is something Jesus told the disciples often (John 4:34; 5:30) and later demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer (Matt 26:36-45).

If we claim to be followers of Jesus and leaders of His people, we need to keep in mind the most basic call of following Jesus as found in Matthew 16:24—

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This is a basic foundation for leadership in the Kingdom of God—servant leadership.

If, we cannot look beyond ourselves—our own needs, desires, dreams—how can we hope to lead anyone beyond ourselves for or to the Lord?

Giving our self to the Lord first by denying and dying to our self prepares us to follow the example of Jesus in serving others.

When we do this, it will be seen in our relationship with others—our attitude towards others and how we treat others.

How do you treat people you interact with on a regular basis?

What is your attitude toward others when you serve them?

We’ll look at the other 5 characteristics of servant leadership in the next post. For now, pastors—what are your thoughts on these first 3 characteristics of servant leadership?

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