Archives For Pastor

The standard advice to pastors these days is that they should under no circumstances do pastoral care. That’s been de rigueur in leadership circles since the late ’80s when John Maxwell began telling church growth conferees, “I don’t do hospital calls.”

The theory is that anybody can do pastoral care, so the pastor’s time is better spent energizing the leaders within the congregation. The sooner the pastor hands off hospital calling to small group leaders, the sooner the church will break attendance barriers.

Pastor visiting the hospital

Pastoral ministry doesn’t scale, which is why it’s taboo among pastors who style themselves as (or already are) leaders of a large organization. There’s no way for one person to do all the pastoral care for a congregation of 20,000 people. It’s a black hole that sucks time and energy without adding to attendance, so successful pastors avoid it.

I couldn’t care less.

Ministry of Word and sacrament is the primary task of a pastor. Here’s why every single one of them should be a pastoral care giver.

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Yesterday a gunman entered a community college classroom in Oregon, shot and killed the teacher, then told students to stand up, one by one, and state their religion.

To those who said Christian, he replied “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” He killed 10 people.1

Killer With GunAs a minister, as a Christian, as a citizen of the United States, I’m appalled by this senseless act of violence, by the Charleston shooting, by the 262 other mass shootings in our country this year, and by the culture that supports it.

It’s time for change.

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My earliest preaching mentors taught me that every sermon needed four things: a compelling introduction, a body that included two or three points of biblical exegesis, illustrations to make it memorable, and a conclusion that helped people apply the truth to their lives.

Boy were they wrong.

Group of people watching boring movie in cinema

Three points and a poem may have worked at one time; not anymore. Listening habits have changed, listener attitudes have changed, and the environment of the preaching event has changed.

Today, every sermon must do these seven things to capture attention and motivate life change.

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As a pastor for most of the last 30 years, I had one burning question: Am I doing this right? The reason pastors wonder about that is that (a) there are many different ways to do church these days, and (b) there are so many people telling us we’re doing it wrong.

The word "PASTOR" written in vintage metal letterpress type in a wooden drawer with dividers.

Given that leadership theory is now the dominant way of evaluating pastoral effectiveness, it’s fitting to apply the advice of  Warren Bennis, the grandfather of modern leadership theory, to pastoral ministry.

Thirty-five years ago, Bennis said, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.”

Rather than asking “Am I doing this right?” a better question for pastors is “Am I doing the right things?”

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I am a big fan of pastoral ministry, and I’ve written about that elsewhere. Yet I know that many people find the pastorate an uncomfortable fit and are quietly looking for a graceful exit.

The number is nowhere near the erroneous, unfounded, and gleefully over-reported figure of 1,700 pastors a month suffering burnout.

Man having an interview with manager and partner employment job

Even so, some pastors—like some lawyers, doctors, and plumbers—do want to change careers.

The problem is they don’t know how.

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Is it possible to survive in pastoral ministry without being a kind of celebrity? Mark Driscoll, who has held both roles for a several years, says just the opposite. For him, the two are incompatible.

Crowd cheering - their rock idol or simply having fun in a club

He is right, of course. Pressure to live up to this insane expectation is the primary reason clergy are dropping like flies from pastoral ministry. It’s time we divorced the ideas of celebrity and spiritual shepherd once and for all.

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Most pastors know what they want to do, they just don’t know how to do it.

In other words, they usually know the answer to the first two of Andy Stanley’s leadership questions, but not the third. What are we doing? (Making disciples of Jesus Christ.) Why are we doing it? (Because Jesus is the hope of the world.)

bigstock-Empty-Rural-Road-Going-Through-48243419

Pastors get up every morning with that fire in their belly.

What’s less clear is the answer to Stanley’s third question: Where do I fit in?

Many pastors struggle to define their leadership style. They don’t know their unique role or contribution in the church.

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