Every Thursday morning we highlight the work of the Spurgeon Center. A key component of the Center’s mission works through the EQUIP initiative, which seeks to link up SEBTS students with local churches for the purpose of field-based theological education. Steven Wade, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, directs the EQUIP center. In this post, he writes about the need for pastors to replicate themselves in order to fulfill the Great Commission.
I grew up in a church known for its inordinate numbers of “preacher boys”—men surrendering to the call of God to be pastors—as well as other men and women committing theirs lives to full-time ministry. It seemed that God called more men and women to the ministry in our church than any other church I knew of. Why was this? Was there something special about this church? Was there something unique about our pastor? As I have pondered these questions throughout my ministry I have come to understand that my home church and her shepherd (or more correctly her under-shepherd) had some characteristics that resulted in more men and women realizing God’s call and surrendering their lives to full-time ministry. While this list is by no means comprehensive, I believe it can be a starting point for a local church to see more and more believers give themselves to vocational ministry.
- Take the Great Commission seriously
It may seem a bit elementary to start with the Great Commission but it has unfortunately been proven too often that churches have the ability to lose focus and exist for purposes other than what God intended. If God is to raise up leaders for His church from a local congregation, that congregation must be centered on fulfilling the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ! Believers are commanded to be disciple-making disciples and without accomplishing this mission, it is unlikely that very many will surrender to full-time ministry.
- Expect that God is calling people in your congregation to devote themselves to full-time ministry
One thing I recognized in the preaching and discipleship of my pastor (and mentor) was a constant expectation that God was calling men and women to ministry. It was often part of his plea during invitations to respond to a sermon as well as part of his everyday conversations with people in the church. I believe one of the reasons churches do not see more people respond to a call to fulltime ministry is that churches do not really expect God to call people from their congregations.
- Commit time each week to replicating yourself no matter what your ministry position in the church
One of the greatest memories as well as the greatest influences in my teenage life was the time that my pastor committed to spending with those called to ministry. He taught us how to read the Bible, how to preach, how to give invitations, how to share the gospel, how to lead a worship service, etc. The time that I spent with him teaching me how to be a shepherd was invaluable! It seems that pastors often admonish and encourage people in their congregations to replicate themselves. We tell people “work yourself out of a job” or “always be training someone to do the ministry you are doing.” However, too often pastors do not take the time to replicate themselves in this way. Both churches and pastors must see the importance of the pastor taking time to replicate himself in order for the church to grow and the ministry to be multiplied.
- Articulate clear expectations and pathways to every ministry including the pastorate
At our church we have made a commitment to articulate clear steps that we expect people to take to move from “guest to elder.” We often ask of our congregation, “Where are you on the discipleship road?” and “What are the next steps for you to move further down that road?” It is helpful to give people clear expectations of growth and then show them precise practical steps to take to make the next step in their discipleship. When this is done with precision and care, the Holy Spirit has practical tools to use to help people know how to grow and respond to his calling, whatever it might be!
- Develop a vision of multiple churches and ministries that are started, supported and influenced by your church
One of the hindrances to churches nurturing the development of pastors is the unfortunate mindset, “Well, we have a pastor. Why would we want another?” This mindset takes many forms and reveals a church with a small vision to accomplish the Great Commission. A church with a vision for the expansion of the Kingdom of God will recognize the need for more and more leaders in God’s church. Just as disciples must replicate themselves, churches must replicate themselves. I praise God for the move toward church planting in our convention and the need it has revealed for us to raise up new leaders. A church that has a kingdom vision will see a need for leaders in their own church as the ministry grows and expands, but will also see a need for people surrendered to fulltime ministry to be sent as missionaries overseas, as pastors in new church plants, and commissioned to other churches in need of ministers.
What other characteristics do you see as necessary for churches and pastors to develop in order to see more and more men and women called to fulltime ministry in the local church?