Elmer Towns: the pastor's price for growth

The pastor is the leader of the church. If a church is to experience growth, the pastor must want the church to grow and be willing to pay the price. Since he is the leader of the congregation, he must be first willing to pay the price of sacrifice. Dr. Lee Roberson, who built the Sunday School of Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee to over 11, 000 in attendance, said, "Everything rises or falls on leadership."

Leadership implies one is leading and people are following him. If a pastor thinks he is leading a church, but no one is following him, he is just taking a walk.

What is the price of church growth which must be paid by the pastor?

First, the responsibility of growth carries the risk of failure. Just as a farmer who plants seeds in the ground fails if the plants do not come up, so the minister who sows the seed of the Word of God risks failure if nothing happens in his ministry. However, this is not just a larger head count. All church growth is not just numerical growth, though that is implied.

The second price of church growth is hard work. It is harder to pastor a growing church than a plateaued church. In many respects, pastoring is the most difficult work in the world.

But hard work by itself will not grow a church. A person must work smart. Technology and tools can make hard work more effective and sometimes easier.

When the pilgrims settled in the United States, they brought their tools from Europe and learned to grow corn from the Indians. Their technology was limited. They dug a hole in the ground, planted an ear of corn, and added fish for fertilizer. By working hard with his hoe, a colonist could grow the equivalent of four bushels of corn a year, or about one bushel for each month in the growing season. By the time of the Civil War, farmers used mules and developed plows and other tools enabling a man to grow the equivalent of a bushel of corn a week or 16 bushels of corn a year. By the time of World War I, farmers were using tractors and other machinery. They updated their technology to save their topsoil and rotated their crops. The World War I farmer could grow a bushel of corn a day, or the equivalent of 120 bushels of corn a year. But today, with advanced technology, petrochemical fertilizer, soil analysis, and four-wheel drive tractors, a farmer can grow the equivalent of a bushel of corn for each 10 minutes of the growing season. American farmers grow more corn than the other farmers of the world because of better technology and better tools. The miracle of life in the seed has not changed; farmers can do nothing to change what God has ordered in the growth cycle. But tools and technology can improve the harvest.

Pastors can learn from the farmers. The unchanging seed is the Bible. Also, the principles of ministry have not changed. But methods have been updated! Principles never change, but methods and technology change. (A method is the application of an eternal principle to a contemporary need.) Principles are preaching, teaching, soul-winning, etc. A method might be V.B.S., bus ministry, or Sunday afternoon training union for youth. Some of these methods are not as effective as in the past. But by using the most advanced tools and technologies of the ministry, based on old-fashioned principles, we can make our hard work most effective. We can do more for God than we have ever done before.

This second cost of building a church is hard work, but never hard work alone. It will take smart work (latest tools and technologies), plus hard work.

A third cost is the pastor sharing his ministry with his members. He must learn to "give up" some things to his members so they can minister in his place. The pastor must share his ministry with his flock, for the growing church involves the ministry of the whole body to the whole body. Ministry is not limited to just the paid staff, but every person can be involved in ministry. Because every person has a spiritual gift, every "gifted" person should be using his gift (I Cor. 7:7). A hundred years ago, only about 15 percent of our church members were involved in ministry. The remaining 85 percent were little more than spectators. But that is not the norm in growing churches today. Even though we idealistically suggest every member become involved, realistically, a growing church has 50 percent involvement.

Fourth, the pastor must recognize he has members in his church he cannot pastor, then allow others in the church to pastor them. Leadership is not doing everything, nor is it being everything. Leadership is getting the job done through other people. A wise pastor once counseled a new pastor, "Don't do the work of 10 people, put 10 people to work."

Growing churches today are led by a qualified paid staff of specialists who work together under the leadership of the senior pastor to get the job done. But that is only half the picture. A growing church must also involve a multitude of lay people who serve Jesus Christ in various forms of ministry. (See step 9 that discusses the shepherding role of laymen through Sunday School classes.)

 

Elmer Towns is speaking as part of the All Star Sunday School Training Team. To attend an event, or host an event. see http://allstarsundayschool.com/