Part of your ministry as a pastor is to lead the people to green pastures and still waters. You need to take your people out of the wilderness and into the land flowing with milk and honey, a land of abundance and peace. This is part of being a shepherd to your people. If you don’t have a destination, you don’t have a destiny. The word “destin-y” means the path to your “destin-ation”. At the Tree of Life Church, we talk about dreams, schemes and themes. Dreams are our destination – where we are going. Schemes are our plan to get there, and themes are the plan to take the next step. We can’t sit down and dream, we have to dream while we walk.
However, sometimes leading people somewhere is hard for them. There are obstacles in their way – wild seas that they cannot cross. As a pastor, you are called to be like Moses: “But you, lift up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14.15 and 16).
Part of your role is to ensure the path to the promised land is visible and tangible to the people. A true shepherd loves the sheep and wants the sheep to have abundance and success, and so they find out from God what actions make a way for people to get into the promised land.
You must learn how to make a way for people where there seems to be no way. This could cover all sorts of things – once a man in our church said he was going to leave our church and find another one. I asked why, and was there anything I could do to change his mind. He told me no because his house was too far from our church. So the next day, in the evening I jumped in my car and drove to his house. I knocked on the door and when it opened I said “it’s not that far”. By making that journey, he saw the journey wasn’t that far. As a pastor, I made a way where he couldn’t see a way. If you can visit them, they cannot think that their house is too far for them to come to you! If people realize they are not too far for you to visit, they will feel safer at the church.
You need to split the seas that stop people from getting married in your church. Don’t just look at someone all sad when they complain about their singleness – teach them how to find a marriage partner. Teach them what kind of person to look for. Teach them the warning signs that show they are about to marry a loser. Help people notice one another in the church as well!
Teach people that they can find good marriage partners within the church, it brings great stability when people marry in the church. I’m not saying play Cupid, I’m not saying force people to get married, I’m certainly not saying prophesy marriage, or even promise a happy marriage. Marriage is hard work, and if you force people to get married they will hate you! But seriously, make a way – part some seas.
You need to part seas when it comes to finding work for people. Teach your people how to find work, how to work hard, how to succeed in a job. You also need to help people find work – if someone in the church is an employer, then talk to them about a sheep that needs some employment. Sometimes the person you recommend will embarrass you, but don’t let that get in the way of you being a sea-splitter! It’s not enough for you to preach about crossing seas, you have to make a way!
You need to part the seas of attendance. You might have to change a meeting time or a rehearsal time for one person. We just changed the dates of our summer conference for just a handful of people – it’s called being a sea-splitter. The year before the conference wasn’t during the school holidays of every London borough and so certain people could not attend, and I failed in my sea-splitting ministry. At the end of the conference, I vowed not again – and now I am embracing making a way for people to attend. Make things convenient for people. In London you have to start meetings a bit later because some people work later. That is a sea splitter!
If you struggle with this: try having less meetings. Meet your people on Sunday. They are there anyway, so have your leader’s meetings, your deacon’s meetings and your children’s workers meetings on a Sunday after church rather than make people come out another time in the week. Don’t make someone travel twice when they could travel once. It took a while for me to see this clearly, I will admit, but this is part of your ministry as a pastor: make a way.
Listen – people always make excuses. Deal with them:
“Your church service is too long” – “How long is your favourite film?”
“The church is too far from my house” – “How long is your daily commute to work?”
“I don’t have shoes” – “I will buy you some shoes”
You need to part seas when it comes to growing up. Everyone in your church needs to know there is a pathway forward for them growing up. Teach them how to read the Bible for themselves, give them a place where they can ask questions, point them in the direction of good articles, good teachers, good books. I am always giving books to my leaders – because I want them to grow. I want people to see a clear path. How to flow in the gifts, how to behave in church. It all needs to be made clear.
You need to part seas when it comes to a place of significance. Everyone in your church needs to know there is a clear path for them to be a significant part of the church. Encourage people to join small groups, to serve on the rota and to give generously to the church. Explain that doing these things makes the people pillars in the church – people who the church cannot do without. And whenever people get saved and healed – they made it happen!
You need to part the seas of ministry as well. Don’t hold onto the ministry too tightly. Delegate. Have a short mini-preach before the sermon so people can get used to standing up in front of people, give people small groups to run, let people preach in the satellite churches (and lead worship) so they can get used to what they are doing. Make a way for people to enter into their ministerial dreams. We have invested so much in ensuring Charis Bible College London happens for example, not just because it’s great to have a Charis on the doorstep (hence, being a sea splitter for people who want to go to college) but so that the people who run the college are now walking in their dreams, being a sea splitter for them.
If you are a pastor, you are a sea splitter. Get used to it, and get doing it!