Role of the Pastor 6: Training

Part of your role is training the sheep.  You will be loved for feeding them, and hated for training them.  You are responsible for training the sheep to embrace and understand the culture of your church, how to behave at church, and how to live the Christian life.  The worst pastors are the pastors that let anything go – their churches are not safe places to be.  Things will get out of line if you just leave them to their own devices.  That is a fact!

Paul asked the Christians in Corinth this pertinent question: “Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (2 Cor. 4.21).  Most of the time you come to the sheep in love and with meekness, but there are times you have to lay down the law.

You have to purge certain tendencies and ideas out of your church.  If your sheep think you are a weak leader, then you will be exploited by your church, and taken for a ride more than once.

Many years ago, I was at a church once where the pastor called a young man to the front of the church.  It was a mid-week meeting, and I didn’t really know the church.  I thought they were going to honour the guy in some way, and to be honest, the guy looked like he did too.  But the pastor said “This young man is a thief and a liar, he has conned several people in the church by doing this and that.  Look at him, and do not be conned by him.  He has seduced several ladies in the church and blackmailed them and stolen from them.”  I was stunned, but the church applauded – they knew people that had been hurt by this man, and who had lost property to his con.  There as a young man, I learned the power of strong leadership to protect the sheep. You cannot let people come to your church and just do whatever they want. 

I was once physically removing a young man from a youth meeting for continually making sexually offensive comments to the young ladies, I was the youth pastor in that church.  The senior pastor saw me doing it and told me to be a bit more gentle.  When I explained what the young man had done, the senior pastor told me to be a little more rough!

1 Cor. 5.6-7 is clear: Know ye not that a little leaven leaventh the whole lump?  Purge out therefore the old leaven.  This is so important – people will corrupt people.  Negative, whining, complaining people will infect people.  You need to train your people to reject gossip and reject whining, and reject negativity.  

To some people in your church you need to be strong, and tell them that their behaviour was disappointing, was destructive, that was not healthy behaviour.  You need to have a statement of culture that you can refer to and let people know “this is not how we do things around here”.  In doing this, you do not humiliate people.  You don’t tell people off in public unless their behaviour is destructive and they have been warned privately several times (as happened in both above illustrations) – you don’t humiliate people.  Sometimes you have to be hard with people, but you never have to be harsh.

“Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out, yea, strife and reproach shall cease” (Proverbs 22.10).  Sometimes you have to correct people right out the church.  But when you do, strife and reproach stop and it is the greatest feeling on the planet.  Some people just need to leave the church, their presence is nothing but disruptive and unhelpful.  It is that simple sometimes!

But for most people, training is a much more positive experience.  Correction is one side of training, but discipleship is the other side. Three things your church should have to help train people:

1. An obvious path of training.

2. An obvious place of training.

3. An obvious reward to training.

An obvious path to training means that let’s say someone gets saved in your church, or comes from another church, they should know immediately what to do if they want to be discipled.  For us in the Tree, it’s join a small group.  We also have a 5 week course called Vision and Values where we explain our vision and values to people and that ends with us making sure that we open to door for people to be discipled.  For me, the three main areas of discipleship for new Christians or Christians that aren’t growing are: how to read the Bible yourself, how to flow in the gifts of the Spirit and how to relate to a local church – so we do training on all of that.  The courses are offered as often as we can – ideally I’d like to offer them about twice as much as we do, but that’s ongoing development of the church.

An obvious place of training is that people know where they can go if they need help.  Again at the Tree that’s our small groups – the Living Churches.  You go there and you are trained, and taught the Word and encouraged.  You can receive prayer if you need and you will grow.  Any problems and the elder running the group can help or get help.

Finally rewards for training – people like to be noticed and acknowledged, so we celebrate training, we have a pathway for becoming an elder and we have a way into serving and helping and significance in the church.  People need to feel that they are growing.

Keep a strong handle on the church, and make sure that you are making disciples.

Role of the Pastor 2: Comfort

Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd… your rod and your staff they comfort me”.  A shepherd is responsible for comforting the sheep.  I’ve heard pastors say “I’m not here to make you comfortable” which is true in one sense, but at the same time a pastor – a shepherd – is there to comfort people.  To bring comfort to the afflicted.

One of the key roles of a pastor is to comfort God’s people.  Every person should be able to say to their pastor “you comfort me”.  This is one of the key reasons why you should be part of a local church – a good pastor brings comfort to his people.

Some pastors are scratching their heads as to why their churches are not growing but it is because they don’t make their people comfortable – they don’t comfort their people.  A good shepherd needs to be there when people go through grief.  When people go through genuine hard times, a shepherd needs to be there.  A shepherd needs to be with the sheep when the sheep are in trouble.  If you are an elder, you need to make changes to your schedule to be with your flock in times of need and in times of joy.  If you are a pastor, your entire schedule should be based around being with the flock when they are discomforted.

A shepherd has to be a comforter.  The ministry of comfort starts with paying attention. Remembering birthdays, remembering exams, remembering names.  All of that matters – it makes people comfortable.  It’s amazing how a week or two after someone asks for prayer or tells you something just a simple “how is that” can bring so much comfort – hey, the shepherd knows my name, the shepherd cares, the shepherd is praying for me.  That really comforts people.

The major events must be marked and celebrated: the birth of a child, marriage, funerals.  God expects you to be there.  The shepherd should be there.

Attention is the first step of comforting the sheep.  The second step is empathy – what matters to the people must matter to you.  If you tell people you are a pastor, if you introduce yourself as Pastor Jim or Pastor Bob, if your business card says pastor: what are you doing to show love and comfort to the sheep?  If you cannot answer that question, maybe you should really consider what you are doing.  If what matters to people doesn’t matter to you, people will never truly hear your preaching.

Ezekiel 34.1-5 tells us that:

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.  And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

God wants shepherds to shepherd.  Strengthen the diseased.  Heal the sick.  Bound up the broken.  Look for the lost.  It’s hard work – it’s not easy.  Being a pastor is long hours, hard work and dealing with broken, sick, lost people.  Being a lay pastor is double difficulty!  But it is worth it.  It’s not enough to teach.  The Corinthians had many teachers but few fathers – how much more is that true of the Christian church today.  Lots of teachers who will happily fly into town for the right price, stimulate the church and hype everyone up, then fly off again.  If you are a pastor, you are not that person.  You are a father, a shepherd.  Comfort the sheep!

Love never fails.  The Bible never says preaching never fails or teaching never fails.  It says love never fails.  Comfort is doing love!  If you are a pastor, do some love today!

(Part I of this blog is available here: https://benjaminconway.net/2014/02/05/role-of-the-pastor-1-lead/)

5 Things I Want to Tell Everyone About to Pastor

5.  Work hard.  Don’t be that guy who is last to church, preaches, let’s everyone else take the slack, ducks out early.  Seriously – just don’t.  People will tell you pastoring is hard work, and it is – but don’t become a prima donna.  Get in there and help set up the sound desk, stay late and talk to everyone, even Mrs Jones who you are convinced is going senile, be at the prayer meeting first, learn how to set the church alarm system.  Just get involved.  Serve teas and coffees.  If you are joining a team in a larger church, don’t be the slacker.  Be the hard worker.  

4. Don’t be quick to accept a church that need a pastor.  Churches between 30-70 people are cats.  They are just like cats: they will wander to you, wander away from you, they will be independent.  Do some investigation – I know you want to preach, but that’s only 1 or 2 hours a week, and you have a lot more hours to fill and the kind of church it is will make a massive difference.  If they have run off the last 3 pastors in less than 2 years, you will be gone in two years.  You are not that good, No one is that good.  Find somewhere else.

3.  Your greatest asset in the church will be the dear old saints who have been walking with the Lord thirty or forty years, draw from their wisdom, find out their secrets about life in the Word and following Christ.  Your greatest liability in the church will be the dear old saints who have been not walking with the Lord thirty or forty years.  Enjoy!

2. Don’t let them mistreat your wife.  Never ever ever let them mistreat your wife.  Or children.  You will be in a greenhouse and people will be looking.  They can look, but if they throw stones, ensure they have no responsibility or future in the church until they can respect your family as an extension of you.

1. Don’t work too hard.  Pick a day of the week (I find Fridays best as it means I hit that weekend refreshed) and turn the phone off, turn the interwebs off, and enjoy.  Let nothing interrupt that day off.  If you want to read, read; if you want to watch a DVD, watch a DVD.  Go out for lunch, don’t cook.  Have a day off every week and rest.