Friday, 29 March 2013


Did you ever do/play swapsies at school?

In my days in the playground it was Merlin Premier League stickers. I'd take a whole wad of my doubles in my trouser pocket and, every break time, try and get the stickers I needed from mates by swapping the ones I had loads of, for those really rare ones, or ones I just hadn't manage to get in all of the packets I'd bought from the newsagents with my pocket money.

I remember one guy always trying to get rid of David Lee who was one of the Chelsea squad at the time. He must have had him 10 times over. He was desperate for someone to take his David Lee sticker and give him one he wanted.

Today, as Christians, we celebrate the ultimate swapsie, if that's not too flippant. Good Friday is good because Jesus swapped us all that He had for all that we had. Theologians have called it "The Great Exchange" but in the language of the playground it could be "The Best Swapsie Ever". Here's a few things that Jesus swapped us for:

  • Righteousness for Sin - In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read that Jesus became sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God. All of our evil thoughts, actions and attitudes were owned by Jesus on the cross and in return we got His perfect record, His righteousness. Jesus died once for all, "the righteous for the unrighteous" (1 Peter 3:18).

  • Innocence for Guilt - As the crowds were crying out for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave them the choice of one prisoner to be released. The options were Jesus or Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist, a menace to society (Mark 15:6-15). The crowd choice the guilty one and left the innocent one to die. At the cross Jesus show that he takes out guilt and makes us innocent. We are like Barabbas, we stand in his shoes, declared innocent and released.

  • Blessing for Curse - The Bible says "cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" (Gal 3:13 citing Deut 21:23). As Jesus hung there on the cross He became a curse, He took our curse, so that we might enjoy "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3) by being found in Him. 

  • Adoption for Alienation - Jesus, the Son of God, experienced something on the cross that He has never experienced before. For the first time ever, since eternity past, God the Son was forsaken by God the Father. He went through that so that we might not be alienated from God forever but so we can be His children. Children not born of natural decent or human decision, but born of God (John 1:12-13). 1 John 3:1 puts it like this, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, the we should be called children of God; and so we are." 

  • Life for Death - Jesus died upon the cross so that we do not have to die and face eternity without God. He died so that we might live and live life in all it's fulness (John 10:10). We enjoy relationship with God now and forever.

Those are snapshots worth meditating further upon, today and for the rest of your life. There is so much more that could be said too, but for now remember that Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, went to the cross so that you and I could become sons and daughters, co-heirs with Him.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Should we plant churches in the UK? (Part 2)

This is Part 2 and will mainly look at the how and by whom of church planting.

How, and by whom, should churches be planted?

Ideally I think a new church plant would come either from a ‘mother’ church releasing a group of people to go and begin a new ministry or from a group of people moving into an ‘area’ and starting a brand new church from scratch. It is true that this not Paul’s model, but Paul is also an Apostle and I don’t think that office exists now. That’s strictly planting, but the re-plant option of taking a group of people to partner with an existing congregation with the plan to revitalize their ministry is also a good option, one which I’m not sure we find in Scripture as most places had only just got started. This may be similar to what Timothy does in Ephesus and if so, that situation shows how hard it can be to try and turn a church around, re-focus it, and remain firm when challenges are coming from inside and outside!

It may sound obvious but, in any church plant, one thing that must precede anything happening is prayer. Without praying for guidance of where and how to go, and making wise decision based on Scripture and information gathered, it is pointless planting a church.

It could also do more damage than good if some of the above-mentioned things related to investigating the existence of churches in the proposed plant area is not done thoroughly and sensitively.

But presuming that does take place, how should a church begin?

Mother church sending a new church often involves the Assistant Pastor going out to take on the new church leaving the Senior Pastor back at the mother church to keep that ministry going, this is similar to Epaphras being trained by Paul and going to plant in Collosae. But, Paul often seems to leave others behind when he moves on to preach the gospel somewhere new. He is there at the conception of the church but then on many occasions heads off elsewhere, not abandoning the newly formed church but entrusting it to someone he knows will faithfully nurture and pastor it in it’s early stages. There are only a couple of places where Paul stays for a long time and effectively is the pioneer and pastor of the church.
So maybe the traditional model of the pastor of the church plant being the Assistant should be reversed and the Senior Pastor should take on the new role?

We must remember though that Paul was uniquely one of the Apostles with a special commission. That very narrow and specific office is no longer around. We won’t find any Apostles by definition now. So I wonder if we have to adapt the Biblical model seen to fit with our culture, not dis-guarding it but contextualizing it.

A group of people starting something brand new would seem to need to involve a lot of evangelistic endeavor to begin with. As Paul and his companions go into new towns they seek to preach the gospel to people in the places where they are gathered; synagogues, temples, marketplaces, various halls. This requires the ability to engage with people publically and relevantly but also to build relationships.

Overall it must come down to gifting and character. If we look at Timothy, we see a young guy working with a young church, seeking to establish and grow it. We can see that Timothy was a pastor and teacher. But, he was also called to “do the work of an evangelist”. Presumably this is to know the gospel well and to teach it to those inside and outside the church. Having a heart for God and a heart for people must undergird all of this and a church planter must meet the qualifications of an elder.

It is easy to see how an assistant minister taking a plant would have been tested. A pioneer planter will have presumably been attending a church and so I would expect that they would have been commissioned/tested in that context, or sought that input before going.

Timothy is called to, preach, not neglect his gifting, pray for the people, train others to faithfully carry on the work after him, defend the church against false teaching, helps set up ministries amongst and for widows. He is also called to watch his life and doctrine closely, not let others look down on him because he is young but set and example in life and purity and godliness and not to be timid. Timothy is to love God and love the gospel message. He is to be able to relate to various types and ages of people and apply the gospel to them.

I think from Timothy we can see that you do not have to be a gung-ho, up for a fight, in-yer-face kind of guy to plant a church. That’s a personality type not character although you do have to be ready to stand firm, hold your ground, fight the good fight of faith and care for the people of God with passion.

It seems obvious that Timothy had been called, gifted and trained to be a church pastor. He had spent time with Paul growing and learning. But Timothy also didn’t go into this entirely alone. He still had Paul encouraging and supporting him, even if it was from afar.

I wonder whether there needs to be a good support network around for guys who lead church plants. Older, wiser heads to run ideas by and maybe temper what can be misguided zeal. This will also help practically because it will be tough work, full of disappointments as well as joys.

If Appendix 2 (a blog post by Tim Chester) is a good overview of possible church plant problems and pitfalls, and the 5 points are true (be creative, be positive, be missional, be contextual and be biblical) then the church planter, or team, need to be firmly rooted in scripture, full of ideas, ready to be take the good things from their church experience and jettison the bad, but also be ready to outward looking, not just create their dream church where they are comfortable. Much of this has been touched on already, but the planter must be ready to lead and give direction to all of this, listening to opinions but also being decisive.

A church plant team is another option that could be explored. 2 or 3 leaders sharing the burden with a collaboration of gifts would possibly give a broader and firmer foundation for the conception of the church. All of them would likely need to be working part-time to fund this I imagine. The question would be whether, in a place like the UK that is struggling for leaders, you’d find 3 people willing and able to take this on.


In conclusion then, I believe there is still a need to plant new churches in the UK, because there are areas (as defined above) that either still have no gospel witness, or used to have one, as evidenced by the empty buildings, but no longer do. These need to be the places of first priority, but they are often not the glamorous ones and are more than likely not the easiest places to do it either, mostly working class and deprived areas.

Where some church plants are currently taking place, in areas that already have a small but faithful witness, the first option explored should be a re-plant. This would save heartache and be a wonderful witness to gospel unity.

There are some church plants that are too close to either the mother church or to other churches that are struggling but faithful, or maybe even where there are vibrant home groups from another church gathering. In those cases, the plant should be re-thought and done elsewhere because there are still loads of places with no witness.

Finally, the lead planters need to be identified as being gifted to preach and teach as well as obviously meeting the qualifications of an elder. Most of all they need a heart for God and for people. They need to be able to do the work of an evangelist and be trained (not necessarily formally in theological college) to be as prepared as possible for the many and varied situations they could find themselves in. On the job training as an assistant pastor or pioneer minister in a church could be ideal.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Should we plant churches in the UK? (Part 1)

This is essay number 3 (see post on essays).

Should we plant churches?

Missiologist, C. PeterWagner says “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” Why might he say that?

The great commission gives us the founding of mission and the globalchurch as the command is to go and “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28). Inherent in that is taking the good newsof Jesus to those who need to hear it, which is everyone who has breath intheir lungs. But, that could leave us to think that we should all just be outthere as lone-ranger evangelists, each reaching a new place or new group ofpeople with the gospel. Or going on evangelistic crusades and seeking decisionsfor Jesus. Fortunately, that isn’t the trajectory of the NT or even within thegospels, as Jesus sent out the 72, they at least go in pairs (Luke 10).
In Matthew 18 Jesus speaks of resolving conflict between brothersand in many ways pre-supposes church. I think this is different to the OTpeople of Israel as they were a theocracy. I don’t think we should be seekingto set up a “Christian State” but we should be seeking to see the Kingdom comeacross the world.
The trajectory of the NT is the formation of churches, often meetingin homes, in towns and cities across the then known world. Paul and Barnabas inparticular are commissioned and sent (Acts 13) togo and preach the good news, establishing churches in the places God led themto.

Not only that, but the number of “one another” commands in the NTmake it clear that believers are to be united, regularly meeting, spending timetogether and ‘doing life’ together. On top of this, very briefly, Jesus saidthe love believers had for one another would be a witness to the world. It isthe distinctive, diverse, community that shows the world the goodness of theTriune God of love. Churches are the way forward. Churches are the mode bywhich God’s plan, to save a lost world through Jesus, is presented.

As we read Acts and follow Paul and Barnabas, they go from town totown and city to city speaking of Jesus. At first we aren’t directly told thatchurches are established, although I think it is implicit as you read the text.But, after they split, we read of Paul and Silas in Acts16 and it sheds some light on the matter. There is a church establishedin Lystra and Derbe, because as Paul goes back, there is a group of believershe specifically goes to meet. Then in v5, thereare multiple churches that are strengthened and grow as a result of the visit. Noticethough he does not plant more new churches. This must imply that the area hadenough to meet the needs of the people, or at least that there were greaterareas of priority for Paul and Silas reach first. That has to be a helpful wayto approach church planting; assessing greatest needs and seeking to reach thatplace/group first. One church per town presumably with smaller groups meetingin homes across the town seems to have been enough in those days. The questionis, would it be possible to do that now? Have one church gathering centrally(maybe on a Sunday, but not necessarily) and then smaller localized groupsmeeting during the week, being witnessing gospel communities to theirneighbourhood? It is possible, but I wonder if 3 things make it difficult. Thefirst is that our cities are much bigger than the cities of Paul’s day making acentral gathering almost practically impossible. But even if there was nocentral gathering, we are back to a local church in each area (just beingdescribed as many would describe a home group now). The other problem is peoplehave different personal preferences and many secondary doctrine which they holddearly, even if they would not be divisive over them. Thirdly, we are sinfulhuman beings, we make mistakes, we fail to love God and people well and oftenthis impacts us elevating some of those secondary issues to primary ones.    

As the chapter (Acts 16) progresses,we see that Paul only goes where the Spirit leads (v6-10)and again he plants churches in each city, often going for the most strategicplace first (v12) (Philippi was the main cityin the area).

Through chapters 17, 18 and 19 ofActs we see Paul establishing churches in the major cities of Thessalonica,Corinth, Ephesus and Athens. All of them are places that needed to hear thegospel, all places that were strategic. They were strategic for geographical,cultural or governmental reasons.

But, as well as the restraint of being prevented by the Spirit topreach the gospel in certain places, Paul also seems to have refrained fromgoing to Rome because someone had already planted a church there (Romans 15:20-22). A couple of verses earlier Paulalso seems to imply that He has preached the gospel fully in all of the regionfrom Jerusalem to Illyricum. Presumably this means each city, or area, has achurch established in it.

Paul’s ministry as an apostle is unique. So I don’t think there arepeople now who would travel and begin churches the way Paul did, sometimes onlystaying for a few days or weeks.

Holding these things together, I would argue that this is enough tosay that there is a biblical imperative to plant churches in places where thereare none. Bearing in mind that cities in those days were a lot smaller thanthey are now, and that in some of these places there seems to be more than onechurch gathering together, we must say that we need to look at multiplechurches in a city, maybe one per ‘area’. It could be argued that these wereall house churches, but we also have no real mentions of all of these housegroups gathering together centrally. So, should we totally re-orientate the waywe do church? Should we just meet in homes until we have too many people to fitin and then split to a bigger group? How do would these groups have oversight? Maybe the model we need to think about ismissional gospel communities meeting in various locations gathering togetherfor mutual encouragement as well as deriving their oversight from somethingbigger.

In an ideal situation, everyone who attended a church would live inthe ‘area’ that church was reaching. Whether this was a gospel communitymeeting in a home or a centralized gathering. This is the most effective way ofwitnessing what Christian community looks like in front of the world.

I think this also means for self-contained villages, they need theirown church. We can’t expect people to travel in to a city for church and wecan’t expect a church based in a city to effectively reach a village. A centralmeeting could be outside of the village, but a missional gospel community mustbe living and breathing in the village.

Furthermore, I would say that a place with no church includes placeswhere there are church buildings and people who gather but the gospel is nottaught, believed or modeled. Within any church community there will be peoplestruggling, not being a good witness or modeling the gospel well. But, the questionis whether the leaders are teaching and promoting that and the trajectory ofthe church is in that direction.

I would want to be as broad as the gospel allows and as narrow as itrequires. Therefore, as long as a church is ‘sound’ on primary issues, onesthat affect the salvation, and is seeking to reach the local area then I wouldsay a new church or gospel community does not need to go to that place.

If we work on an ‘area’ being either a very distinct geographicaland/or social patch, and/or being around about 10000 people, then we can startto work out where new church plants are needed in the UK. The and/or clausesare purposely there as some ‘areas’ could be a lot less than 10000 people forexample. 
It could be that different ‘areas’ could be reached by a gospelcommunity that is part of a larger church gathering. But I wonder if this wouldneed to be discerned individually by area.

That would take plenty of research and pooling of knowledge andresources. Planting could also take place as partnerships between churcheswhere neither is able to commit enough people or resources to a plant of theirown, but together they could. Although, again, the practicalities would needsignificant thought, and there would need to be real gospel-heartedness insetting aside secondary preferences for the sake of the Kingdom.

Our motive for planting churches should surely always be thefurthering of the Kingdom to the glory of God. Out of love for God and love forpeople we should want to see more and more churches reaching more and morepeople. A natural outflow of knowing and modeling Trinitarian love will beseeing more churches planted and stagnant churches becoming missional churches.This could be planting new gospel communities, or entire new central churchgatherings with smaller gospel communites as well. But I don’t think thecurrent number of churches in the UK can reach the entirety of the country asthere will be places too far away from and current gospel community or centralgathering to be effectively reached.

If the principle for planting a church is making sure it issomewhere where there is no faithful gospel ministry currently then I thinkthere is still a need to plant churches in the UK. There are plenty of places thatdo not have a faithful gospel church.

There are things that need to be taken into account when planning achurch plant. Here a couple of big ones:

  1. Will this endeavor ultimately (as far as it is humanly possible to tell) multiplygospel ministry and further the Kingdom? I think this includes those who havedrifted coming back as well as new converts. Overall, more people in church andmore outreach happening than before the plant was started.
  2. Are there churches in the area which would be faithful and fruitful if only theyhad some more man-power and direction in leadership?
  3. Is there a specific set of needs in this area that the church would need to seekto meet (these could be social, economic etc)

The first sounds obvious. The answer could quite easily be ‘no’ ifthe conception of the church is going to severely weaken other churches nearbyby taking most of their ‘keen’ people away on this exciting new venture. If onthe other hand the answer is ‘yes’; there will be more gospel ministry takingplace and as a result of a sending church or group of churches beingnumerically weakened some of their members will have to ‘step up to the plate’and take on some responsibility, then I’d say, “go for it!”

The second one is a little less clear. If there is such a churchexistence then maybe the answer is to take people and effectively re-plant it.Using what is already in existence, and expanding, adapting and developing it.Some would argue though that older churches tend only to reach certain groupsof people and it needs something dynamic and new to reach a differentgeneration or a different social group who were not in that area at the timethe original church was founded (see appendix 1).I wonder if that is because it is harder work to change something from theinside and easier to start something new from scratch without any baggage.

The final one is more practical in that it’s more to do with whatyou might actually do once you’ve decided to plant. But briefly, that would affectthe time, style and possibly length of gathering, how much you prioritizedsmall groups, the number of community based activities and events you tried toorganize and run. It gives you a chance to start with a clean slate, gleaningthe best of ideas and practices experienced and trying out new ones, knowingthat there is a grace enough to fail. 

I guess the question we are left with is, where in the UK is thereneed for a church plant? Most cities have multiple churches and even morechurch buildings, sometimes only a street apart or even next door to oneanother. Most small towns will have multiple church denominations representedand even our villages may have 3 or 4 churches (e.g. Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic).

In many of these places though, there will be newer housing estateswhere no churches are represented because they have developed in the last fewdecades and a new church building was not part of the planning application.Whether it is a social housing scheme or a development of predominantly 3 and 4bedroom homes, someone needs to reach them. There will be other areas in citiesin particular where there are empty buildings, or liberal churches, which willmean no one is taking the gospel out there. These places need reaching too, andoften they need something that is culturally relevant to them, different formthe usual, traditional model of church they have become immune, or even hostile,to. It is true that these could be reached by current churches seeking to starta gospel community there, but that also relies on their being a missionalchurch within range of the estate.

Conversations between those planting, or sending a plant, and otherswho also work in churches nearby, need to be open and honest. I believe thoseplanting need to have investigated an ‘area’ thoroughly so that they first knowthey are not stepping on anyone’s gospel toes, in which case no plant isneeded, and so that they know the ‘area’ well socially, economically andculturally. Some of those things you can only fully know once you are there andin the mix, so to speak, but there can be plenty of leg work done prior toplanting, such as gathering socio-economic data, contacting local communitygroups, schools, council etc. which could save a lot of heartache and ready youfor some challenges and struggles.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What are the priorities for a pastor? (Part 2)

This is Part 2, see yesterday's post for Part 1.

Being an Example

This is not so much a timing priority as something that flows out of a life lived as a leader. A pastor is clearly called to be an example to those in his congregation. This covers a wide range of things I believe. Prayer, mentioned above, is one area because if the pastor isn’t praying, his people won’t be either! In 1 Tim 4:12 Paul makes it clear that Timothy is to be an example in life and purity and godliness, and although this seems to be tied to the fact that he is young and people may look down on him or refuse to listen to him, it is backed up by what Peter says in his first letter (1 Pet 5:3) that elders are to be examples in service but also in life in general. They are not to use their position for themselves but for the good of the flock until the Chief Shepherd returns. Something the elders and pastors must do is linked with the way Jesus looks after the church. Humble service I think is the key (Php 2:5-11).
Not only that but I wonder if the more generic, broad brush stroke categories, (Jesus, Family, Church) that I mentioned at the beginning, fall into this as well. The qualification for an elder includes a lot of character traits. It also includes looking after your own family well as a sign of being able to then look after the family of God.
So I wonder if loving Jesus and loving your family well is a priority for a pastor because the pastor is to lead by example. If the pastor wants his congregation to value Jesus most highly he needs to be doing that himself. Here’s a quote from David Mathis:
“If the chief theme of our lives is not worshiping Jesus, enjoying God in him, and being freshly astounded by his grace toward us sinners, we have no good business endeavoring to bring others into an experience that we ourselves aren’t enjoying.”
Basically he is saying pastors and leaders can’t be hypocrites. They need to be leading by example.
Secondly, if a pastor wants husband and fathers to look after their wives and children and not be workaholics, then he needs to do the same.
These are just two areas in which a pastor must show the congregation how life should be, all the while, being humble enough to admit his faults.
The way a pastor can be an example in a practical way is to make sure his house is a welcoming place, as he trains people making sure they see not just his skills but how he lives life (see below), doing general day to day things in view of the church and the world, sharing joys and sorrows, successes and failures in his Christian walk.
Also under the banner of being an example I want to include Paul’s command to Timothy to “train yourself in godliness”. I think this involves Timothy keeping his mind and heart on the Lord, but I also wonder if it involves input for him. In our modern context this may involve a pastor reading books, getting some training or meeting with other pastors to discuss and encourage one another.

Training Leaders (current and new)

When Paul writes to Timothy the second time there is another big area of being a pastor that Timothy must undertake and in the current UK climate this is a huge issue which actually probably needs to feature as a higher priority now than maybe it would normally. 2 Tim 2:2 tells us that Timothy was to pass on the message and entrust the gospel to faithful leaders. There is a call to train up future leaders. Not only that but if we include Acts 6 and 13, there is an obvious need before this to identify those leaders and this may be the harder of the two parts. If Timothy is to entrust the gospel to these leaders then he is going to need to know them well which means spending time with them. He is also going to need to pray for them and train them in what it looks like to teach and to lead. Part of this may look like 1 Thess 2 where Paul speaks of not only sharing the gospel but the whole of life with the Thessalonians.
Not only do new leaders need identifying and training, but current leaders need to be developed, encouraged and challenged to keep going. They need to be trained to help the pastor with some of the things mentioned in the next section below, and that in turn will free him up to prepare well for preaching and teaching in the main church gathering.

Counselling, visiting etc

Some of the above is only possible if the pastor knows his flock well. Visiting members of the congregation is important, but is also part of a wider list of things found in scripture. Sick people are to visited (James 5:14), grieving people will need support, sin will need to be confronted and church discipline carried out (Matt 18 and 1 Cor 5), those who are faint-hearted need to be encouraged, those who are idle need challenging (1 Thess 5). Not that all of this is to be done exclusively by the pastor, but there will most likely be situations only he is aware of, or some where his gifts and wisdom are needed.

These five major areas cover almost everything that the Bible teaches as priorities for pastors. The specifics of each area are not explicit in Scripture, for example: we are not told how many hours a sermon takes to prepare or how long a pastor should be preaching for. As well as that we aren’t told how many visits to members of the congregation a pastor needs to make or how many hours he needs to diary in for prayer.
But having said that, given the weight of Scripture in these areas and the priorities for a church and what Christians need in general, what might an average week look like?

Average Week

I would think a pastor who is preaching two sermons on a Sunday needs to spend around 8 hours per sermon preparing. So that’s 16 hours in total. That is almost half of an average working week but it is the key to teaching and training the flock.
Beyond that the pastor needs to devote time to investing in some key individuals. Those who already have some leadership responsibility and those who are potential new leaders and need nurturing. This too will take time to prepare and also to carry out. It may be that this is done in little groups teaching general leadership principles or it may be that it is done on a one to one basis. So, let’s say around 8 hours on this, including the preparation time.
If the pastor then seeks to visit a couple of families/individuals from church each week to pray with them, look at a short section of scripture and catch up this could be 2 hours each, so another 4 in total. Although these are the things that can quite easily be a lot longer.
Even if the pastor is not the administrator and a lot of that is dealt with by someone in the congregation there will inevitably be e-mails and other bits and pieces that will take some time, so if half an hour each morning (Mon-Fri) was given to those that’s another 2.5 hours.
The pastor will also need plan ahead in terms of preaching series and direction for the church, plus meeting with the elders and leaders fairly regularly. These will take time to prepare and do, maybe up to 4 hours per week.
On top of these, if the pastor is to remain on his toes and theologically sharp he may well need to be receiving some training, encouragement from other pastors or devote some time to reading and studying. You could add another 4 hours a week for this.

Up to this point that is 38.5 hours of diary time! That’s without including the delivery of the sermons on a Sunday and any subsequent issues that make an appearance on the Sunday.

If prayer is to be a part of the pastor’s job then this needs time in the diary too. But I am not sure setting aside time in the diary is needed or if this just needs to be something he does constantly and is the outflow of a heart captured by the Lord. Plus all of the above mentioned things need to be fuelled by prayer.

Pastoral situations will always arise as the effects of living in a broken world and the work of the Spirit through the word come into play so some flexibility in the week is helpful.

Rather than being very specific with hours, maybe the best way to simplify this even further is to say that half of the pastor’s time each week should be take up with preparing, praying over and preaching sermons.
After that another quarter would be ideally spent training leaders, in whatever forms that might be (one to ones, small groups, training seminars etc).
The other quarter will be counseling, pastoral care, visits, admin and generally living out his life as an example intentionally.

I wonder if a church advert for a pastor could be as simple as this:

ABC Church is looking for a man who can lead their flock while we await the return of the Lord Jesus.
He will need to:
·      Love the Lord
·      Be passionate about the gospel
·      Be able to teach the word of God faithful and with joy
·      Persevere in prayer
·      Love the church family
·      Love the lost

In our church this will most likely look like:
·      Preaching twice on a Sunday (for the vast majority of the year)
·      Training current and new leaders
·      Visiting church members
·      Seeking to lead the church in reaching out to the local community

Everything else can be discussed and tailored to your individual gifts and abilities.

My very brief conclusion is that there is a much tighter remit and specification for a pastor than many currently imagine. Some of the extras people add in may be particular gifts that a pastor has and can be utilized, but not all men will have them.
My job description above may be too simplistic, but I would like to think it is closer to a Biblical pattern and slightly more realistic!

Monday, 18 March 2013

What are the priorities for a pastor? (Part 1)

(N.B. This is the original version, I have since thought a little more about the section on prayer and what this might look like in practice. Also I have not included the Appendices, sorry!)

In the church today it seems a pastor is required to be a preacher, a trainer, an evangelist, a youth worker, an administrator, a life coach, an entrepreneur and a businessman; have an open office door, be financially savvy, visit the flock and numerous other things. There seems to be enough to fill the week 4 times over at least. Not only that, but it is highly unlikely that many, or any people, are gifted in all of these ways!

What I have in mind as I write this essay is the average UK church with one full-time paid minister. When there are more staff members I envisage that extra jobs, that were not possible with just the pastor, would be taken up and other jobs would be expanded. But, I also think that the lead pastor in a larger team should be much like the lone pastor in priorities.

So, what are the biblical priorities for a lone pastor with a team of elders around him?

The most common answers I found as I searched the internet for blog posts and articles, as well as canvassing friends on twitter, were mainly along the lines of preaching, prayer, guarding the truth, vision, shepherding the flock, loving people, and administering the sacraments. The answers were very similar, although what each one meant to the people who responded would probably vary, maybe even quite significantly. But, I also had more generic categories such as: Jesus, their family and the church.
The job description in Appendix A is very broad, it includes strategic thinking, preaching, developing leaders, leading the elders, keeping the church on mission, carrying out church discipline, to name but a few.

So where do these ideas come from, just what people see happening, or what they see and think should be happening instead, or from the Bible, or a bit of each of those?

I want to look at some of the key passages in scripture which speak of pastors and their role and as we do that draw in other verses to back them up.
Hopefully as this happens we will be able to build a good picture of what the average pastor should be doing.
Then, after that is established, I will aim to break that down into an average week looking at how many hours each area of the role should take. Again this will vary and isn’t meant to be perfect, but just an overall guideline.


One of the things those gifted in the church are gifted for is “to equip His people for works of service…” (Eph 4:12a). A pastors role must at least partly be to bring this about. With that in mind, here we go.

In Scripture it is undeniable that preaching and teaching the word of God is one of the primary duties of a pastor (Acts 6:2, 1 Tim 4:13, 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2, 4:2). The preaching of the gospel and the application of it to the lives of those listening will not just involve boldly declaring good news, but also teaching in a way which means people can refute false teaching and avoid it like the plague. So, the idea of guarding the truth also comes into this, faithfully standing firm upon, and passing on, the authentic gospel. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he makes it very clear that Timothy is to warn people about what is false, expose the lies, and show how destructive it can be to follow them (1 Tim 4:1-6).
The context of 1 Timothy is especially key as Timothy was sent by Paul, the founder of the Ephesian church, to carry out the job of pastoring the church and appointing elders in his absence. The whole letter contains priorities for Timothy, some of which are specific to Ephesus, but also many which are for general application.
Titus is also exhorted by Paul to teach, and in chapter 2:1-5 specific groups of people are mentioned. This must mean applying scripture specifically as it is preached, but it also must include personal conversations or visits, which we will come onto later.
Not only are these very personal letters of the apostle Paul to young pastors extremely clear on of the importance of preaching but, if we look at Acts 6:2-4, it seems preaching is one of the highest priorities for the Twelve too. As the needs of people increase, and the church seeks to reach out, others are appointed to oversee those tasks so that the Twelve can focus on preaching and prayer.
Another way the priority of preaching is seen is purely in the lives of Paul, Peter and the other pioneers. They always preached the gospel. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. Throughout the book of Acts leaders of the mission trips or fledgling churches spoke the truth, preached it far and wide.

I think particularly in small churches the preaching done in main gathering(s) of the congregation has to be the major priority as it could be the only, but will most certainly be the main, source of input into the lives of the church members at large. As church grows there may be home groups and other smaller gatherings, which the pastor leads, but the central gathering must be his priority. In larger churches this still needs to be the priority, but there will be less pressure for the pastor to be leading home groups and other areas of ministry if other leaders have been trained to do so. His focus beyond preaching will be in training them and encouraging them and identifying new leaders (see below).


As we have already looked at Acts 6:2-4 we need to add prayer to our list of pastoral priorities. The Twelve are very clear that they need to be devoted to the word of God and prayer. It seems strange that something all Christians are exhorted to do (Eph 6:18-20, 1 Thess 5:17) could be something that a pastor is specifically to do as part of his paid working time. But, I think it must be the case. Pastors are to look after their flock (1 Peter 5:2) along with the elders, and upholding them before the Lord in prayer is one of the best ways to do that. To be devoted to prayer shows humility and reliance upon the grace of God in life, and the Spirit of God to reveal the truth of the word in preaching. I don’t think it means that the pastor needs to be locked away in his study for hours on end just praying on his own. I think the devotion to prayer spoken of in Acts 6 would include praying with other leaders, praying before and during sermon prep praying as he meets with church members and so on. Jesus prays regularly throughout the gospels, the Apostles pray at various times in the book of Acts, and within Paul’s letters there are numerous prayers recorded. Prayer must be a priority.

(Part 2 to come.....)