Thinking Big About Pastors of Small Churches

Church sign
I am delighted with the growing interest in helping small church pastors be the best pastors (and their congregations the best congregations) they can be. Serving faithfully wherever God calls. One recently discovered resource is offering a plethora of helps for small church pastors and Karl Vaters has apparently only been at it for 100 days (but WOW! has he done a LOT in that time). What a terrific day and age to be a small church pastor. There are opportunities like never before to serve our communities and be resourced to bring greater glory to God.
With that in mind, I was listening to a message by pastor Mark Dever delivered at the recent Desiring God conference for pastors. He shared a quote–that has stayed with him and made impact in his own life and ministry–that I was struck by:
John Brown in a letter of paternal counsels to one of his pupils newly ordained over a small congregation:

“I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.”

And while you are at it, check out his first message on being a discipling pastor in a discipling community titled “Centrality of the Church in Discipleship” (neatly summarized toward the end by the poetic: Preach and Pray, Love and Stay). Love it!
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Originally blogged by myself at bluechippastor.org on February 27, 2013.
Three years later, I am even more passionate about seeing pastors of small congregations succeed in doing what the Lord has called them to do. I say this as one who regularly preaches to gatherings of a few dozen and has pastored churches of 20-60 congregants. I am also grateful to serve in an institution like Trinity Bible College and Graduate School that equally cares for churches of all sizes and the pastors called to serve them.

The Suffering Pastor

No thanks, Matthew Mason.  I don’t want to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24).  I want my best life now. (Crying like a baby)
Er…I guess actually I don’t.  What I really want is to be conformed to Christ.  To follow Him in His life here and now.  To serve Him and His Church faithfully with His all surpassing love that does not look away from suffering, but embraces it with hands and feet scarred, with head beaten and bloodied, with the wounds of a back bearing the world’s rejection.  Make me like you Jesus…even though it will (and must) hurt.
[originally blogged June 19, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]

Leonard Sweet on Ministerial Training

Reading a student’s paper tonight, I was struck by a statement Leonard Sweet (always thoughtful and provocative) made about the potential that we (particularly ministerial training institutions) might be training pastors for a ministry that no longer exists…

Leonard SweetReading a student’s paper tonight, I was struck by a statement Leonard Sweet (always thoughtful and provocative) made about the potential that we (particularly ministerial training institutions) might be training pastors for a ministry that no longer exists (found in his forward to Edward H. Hammett’s, “Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture” [Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2002.], p.x).
I have often wondered if we are failing to adequately prepare ministers for the kinds of issues and situations they will face. Perhaps we have landed on certain models of and content in ministerial education that fails to address the needs of our contemporary world.
Some questions in my mind:

  • Are we properly addressing the issues of healthy sexuality? Singleness and marriage?
  • Are we considering how the church of tomorrow can and should function to give proper worship to the Lord in contextually relevant ways?
  • Are we equipping students as disciples to make disciples rather than simply hoping they will be discipled and hoping along the way they might figure out how to disciple others?
  • Are we encouraging and developing theologically and imaginatively rich ways of “doing church” that are both rooted in the Church historic and universal, but culturally sensitive?
  • Are we training in ways of communication to further the modes and manner of effective discipleship and evangelism?

We often seem to get locked into one way of conceiving of how things should be done. It can be difficult as well when we who are educators might have served in ministry some years prior to our service as professors. This can at times mean we no longer think creatively or in culturally relevant ways because we are not being pushed to do so by “living in the trenches” of the pastoral vocation. On the other hand, sometimes ministers (and educators) can become consumed with the latest trendy ministry models and tools all the while still failing to effectively evangelize and disciple (themselves and others).
What are your thoughts?