Pastor, You’re Trying to Get Out of Your Job!

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Ephesians 4:11

Before we move on from Ephesians 4:11-12, I want to devote one more reflection to the challenge and opportunity of this passage. I also want to acknowledge that its truth may not always be embraced by those it is meant to empower and liberate.

In our close study of Ephesians 4:11-12, we have seen that pastors (and other church leaders) are given the task of equipping all of God's people for ministry. Pastors are not the ministers of the church so much as the coaches of the team, if you will, the teachers and trainers of the members who are the ministers.

Not long into my tenure as senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I preached from Ephesians 4, sharing this message of "the ministry of the laity." I talked about how the members of my church were the ministers and I was their equipper. I believed that I was sharing good news with them, not to mention biblical truth. I expected my members to be encouraged and excited.

Most of them were. For many, the idea that they were ministers was affirming and motivating. But this was not true for everybody. After one of my sermons on this topic, a lay leader in the church whom I'll call "Steve" cornered me on the steps. I could tell he was unhappy. He pointed his finger at me and said, "Pastor, you're trying to get out of your job. You're trying to get us to do it for you. We pay you to do the ministry. So stop telling us to be the ministers of this church."

Honestly, I was a bit stunned by Steve's reaction to my sermon because I believed that what I had said was so clearly taught in Scripture and that it was actually good news for church members. Squelching my defensiveness, I said, "Hey, we aren't going to be able to settle this on the church steps. So why don't we get together next week and talk about your concerns. Let's see if we can figure this out."

When Steve and I met, he had calmed down, so we had an open conversation. I walked him through Ephesians 4:11-12 once again. I listened to his concerns about pastors not doing their job. I reassured him that I was not trying to get out of preaching, teaching, praying, and shepherding the congregation. But I helped him to see that I was doing these things, not because I was "the minister," but because I wanted to equip and empower Steve for his ministry. As we talked, Steve's attitude began to shift: "You mean if I wanted to teach a Bible study in this church, I could do that, and you would help me?" "Yes," I said, "that's a fine example." "I've always wanted to do something like that," Steve said, "but have never felt like I could."

To make a long story short, Steve left my office that day excited about the possibilities for his ministry. He began to think about his professional life in new ways. He started to pray about what he might be able to do in the life of the church. In time, Steve did indeed lead a Bible study. Moreover, he used his leadership gifts to help our church develop an extensive adult education program. And he began to see his work life as a business owner in new ways, as an opportunity for ministry.

I know things don't always work out this way. I expect there may be some pastors who are trying to get out of their work. And I suppose there are church members who really don't want to be involved in ministry. But, in my experience, when God's people really grasp who they are as ministers of Jesus Christ, it can change their lives. It can give them new energy and vision. It can also change a church. And, eventually, it will change the world as God's people share in his work of uniting all things in Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Does your church, including your pastors and other church leaders, help you to be equipped for your ministry? In what ways have you been equipped? In what ways would you like to be equipped? How might you help your church to be a place that truly and effectively equips all of God's people for ministry?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I thank you for "Steve," for his honesty, for his willingness to risk letting me know how he really felt, for his willingness to learn what your Scripture teaches, for his effort to live his life as your minister. I thank you for the ways you have used him in the church and in the world.

Lord, I know there are still many "Steves" out there. Please help your people to see who they are as your ministers. May they embrace their identity and calling with excitement. May they learn to serve you in church and in the world. May your church be built up, and may all things be united in Christ, through the efforts of your ministers. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.