When I first came to pastor Auburndale Baptist Church and saw a struggling church on its last leg, I began to investigate maybe why it had slowly declined over the course of 4 decades. As you can imagine I found many answers, but one that particularly intrigue me was how it appeared many of the pastors came, stayed 2-3 years, and left the church worse off than the way they found it. This, among other reasons, has led to my “motto” for pastoral ministry that I encourage you to adopt in some form:
“Expendable, But Appreciated”
Expendable: I realized that I must pastor this church in such a way that allows this church to both flourish while I’m here and continue to do so once I’m gone (Lord willing, I hope a long time from now). This requires me to delegate responsibilities, share the pulpit, share my authority (plurality of pastors/elders), raise up and train leaders, train my people to disciple, serve, and minister to one another, and personally take breaks with my family that require my people to step up while I’m gone, to mention a few. For different reasons, too many pastors want their ministries built around them, yet in doing so we are hurting the next generation in the local church from moving forward after we are gone. C.J. Mahaney had modeled this incredibly well at Covenant Life Church and should challenge us to do the same.
…But Appreciated: Some of you may be thinking, “If I work myself out of a job…then I won’t have one! Since my full salary package, benefits, and insurance absorb close to a third of our annual budget as a smaller church, it is also a good idea to give reasons for the church to still keep me around. Unfortunately, some pastors (especially at smaller churches) accomplish this by building the ministry around them to where the church feels helpless if something happened to the pastor. I prefer my “job security” to be in the form of appreciation for me and my efforts to faithfully care for their souls. It is the church’s desire to keep me as their pastor year after year out of appreciation for my ministry of the word, friendship, and spiritual care for their souls that creates the dynamic of a local church who will not miss a beat if I, in the providence of God, am hit by a truck tomorrow.
I began applying “this motto” at the very beginning of my pastorate at Auburndale, but it is never too late to begin this work where you are. Empower biblically qualified people to do the work with you. Share the responsiblity, authority, and equipping of your people and the ministry you do. I am confident that you will not only see God work in more fruitful healthy ways, but you will be more “appreciated” by your people for it.