How a Pastoral Care Structure Can Stop Church Growth
The family is the basic unit of every society and plays a crucial role in fulfilling the physical and emotional needs of individuals. This unit of society is breaking down and not fulfilling its role which is causing an enormous problem for the church. For years, pastors have had the able assistance of strong families to keep the church going. Lately, someone has been tampering with the family. Families just aren’t what they used to be. There isn’t enough nurturing to go around.
Most Christians today don’t have the capacity to follow God with all their heart unless they have help along the way at critical choice points. It helps to have friends who are willing to ask, “Are you sure you want to do that?” “What would the Lord Jesus do if He were in your situation?” and other similar questions. It’s in the absence of these rubber-meets-the-road encounters that we’re in deep trouble as a society.
The importance of a Biblical care structure
Caring relationships are the key to developing a church that gets down to where people live. Such a level of church health is not dependent on the energy of the pastor to visit, know, and personally be available to each member of the congregation. Rather, the critical factor surrounds the willingness of the pastor to make a partner out of a volunteer leader who will look after five to ten people, praying and serving them to safety.
This idea sounds simple, but it has enormous consequences. The typical pastor tries to serve the needs of about 100 people. Most clergy run out of strength, however, far sooner than they run out of people open to being touched in Jesus’ name.
One pastor who ministered in a particularly under-churched area was asked. “Have you considered another worship service?” “Another service?” he said, almost with a look of fear.
“Your facilities and existing schedule could handle it. What makes you hesitant?” The questioning continued. “Because they’d come!” he replied. “Our staff and volunteer leaders are too overloaded now. If I added twice the number of needs, it would burn them out.”
There’s something wrong with that reply. The issue is not church size; that attitude is seen in churches of 50, 500 and 5,000. At issue is the equation that says “more people equals more work.” If God’s foundation of care is to stem from the pastor himself, then this pastor was right.
However, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He set forth a better idea. He said, “….It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, NIV). In essence, the Holy Spirit came so that Jesus could be everywhere. Jesus said, in effect, “All you have to do is get two or three Christians together, and I’ll show up.” Jesus the Great Shepherd, unlike His human under-shepherds, can be in millions of places at once. His mathematics says “more people equals the potential for more love, more equipping, more evangelism, and more discipleship.” What a difference!
That strategy comes from the Master Himself! The Body of Christ is a wonderful phenomenon that has changed the role of the under-shepherd from Pentecost until the end of the age. God’s plan for taking care of people today is not the old lone-shepherd model in which “real ministry” requires the presence of an ordained minister.
Too many Christians live, perhaps without realizing it, back in Moses’ day, when the best people could do was yearn for the day when the Holy-Spirit would visit everyone, not just the leaders. In one instance the Spirit rested on 70 of the elders and they began prophesying. Moses’ assistant ran to Moses, asking that they be stopped. Moses replied, however, “…I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” (Numbers 11:29, TLB)
Back then, common wisdom was that a leader couldn’t trust sharing the ministry with others. Yet God did put his Spirit on all people and we’re still behaving like He hasn’t. As the Apostle Peter explained in his Pentecost sermon, citing the prophecies of Joel, “In the last days”, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18, NIV)
Churches lose more people to neglect than to schism.
Too many people see their pastor like a Moses figure – the only one who can do what needs to be done. Allowing the saints to become involved in the ministry creates all kinds of consequences. Yes, sometimes people disobey God or abuse the privilege of the indwelling Holy Spirit, leading to schism, prideful independence, and a damaged testimony before the world.
However, that risk is worth the exposure to it. Most churches lose more people to neglect than to schism. Churches that fail to legitimize volunteer ministry inevitably experience a steady stream of people falling through the cracks.
Most churches routinely lose half their newest people through neglect while less than 1% are lost to schism (if the pastoral staff is routinely listening to its leaders). No researcher or Bible teacher has found a guaranteed way of “schism-proofing” a church. Neglect and fall away can be promised. However, you will lose more out the “back door” than you will ever lose to schism.
God’s new after-Pentecost strategy deals with people in handfuls as well as by hundreds. Those ordained clergy following the “Moses/Jethro paradigm” lead by hundreds, while volunteer leaders following the “Book of Acts paradigm” work by house-to-house groups of about ten. When you add up the harvest being reached, often those who lead hundreds wear out by the time they get to thousands. Volunteers who lead by tens are still looking for more people to help when the overall totals surpass tens of thousands.
A great dividing line was crossed at Jesus’ ascension. It needs to be recognized that by His Spirit there is now virtually no limit to the supply of volunteer ministers He will make available in a church.
Colin is the Director of ResourceZone International. He is a recognized authority in areas like coaching, leadership development, team building, organizational health and growth. He can be reached at email@example.com
This Blog article contains some of the thoughts of Carl George in the Book ‘The Coming Church Revolution’
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