How Do We Avoid Becoming a Weak Church?
Every July for the past seven years the church I pastor allows me to take four weeks off for vacation. This time of rest and renewal has been crucial to sustaining and renewing my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Pastoring can be very draining in all of these areas and the only way for a pastor to endure the demands of ministry and continue to stay relevant is to take time to rest. And I remember my first three to five vacations, it was quite hard for me to get my mind to disconnect from the church. Which means that even though I was on vacation physically, I really was not on vacation mentally. I would turn in via livestream to watch our worship celebrations and to hear pastors and laypersons assigned to preach bring the Word of God. I guess I thought that if I was watching then everything would go smooth.
Then the Lord spoke to me and led me to a passage of scripture in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul says, “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 may be built up.” This passage of scripture has helped me with a formula for unplugging from the ministry while I am away for my vacation time. If we notice the wording in the text, it is clear to me that Jesus gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teacher to do what? To do all of the work? Absolutely not! Instead, to equip his people for works of service. In other words, the job of pastor is to equip, prepare, and train others so they can learn to function in their own gifts. This is the way that the church is built up and thrives; not by the leaders doing everything themselves. Instead by the pastors equipping the rest of the people to use their gifts. A church in which only the leaders are working to build the church is weak, it is sick and unhealthy.
A healthy congregation is one in which the leaders succeed in motivating, training, and deploying the people in a variety of ministries according to the gifts of each person, all of whom bring an empowering influence on the body of Christ. This past July I decided to do something different regarding those who would preach in my absence. This time, instead of using pastors to fill the pulpit, I used only laypersons. This text gave me the confidence that these laypersons had been trained well to use their gift of proclamation. As a result of this text, this past July I was able to disconnect one hundred percent from the ministry and really be on vacation. And guess what? When I came back, the report I received was that each of these laypersons did a phenomenal job and the church did not miss a beat.
A strong church is one that empowers and equips individuals of all ages to excel in their faith and God given potential to make an impact in the world.