Wrestling With Potential 4
In our last blog, we discovered that it’s the privilege and right of every believer to discover what God is calling them to. It’s also the job of the pastor to make a space for them. As promised, I want to expand on that. I hope that it will help you understand the process and I would love to hear from other pastors how you interface with this responsibility.
Making space for people to do ministry is important, but it’s not the most important thing. I would say one of my most important functions is protecting God’s people. Historically, we would identify this mandate as the “Shepherd’s Role” of the Pastor. Jesus declared that His Kingdom would not be a top down organization when a fight broke out about who was the greatest (Matthew 20). We don’t collect power and then hold that over people’s heads chanting, “I’m in charge. You better do what I say.” It’s actually the opposite. Jesus demonstrated that leadership is more about serving. The worse the job, the more appropriate (John 13).
So in any given environment I am serving in a bottom up dynamic. My role is to come alongside people and help them discover there place. I use my authority to make space for them to do what God is calling them to do. I grant authority through permission to act; through titles such as Ministry Leader; and I resource with authority with things like keys, checks, and fishy crackers.
However, when safety becomes relevant the leadership structure flips and I become the boss telling people what they will or won’t do. In other words, my job is to serve you so you can serve unless there is some sort of safety issue, and then it becomes my obligation to protect others. The safety issue may be a crisis or hopefully it’s just a perceived risk. Let me give you an example. When it’s time to do VBS, it’s my job to ask our VBS Director what they need to do a great VBS. I help them buy resources, I help them find leaders, and I believe great leadership is serving at the direction of the VBS Director doing games or whatever else they need done. I become their volunteer, following their leadership. It would be ridiculous to tell the VBS Director how to do their job. Let’s imagine though, that the VBS Director decides that doing background checks on our volunteers is too costly and tedious. At this point it’s my obligation to take off my volunteer hat and put on my Shepherd hat and demand background checks. For the record, all of my VBS Directors have been amazing and have never suggested skipping background checks. In this example we see how my role shifts from servant leader to dictator. that may sound harsh, but when safety is at stake, clear boundaries must be demanded.
This seems obvious. It’s not always that obvious. Part of the pastors job of shepherding is praying about volunteers who come forward and want to be involved in ministry to make sure that what the volunteer is hearing is from God and is healthy for the church. It’s not that the pastor tells people what God is saying; our job is better defined as confirming what God is saying. If God doesn’t confirm your ministry with the leadership of the church, whether that’s the pastor, board, or ministry leader, you need to submit to the leadership doing what God has called them to do. You may want to see it as an opportunity to reconsider and pray more about what God is laying on your heart.
Your success is your obedience, not the outcome of your obedience. It could be that all God wanted you to do was ask. Once you ask, you have done your job! The church really is a beautifully designed organism. We don’t always get it right. We are prone to fail and be less than our best. I would encourage you, whether you are a pastor or a volunteer, to be patient and do your best, especially when others fail to do their best.