In Search of an Effective Pastor

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Every believer is a minister.

That may not be how you’re used to thinking of Ephesians 4:11-12, which speaks of Christ appointing “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”

But newer translations of the rest of that passage imply that leaders equip or perfect the saints, and that saints do the work of ministry and build up the body of Christ. Surely that’s what the apostle Paul intends to say. Take a look at verse 16, where he speaks of the body, supported by Christ, making the body grow. Theologically, that’s what Reformed folks mean when we talk about “the priesthood of all believers.”

Every believer is a minister.

I attempt to put this truth into practice in every family visit by inquiring what ministry each family member has in the church. Bottom line, church membership entails that every member can identify his or her ministry. I once saw a church sign that captured this truth perfectly. Underneath the name of the pastor was a second inscription: “Minister: Everyone.”

I believe in that view of the church with all my might. But I also believe that the task of an effective pastor is to equip these ministers.

Remember Tom Landry?

God has placed gifted pastor-teachers in the church. But they can never attempt to do all the ministry, nor should we expect them to be the only hospital callers, prayers, or readers of Scripture.

Instead, as Bill Hull explains, “The disciple-making pastor demonstrates his commitment by giving people permission to enter the ministry.” Or again, “The disciple-making pastor focuses on multiplication by getting things done through others” (The Disciple Making Pastor). That’s different from some of the pastoral expectations we’ve grown up with. We sometimes act as if the pastor does ministry for us, not through us.

How can we picture the function of an effective pastor? Think of a player-coach. A coach, for example, discovers and develops the gifts of other people. A pastor can do the same by planning activities in which a congregation’s gifts can come to the surface. And a pastor can demonstrate skills that others can imitate and develop themselves. Like a coach, the pastor designs plays that work for the community he or she is involved in. Finally, the pastor develops a team philosophy that encourages full participation by team members.

Winning coaches have high demands. Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, defined coaching as “making people do what they don’t want, so they can become what they want to be.” Often people’s personal agendas supersede the common good. Pastors must not only sacrifice personal goals for team goals, but they must place this requirement on others as well. The commitment of the pastor can transform a laissez-faire attitude into single-minded devotion to Christ and commitment to the church.

Symphonic Insight

Fred Smith, in an article in Leadership magazine about 15 years ago, called attention to a second picture of a pastor—as an orchestra conductor. He benefited from a fascinating interview with two first-chair players of the New York Philharmonic. In analyzing an effective conductor, they concluded, “Number one, he must have a reverence for the composer, and second, he must have intimate knowledge of the score.”

Certainly these comments relate directly to the job description of a pastor. The congregation is called to devotion and consecration when they see their pastor exemplifying a reverence and awe for God, the composer. Likewise, an intimate knowledge of the score means daily saturation in the Word of God.

In addition, conductors set a meaningful beat for the orchestra and select a repertoire of music that the orchestra and audience enjoy. Good conductors make you a better player. Effective pastors provide the momentum needed to get the best sound from every instrument.

Have you been at a symphony before the conductor makes an appearance? Musicians warm up by playing whatever tune they wish in any key or tempo. The result is bedlam that’s tolerated only because of what will follow. Then the conductor steps to the podium, raps for silence, and now the same musicians and identical instruments thrill the audience with an inspiring concert.

An inspiring worship service and an effective church program come the same way. The pastor does not have to be the star player but the player-coach, not the CEO of the organization but the conductor of the orchestra. I hope these pictures of pastors become riveted into the consciousness of the Christian Reformed Church. It will make a difference.

About the Author

Dr. Dean Deppe is associate professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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