Making the transition from doers to equippers is perhaps one of the hardest transitions to make. So, let’s take it step by step.
Step one begins with the pastor. The pastor has to demonstrate this change or no one else will. Why is this change so hard for pastors? Because it’s easier and less time-consuming to do ministry than it is to equip. So if pastors are going to make this change, their value system must change. Instead of basing their effectiveness on what they can accomplish they have to learn to value getting ministry done through others.
This sounds easier than it is. After personally working on making this shift for ten years, I still had to wrestle with my feelings. I remember when one of my good friends died and I went to his home. His wife met me at the door and, to my surprise, she said, “Bill, thanks for coming but you’re really not needed. My small group is here and they have surrounded me with love. I went home dejected. My wife saw my dejection and as a wise spouse who had struggled with me over this shift said to me, “You idiot! You’ve worked for this day for ten years and now that it has happened you don’t know how to deal with it. Get over your need to be needed.” I told you, this shift isn’t easy.
Step two begins when the pastor begins refusing to be the spiritual hit man. I remember the first time I was called on to pray and I refused to do so. I was at a family dinner and when they asked me to pray I responded “I’m not going to pray in your place anymore. You could have heard a pin drop. People waited for someone to pray, but no one stepped up. The next day we began a prayer ministry and began training people how to pray.
I also remember when the time came for me to tell my staff that I would no longer be doing hospital visitations unless it was a life and death issue, one of them was hospitalized, or one of my family was hospitalized. They were afraid I would be fired. But guess what? When people are schooled in the gospel they can’t help but understand why such would be to betray the gospel. Why? Because it robs the laity of the joy of serving based on their gifts instead of sitting on a committee.
So whatever has to happen to move from a doer to equipper the starting point are always the pastor and the gospel.
Step Three is to realize this change may take longer than you like, especially if you’re in an established church that is used to the pastor serving the congregation’s every wish. How long it takes depends on what kind of church you’re in. If it is a new church and you’re the founder, it’s immediate. If you’re in an established church, it will take years. It took me 8 years to reach the point where I told my staff that I would not go to the hospitals anymore. But my friend Bil Cornelius didn’t have to go through this transition, since he founded the church.
So what does one do while waiting for the culture to transform? I can only tell you what worked for me. That is the subject of my next post.
P.S. Keep in mind that, even though my church was a re-start, I was saddled at the beginning mostly with long-established mainline Christians.
Question: How long did it take your church (or another church you know of) to change from doers to equippers? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.