My recent article “Too Many Pastors Are Wasting Their Lives” must have hit some raw nerves. We’ve had over 16,000 hits on the blog post. Most of them were supportive, but some were downright angry, and many of them missed the point of the article. It’s amazing to me how many people hear what they want to hear instead of digesting the article.
I was not the only one who noticed that people were hearing what they wanted to hear:
“Bill, I perceive that some of the respondents have profoundly misunderstood and profoundly distorted what you said in your blog. People distort what they hear when someone hits a raw nerve in them, and threatens and challenges their most highly prized assumptions and practices.”
Mike summed it up better than anyone when he said,
I love what Mike Breen of 3DM says: “If you make disciples, you will always get the church. If you build the church, you rarely get disciples.”
So I thought I would expound on the intent of the article.
First of all, I never mentioned numbers, megachurches, or abandoning the flock. So let’s not obfuscate the issue.
Second, let me respond to the most important response to my article. It came from Teddy, who is just beginning his ministry. Here is what Teddy asked:
What would you say to someone who is starting the road to Pastoral ministry? I am currently in a dying church and this has been the first church I have ever been in like this. Would it be wise to try and stay after I get to the point of being a Pastor or would it be wise to call it what it is (based on the facts one, that the church is still open then, and two, that it is still dying).
My response: If they will not allow you to make and grow disciples, run like the wind to some other field of ministry. But if they will allow you to make and grow disciples, then stay and bloom where you are. How you start out in ministry tends to set a pattern for the rest of your life. If you start out primarily a caregiver the odds are that is what you will do the rest of your life.
Folks, consider this: if the only person in a church doing pastoral ministry is the pastor, how many people can one person really care for and what is the quality of care one person can give if the church becomes large? But if that one person trained 50 other people to give pastoral care, how many people could be cared for? Do the math, folks, and surely you will see what I am driving at.
Kurt made the longest post so I won’t share it. All I can say is that the phrase “Word and Sacrament” is never mentioned in the Scriptures so why would one say that Word and Sacrament are the centerpieces of ministry?
Anita’s post is worth responding to:
Why the dichotomy between caring for people and doing the Great Commission? You imply that for a pastor, the former is secondary to the latter. Then you hedge and say you’re not against caring for people, just doing everything for them instead of equipping them for ministry. This is gibberish.
Yes, to “make” a disciple means first introducing them to the gospel. But I can make a baby and then let it starve to death. I’ve been an active Christian since I was introduced to Christ in the Southern California Jesus Movement in my teens. Evangelism was emphasized, and anyone who didn’t verbally “share Jesus” was suspected of not really being saved. As a result, no one oversaw my spiritual development.”
Anita, it’s not an either/or. Most pastors are focused primarily on pastoral care. That was the point of the article. They do so because that is what self-centered church people want. And obviously you don’t get the meaning of “disciple” or you wouldn’t have made the comment about being abandoned after your conversion. Disciple making includes everything from spiritual conversations to maturation. A disciple is one who is learning a trade. In our conferences we use the term “apprentice” in place of disciple because that is what a disciple is- an apprentice.
If you want to know more about disciple making, check out our 2016 conferences across the country at http://radicaldisciplemaking.com.
Here’s Lisa’s comment:
It is not that easy to “train 50 other people to give pastoral care.” This is a delicate skill, similar to the skill of a surgeon. It is the fruit of a lifetime of discipleship and wisdom.
I totally agree with this. It took me several years of training people to do pastoral care. By the time I left the church, we had about 90 Stephen Ministers trained to do pastoral care. However, it doesn’t take much training to hold a person’s hand in the hospital and pray for them. I trained people to do that in two visits to the hospital with me.
This one is from Kai:
Jesus discipled 13. What arrogance for us to think we can disciple more.
All I can do is repeat the words of Jesus – “I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.”
I love the response of my partner, Bill Tenny-Brittian to Kai’s comment:
Kai, Jesus discipled 13 … but the first church of 120 managed to mentor 3000. That’s 25 people per church member. That’s not arrogance. That’s flat-out reality.
I love Mary’s comment because she’s enjoying the fruit of the Spirit:
Keep on pushing us, Bill! Your prophetic words continue to bless and challenge us. I am so blessed to be focused on disciple-making ministry and helping other pastors and churches to clarify that same focus
I could go on but I need to close with a response to this question – “How do I transition from caregiver to disciple maker?”
To me this is THE question. My response is simple: spend your time on those who have the potential to be leaders, train others to care for people and get out of the way, and focus most of your time on reaching unchurched people and discipling those who respond. Jesus set the standard when he sent out the disciples two by two and said to them, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
Folks, our country is going to hell and we don’t have time to focus so much of our attention on pastoral care when that is the job of the priesthood of believers. “One another’s” are all over the Bible. Pastoral care is the ministry of the entire congregation and especially the small groups, which most dying churches don’t have. Those who consider themselves to be leaders need to lead. And the direction we need to be led in is making disciples. That includes everything from the cradle to the grave. No one is left out, and no one is untended to. No one. Get over that. You’re missing the point of the meaning of the word “disciple.” When it is all said and done, the role of a spiritual leader is to make disciples, not just to give pastoral care.
Question: Did this follow-up post clear things up? How have you transitioned from being just a caregiver to being one who makes disciples? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the Comments section below.
“And obviously you don’t get the meaning of “disciple” or you wouldn’t have made the comment about being abandoned after your conversion.”
In a post that was already unnecessarily defensive, this was the rudest moment. How needlessly dismissive and patronizing. Perhaps you need to examine why you are so invested in being right and not hearing another perspective.
Not to make it worse, but to answer a question you asked, Kurt is likely claiming that Word and Sacrament is the centerpeice of ministry because it is central to ministry for what I assume is his tribe, Lutheran, probably Missouri Synod (Thus the longer post and the phrase “word and Sacrament” – both halmarks of the LCMS 😉 ). While you are correct, the phrase “Word and Sacrament” isn’t used in Scripture, I’d assume you are still a believer in the Trinity, a word not found in Scripture either. However, the theology is still there. As is a theology of Jesus’ Word and His direct institution of baptism and the Lord’s Supper for our benefit. Not to mention, Jesus clearly associated discipleship with baptism and of course teaching the Word. So, while there may be some differing opinions on the role of the Lord’s Supper in discipleship because it’s not explicitly mentioned in Matthew 28, Jesus sure does seem to suggest that both baptism and teaching the Word are absolutely central to discipleship.
Secondly, Lutherans see both the Word and Sacraments as central to pastoral care as well. So when you say we’re wasting our lives doing pastoral care, we’re hearing you say that we’re wasing our lives serving people in Word and Sacrament.
The confusion, I believe, is that you define pastoral care differently than us Word and Sacrament Lutherans. I think you’re talking more about hospital calls, shut-in visits and counceling in general and we see the Word and Sacraments as part of that. My guess is that you and Kurt are talking past each other and don’t realize it.