I am approaching my first anniversary as the Senior Pastor of Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church. What an incredible joy it has been to partner with this congregation on equipping them to do the work of the ministry. As I approach this first anniversary, I have been reflecting on my first pastorate at Boyce Street Baptist Church – in Nashville as well. I was called to the pastorate of that church on December 29, 1993. I began that pastorate December 31, 1993. That was nearly twenty-four years ago. I’ve also had the time to ponder upon my pastorate as the founding pastor of Greater Grace Temple Community Church, which I and my late wife organized April 27, 1997.That was almost twenty-years ago.
The scriptures challenge and encourage us to “examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). My list is to long of the many things I got wrong or got off course. But for this blog I want to focus on something specific. Yesterday, I was at my office playing catch up. Walking out of my office heading to another meeting the Holy Spirit put this question on my heart – What first?” By what first, I mean, what are the first things a pastor should take up in the first year of his pastorate.
For me that question is very simple – making disciples. We are told in Ephesians that Christ has given to the church the gift of pastor-teacher for the “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The first thing a pastor should do is equip (NIV & NRSV), train (HCSB), or perfect (KJV) the congregation to do the work of the ministry. This is a correct interpretation of this passage. The pastor-teacher equips the people for doing the work of the ministry and the result is the body of Christ is built up. The pastor-teacher have been given to equip the saints to carry out their service. In carrying out their service, the saints play their part in building up the body. The work of the ministry has not been designed to be all on myself. My question as to where I am in my pastorate is now governed by this new question: How am I doing at equipping the people?
What I am suggesting for the pastor is that the answer to ministry needs going unanswered can be primarily found in your tasks as the equipper. This means as the steward of the congregation you should make sure that you are best equipping your people to do the work of the ministry. That is your assignment. That is your first. This means providing for them the training, the resources, and an environment that will best position them so that the body might be built up. If the tension between you and the congregation is not predicated on this principle, then “examine and probe your ways.”
Remember, the Great Commission is still great commission. Center yourself in making disciples and watch your congregation experience something beyond your wildest dreams.