2 Timothy 2:1-2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from Me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
For the month of March we are looking at the future of pastoral ministry. We’ve looked at topics like: There’s a Pastoral Crisis Right Now. Don’t Believe These 5 Lies!, 5 Predictions if Pastors Really Did Quit and 80% of Pastoral Transitions Fail. Here’s 5 Keys to Healthy Pastoral Succession. Many pastors are tired and exhausted, and record-numbers are thinking about quitting. If this is the case, how can we set up the church well in the future?
When I think of someone who is brilliant with raising up and developing pastors and leaders in the church, I think of my good friend (and accountability partner) Rev. Dr. Tim Ahlman. Today, he tackles the topic of why pastors don’t naturally develop other pastors.
As you read, I hope you are stirred to action.
Without further ado, here are his words.
My life’s call is to develop hundreds of vocational and bi-vocational church leaders to multiply the Gospel of Jesus to millions long after I’m dead. I thought that more pastors should have some form of my life call as their own for a while. But, over time, I’ve discovered my life call is a bit unique.
I’m not saying this to shame others. Not everyone should have this life call. All vocations are equal. Nonetheless, I’m surprised and saddened more pastors don’t develop other pastors as a part of their ministry responsibility.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Pastors were never taught that developing other pastors was on their job description.
I’ve been blessed to serve at two mission-hearted churches. There are so many people who are on fire for the Gospel. Nonetheless, I went back and looked at my initial job description, and neither call specifically named “developing other pastors” as a part of my job. Yet, I am proud to say that both congregations are now deeply invested in discipleship (which is leadership development).
My job description on my call documents is the norm. The vast amount of congregations call pastors to do ministry rather than develop a team of ministers to help them do their work.
I was called to preach the Word and rightly administer the Sacraments because the body of Christ desperately needs them. Someone has to do it, and I am privileged to do it. Yet, when one man, though rightly called, offers Word and Sacrament day in and day out, the congregation is led to believe that he alone can do this work. It is the primary way we’ve done ministry for some time, especially in smaller churches.
This was not the way of Jesus, who called and sent 12 and 72 disciples to do what He did (Luke 9 and 10). This was also not the way of the apostle Paul. Instead, he identified men of character with teaching gifts, ordained them, and gave these “overseers” the right to start churches and partner in Word and Sacrament ministry.
Churches, please expect new pastors to develop, not just do. Seminary professors, please teach future pastors the same. Pastors cannot develop toward this end if they’ve not been taught.
This next one may pinch a little bit.
2. Pastors love being “the guy.”
I was speaking to a dear older saint this past week. She told me about her former pastor from the midwest being the “senior pastor” of a large church for a decade. Then, out of nowhere, this pastor had a mental breakdown and left the ministry. She told me he took a job as a pizza delivery guy for a time (no offense to pizza delivery guys).
She looked at me with sadness in her eyes and said, “Can you imagine being the ‘king of the hill’ and then losing your position almost overnight? That must have been hard.”
I nodded and said, “I pray our hill is a humongous plateau that includes hundreds of leaders equally leading Christ’s church.”
Being “king of the hill” sounds like a vulnerable place to be. It’s lonely at the top. Jesus knows the feeling. The cross of Calvary proves it. The humility of the cross leveled the hill into a plateau. All have sinned. All need the grace of Jesus through faith. The curtain has been torn open. All get to use their gifts to elevate the King as the only “King of the hill.”
It is so easy to want to be “the guy.” Satan whispers, “Wow. Look at all the people coming to hear you speak. You’re kind of a big deal.” It is easy to believe this lie. This lie can lead toward the spiritual death of pastors and their people. Humans love elevating humans. Elevate Jesus! Look right through pastors and see Jesus. Listen to pastors and hear Jesus.
Pastor, you are nothing more than a vessel for the Lord. A vessel is nothing but a vessel. What is inside is the true treasure. Proclaim His Word and let Him work.
Finally, if you battle pride, start to develop others who are more gifted than you at some of your ministry tasks. They are there. Trust me. I have so many of them in my congregation.
3. Pastors are lazy.
Sorry if that one stung. Developing people takes more work than doing ministry tasks. Yet, over time, time spent in the development of others leads to a harvest that no one person could yield.
This is the brilliance of Jesus. He discipled the few to reach the many. So did Paul. So did the early church. So should we. Jesus didn’t delegate tasks. He delegated authority.
Jesus told the 72 disciples in the middle of His earthly ministry, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)
Jesus’ authority came from the Father, and He freely gave away His authority to the 72 disciples.
Jesus’ multiplying discipleship of the 12, the 72, and the disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost led to an evangelism explosion in the Book of Acts.
Jesus taught a fundamental principle. There is no discipleship apart from evangelism. And there is no evangelism without discipleship.
Too many have believed the lie that “if you want something done right…you have to do it yourself.” Jesus says, “If I want something done right, I do it, then invite My disciples to do the same.” The cross is proof. Pick up your cross, and follow Jesus. Reject laziness.
This may have sounded like a law-filled rant. That was not my intention. I’ve simply experienced the joy of discipling others to do what I do. I’ve experienced the passion of a congregation coming alive watching all the gifts of the body being used to elevate Christ. I stand on a wide plateau filled with an army of Jesus followers linked in arms marching into the world with the light of Christ.
I’d love for you and your church to experience the same.
CALL TO ACTION
Tim Ahlmlan is the leader of Unite Leadership Collective. If you need help developing leaders, they’d love to partner with you. The ULC exists to help you develop leaders. You are not alone. You are not stuck.
We would love to serve you in three ways!
- One-day consult to learn the best systems and cultural practices for leadership development congregations.
- Join a cohort of like-minded congregations for peer-to-peer learning in our one-year Accelerator journey!
- We would also love to train your leaders to feel inspired and equipped for ministry.
Go to uniteleadership.org and join our email list.
We are here to serve you.
Tim Ahlman Bio: Pastor Tim Ahlman is one of the pastors at Christ Greenfield Gilbert, AZ. (christgreenfield.church)
Tim has been married to Alexa for 17 years and they have three children – Adalyn (15), Malachi (13) and Nyleah (12). Tim has served at Christ Greenfield for 8 years. Jesus has transformed the CG family of ministries to have a voracious passion for discipleship multiplication. This passion is best displayed on their two campuses (Gilbert and East Mesa), La Mesa Resource Center (lamesaministries.org), school (Pre-K – 8th grade) and through the Unite Leadership Collective (uniteleadership.org).
Tim just completed his doctoral thesis that focused on the traits and characteristics of pastors who collaborate in mission. Tim boldly believes pastors and churches are simply better when they work together.