I was taught at seminary that my role was to do myself out of a job. The great temptation of the pastor is to hoard ministry, and so I must delegate, clear out the desk, equip the rest of the church for ministry, and then my job is done.
There are at least a gazillion problems with that analysis (trust me, I counted them), but for the moment let’s stick with four.
First, it fails to identify the permanent, unique role of pastors. In the previous post I talked about the need to teach each other, and now here is the flip side. We need able, mature, wise teachers to feed us so that we are all equipped for ministry (Ephesians 4:11). ‘Word ministry’ doesn’t draw attention to itself – rather, it constantly puts the spotlight on the rest of the church and what the rest of the body needs in order to function well together. Yes, there’s stuff a pastor ought to delegate. But above that, there are people we need to equip, not to replace us, but to multiply ministry. Which leads to the other three reasons.
Second, there are (or should be) a constant supply of new or untaught Christians who need to be given a leg-up. We never move beyond providing basic bible overviews or basic doctrine courses, because there are always people who need them. As people grow up they need richer, deeper fare, but as the church grows the number of baby Christians increases as well.
Third, maturity is a moving target. I am nervous of courses which help you to ‘master’ a biblical book or doctrine, because such an attitude can produce an arrogance. We have the bible sorted. Tick. But that can’t be the experience of a growing Christian, can it? Surely, as we mature we not only increase in our knowledge, we increase in our wonder at the gospel’s simplicity. As a child I sang, ‘Living, he loved me; dying, he saved me; buried, he carried my sins far away; rising, he justified, freely, forever; one day he’s coming, O glorious day!’ I don’t think I want to change a word of that. But it’s a much bigger song than I ever thought back then. I haven’t outgrown it. Nor have I outgrown the need to be taught.
And fourth, we need to be constantly taught the old truths for the same reason D L Moody said he needed to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit: we leak.
Think of a church as like an inflatable bouncy castle, and the pastor as the pump. You never switch it off, but it’s not about the pump.