The family model of ministry

I have a confession: I’ve spent the better part of my ministry life pursuing the growth of my ministry.

I’m sure that many people are wondering why that is a problem as it seems to be the expectation of ministry leaders, to strive for growth. But it is a problem. It’s a sin because God, through the Bible, calls leaders to build up the body, but not to build their ministry. And there is a difference.

Building my ministry makes me the visionary, and adopts my vision (or a community’s vision) as the purpose for the church. In reality, it should be God’s vision that we work toward.

God’s vision is about seeing more people come to faith in him and to maturity in their faith, that is, in their love and care for one another. In God’s vision, pastors are shepherds (caregivers), not dreamers and motivators. Visionary leaders have value, but the New Testament doesn’t qualify leaders based on their ability to develop great visions (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Rather, the church needs the day-to-day leadership that matches the skills set and heart of a parent, who cares for and brings God’s family to maturity (1 Peter 2:17).

It’s time that we recapture this kind of leadership in the church. It is time that we begin to redevelop our churches as families where the members belong unconditionally to the family, are cared for in their younger days, and are challenged to grow in maturity.

Just as a parent is an example to the children of their home, our pastors and elders are examples to the people of their church family. If pastors and elders see themselves as CEOs and directors of a board, the body of the church will learn to be customers and employees whose loyalty is conditional and who are there for a quid pro quo exchange.

We need to exchange this model of ministry for a family model of ministry, where pastors and leaders demonstrate loving care for their congregations so that their congregations will learn to love others in the same way.

I have a confession: I haven’t modeled that as well as I should, but I want to. I hope that many pastors and elders will learn to want the same.

4 thoughts on “The family model of ministry

  1. I’ve said before that I like the picture of the church as family. Certainly others used that metaphor before you, but considering our leadership of the church in that light is helpful and useful. If we hold on to that picture and allow it to shape how we lead the church, the church would be better I think.

    I’m not sure I agree with your statement,

    Seems to me to be a bit like the chicken and the egg. Which came first, a shift in church leaders acting as CEO or parishioners exercising their consumer rights to find (or re-find) the best church for them? By using an If/Then statement you seem to lay all the responsibility at the feet of the leader.

    Perhaps Maxwell is right when he says success rises and falls with the leader. But sometimes a leader can lead well and the people wont’ follow. In those instances, he’s simply taking a walk.

    Change in both leaders and body will only come as God changes hearts to reflect his, not our own desire for power, control, comfort and self-gratification. I fear we’re on a slippery slope and reversing our trend will require MUCH more effort than it took to arrive at our present position. God, please help us.

    • Boomer, Thanks for you comment. I think this is worth discussion.

      I think a good, strong leader can be a wonderful thing, but as I look at the qualifications of leadership, I don’t see visionary as a biblical requirement. I see some examples of visionary leaders (Nehemiah comes to mind), but I don’t see that that it is a qualification. If it isn’t a qualification, then I think the church is mistaken to make it, as we have, one of the main measure.

      It starts with the goal. For a CEO the goal is growth. For profit CEOs have the strict goal of growing capital. Not for profit CEOs have the goal of building the organization.

      In the bible, I don’t see those as goals. In the Bible, leaders are to make disciples and guide them to maturity in unity. (Matthew 28:19-20 and Ephesians 4:11-16)

  2. I’m enjoying your posts, BTW… but on this issue I wanted to AMEN your ideas wholeheartedly. The Pastor SHOULD be like a father (of sorts), caring for the flock under his care. It’s not only a missing mindset on the part of pastors, but also the inability of the flock to receive him in that way that makes for difficulty. I feels to me sometimes that we’re having to re-think church as family, even to re-learn what family really means in the church context. It’s too often a “business” mindset in the church, with automatically poisons many of the interactions with a variety of things that should never be there. Good post!

    • Carey, I like the way you have phrased this. We do need to relearn what family really means. One of the big hurdles for being the church as family is that we don’t always have the best examples of family. To be the church as family we need to improve relationships in the church simultaneous with working on family relationship.

      Thx for the comment.

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