As I was recently reading Dr. Lance Cole’s doctoral dissertation (DMin-2016) on Homiletical Discipleship (which I recommend to any of our Pastors), I ran across a section in his dissertation (p. 122) in which he quoted Bob Farr and Kay Kotan from “Renovate or Die” (p.17-18); I believe this statement highlights one of the biggest impediments to establishing a fruitful discipleship ministry in a local church.
As Lance wrote, “If a church is pastor-centered instead of pastor-led, Homiletical Discipleship will not work.” I would go even further and say that no type of discipleship will work in the context of a pastor-centered church. I believe that this quote from Farr and Kotan is thought-provoking, and I include it below for your perusal.
A church must also be pastor-led rather than pastor-centered. Pastor-centered means a pastor is hired to care for the congregation, entertain the congregation, and do ministry for the congregation. In a pastor-centered church (the norm in established, declining churches), the pastor thinks, “This is not my church: it’s their church. Therefore, I need to help them find their way.” In this case, the pastor unknowingly acts more like what Jesus called a hired hand rather than a shepherd. So the pastor has to wait for a congregation to decide its vision, is activity, and its ministry. Then the pastor will simply carry out those wishes.
In the pastor-centered model, the laity’s role is to come a little bit, do a little bit, give a little bit and say a whole lot. So the pastor follows the congregation, and they inevitably and unknowingly miss the joys of ministry. They spend most of their time in committee meetings believing this is church ministry while missing out on the fruits of real hands-on ministry.
If a church is to come alive, the role of the pastor and laity needs to look more like Ephesians 4: 11-15. If the church wants to come alive, it must move to a pastor-led model of governance rather than a pastor-centered model. In a pastor-centered church, there is too much of a pastor-fetch mentality and too much of a laid-back laity watching from the sidelines.
In a pastor-led church, a pastor’s first responsibility is to lead, then equip, and then serve. These are connected. One without the others will not work.
My opinion: Lead Pastors in a pastor-centered church have no time to disciple others, no time to equip and train others to disciple others, no time to help train leaders for discipleship small groups, etc. They are wore out from having to choreograph and/or to outrun the politics of most churches as well as having to function as the hired-gun doing most of the ministry.
I believe that Lance probably agrees as he writes on p. 71:
A separate, but equal, mistake made in churches (in discipleship endeavors) is the lack of leadership. Decisions like determining the purpose of small groups, the way they are organized, how to teach, and when disciples are ready to then go and make disciples, are all decisions that are made somewhere among the people at the leadership level.
Our DVMBA churches which operate as “pastor-centered” with their pastor as the hireling doing all of the ministry will find that their discipleship endeavors are doomed from the beginning by the inability of our pastors to have any time to give to the leadership of the discipleship ministry. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is the picture of many of our DVMBA churches.
Unless, we let the Pastors lead and then equip, our churches will continue to suffer from little to no discipleship. Every year then will push us further down the path of the eventual “death spiral” as a local church.
O Spirit, deliver us!