So you're called to be a pastor . . . .

So you're called to be a pastor. A church leader. A preacher.

Congratulations. Now there are a few things to understand before you get too carried away.

First of all, if you're called to be a preacher in the sense that you feel you have the gift of teaching, then please, teach. But recognize preaching is something different. If you're funny, and are good at communicating truth, if you love to exegete scripture and hash it out for people to understand then FANTASTIC. The Church needs people like you, but you're a teacher - not a church leader. Not a pastor. Please don't take a job as either of these.

A huge problem the church has today is the confusion of these three roles. I would venture to say there are very few to none who would successfully fill all three of these roles. So lets look at the difference between them in role and goals.

If you feel called to be a church leader then recognize that your goal is to raise up as many men and women as you possibly can and enable them in the ministry they're called to do. Did you hear that? Your goal is not to grow the biggest church in your city. In fact if that is your goal then you WILL fail. You may succeed for a time, but eventually someone will be better looking, funnier, and more charismatic than you - and people will switch churches. But it's okay because you weren't called to be an Entertainer. You were called to be a church leader. A church leader is not capitalized because it is special in a "different than someone called to be baker" kind of way, not special in an "Oprah is different because she's famous" kind of way.

A church leader's role is to lead a church. A church is a group of men and women getting together and trying to walk closer with their creator. It is exactly as large as it can be before someone is raised up out of it start a new church. And the church leader's role is to love, shepherd, mentor, and release other church leaders. Not lead in a "run the show" kind of way.

A pastor's role is to shepherd, mentor, and guide the other members of the church. In a functional church there will be two or three of these for a crowd of 30 or so. They will naturally pastor and you will spot them doing their pastoring frequently one on one. A pastor can be and often is introverted and generally doesn't fit well into the "church leader" role. You know this guy (or girl) because he has pulled someone aside and is asking them how they are doing, he is challenging thoughts which aren't loving, he is pressing for a closer walk with God and a more intimate prayer life. He picks out the person in the room who has been crying all week and prays with them through the loss of their mother. A pastor cannot effectively pastor a group too large, the church leader needs to therefore be sure he is encouraging the people in the group with the calling/gifting of pastoring to be doing that pastoring.

The preacher is also a wonderful asset to a church. People love it when it is the preacher's turn to share at church because he is fun, entertaining, and brings the Lord's truth in a way that is both informative and speaks to the heart. The preacher recognizes that people can sometimes remember one or perhaps two sermons which really had an impact on their lives - i.e. most of what he says will be forgotten before the week or even day is through. But he also believes that the Lord's word is truth, and that hearing truth WILL change people. He is passionate about his own personal times with the Lord, both in prayer and Bible study and loves to share about what he's been learning with others. A preacher does not need any formal education. A seminary degree will often do more to hamper his ability to teach than it will help.

Now back to my favorite role. The church leader. If you're called to be a church leader then what you are called to is a great task. A wonderfully overwhelming job that you will never be able to accomplish on your own. Thankfully you wont be on your own. You'll have other's around to encourage, enable, support, strengthen, and humble you. If you get rid of these people you will die a slow and painful embarrassment of a death (so keep them around). You are asked to be a general of an army, on the front lines along with your men, but also back in the tent looking at the situation of the troops and planning for the big picture. It is your job to know the people of the church and therefore intuition is of great help - if you lack it, pray for it. You are to constantly be calling people to what you believe the Lord has called them to. There are people everywhere who are called to take a part in God's Kingdom but don't know where, how, or even that they are invited to do so. You will be an enabler.

You will be a violent man taking hold of God's Kingdom and violently advancing it. You need to be steeped in prayer because as the strategist you will be greatly under attack from the enemy. Every little move you make will be closely watched by the enemy. Beg people to pray for you because you'll need it. You'll be tempted to pride, fame, and glory. It will be easy to forget that you live for the name of Jesus to glorified - not your own name.

Never forget that your success is measured in numbers (yes!), but the measure of success is not the number of people in your church, rather it is how many of those who were called did you enable? How many of those to whom God said, "Go forth and be a pastor (or preacher, or church leader, or whatever)," did you release with a blessing? How many did you challenge to move forward with God's calling and enable to succeed?

If you are a leader you have a choice to make. Will you have as much influence as one man can have on one church? Or will your influence be the influence of the many you raise up? And those they raise up? Will your influence be your small role in the greater Kingdom? Because if your goal is to have the name that is known as "great speaker," "wonderful preacher," "down to earth, easy to talk to guy," then what you're really seeking is for your name to be known in God's Kingdom. A place where there is only room for one name to be glorified. The name of Jesus.

At this point I need a disclaimer. My disclaimer is this. I live in a country where "big church" is an impossibility to due to government regulations. As such I've been living in a world where "house church" is all that really exists (there are exceptions, but I basically never encounter them). My opinion has shifted in the direction of seeing the house church movement as *generally healthier* than "big church." That said, I recognize the Lord can use and DOES use "big church" in His Kingdom. While I strongly believe in a small model, it's not that I don't recognize that the Lord can use either system. It's that I've seen a LOT more unhealthy leaders in the "big church" model - which I would argue is inherently broken - than I see in the house church model. In a house church model there is no room for the "hero pastor," because the church can only be so big before someone goes to jail. Therefore new leaders are always being raised up because there is always a need for a new pastor, a new leader, and a new preacher.