Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Empower, equip, encourage

"Discipleship Journal's" article, "The power of encouragement", deals with encouraging people to come to Christ. But that article also started me thinking about empowering a congregation to carry out God's work.

A wise and well-liked pastor at a prior Methodist church told me that Methodist pastors should not be dictators in the churches to which they are assigned. Rather, they should empower, equip, and encourage the saints of the church to do God's work. Pastors who adopt that philosophy strive to leave churches with lay leadership that is better and stronger than when they arrived. That isn't likely to happen if the local "leadership" is spoon-fed tasks, seldom sees suggestions adopted, or is seldom allowed to act on their own ideas.

When pastors change at churches, congregation members and the church's leadership need to be flexible enough to allow for some changes. But Pastors also need to make allowances for a congregation that is not exactly like the one they left. A pastor in another state relates that a Candler School of Theology faculty member once said,
"There are only two things that Pastors should change the first six months they are they are at a new church -- their address and their underwear."

While that was obviously intended to be humorous, it contains wisdom. It is very helpful if pastors get to know church members, traditions, and the reasons behind practices at the new church to which they are assigned before they start suggesting changes, especially major ones.

Sometimes it seems as though Methodist pastors forget that they are only temporarily assigned to a church. The members continue; pastors change. So pastors, go easy about making dramatic changes that may prove harmful to relations with the congregation or ultimately to the Body of Christ at that church.

Working with the church's leadership will prove more beneficial to all concerned than butting heads. A church where authoritarian clergy -- no matter how good the clergy members' ideas and skills -- allow little or no participation in decisions just sets up the church for future failure when that clergy member moves to a new assignment. Church leadership needs the opportunity to actually lead, not just follow.

"Progress however, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step." — Samuel Smiles

How well is your church doing at preparing your leaders to continue leading after current clergy members move on? How well is your church doing at empowering, equipping, and encouraging the saints?

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