Times of significant interruption can be used by God to bring greater clarity as we pause to ask, “Why?” It might be “Why me, God?” And if we are willing to listen carefully and look deeply within, we can usually find something that needs to change if we are going to be all that God wants us to be.
In our current setting where pastors and churches have had to make significant changes in their weekly activities, some are beginning to ask, “Why haven’t we tried this before?” Remember, the primary mandate of the church is to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples for the glory of God. Let me suggest that it is also imperative that we ask, “How well have we been doing?” An honest analysis would say that Christians look more like the world, than we look like Jesus. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. That reality forces us back to asking, “Why have we been doing the same thing year after year, expecting different results?”
One small change that can make a big difference is if we quit thinking of disciple-making like we were putting on our socks, and begin thinking more like we have to think when we put on our shoes. Socks can go on either foot. Shoes are specifically designed to fit a single foot. You can put your socks on in the dark, but you have to pay attention when you grab your shoes and try to put them on.
Recently, God convicted me with the reality that too often we look at people as if they were socks and try to put them into any one of the numerous open or underserved positions we have in our church. Since God has given church leaders the primary purpose of “equipping the saints” (Eph 4:12), we should be treating people like they were shoes, uniquely designed for a specific application.
That brings us to a tension that all church leaders have to face. Is it more important to staff the organization we have created or to equip the people God created and has called to serve Him? Are there activities and ministries in your church that are not being staffed? If so, are you asking, “Why are we doing it?” Or are you more concerned with sustaining those ministries than you are with helping believers evaluate, identify, and enhance their God given giftedness?
I truly believe that if every pastor and every church would focus first and foremost on equipping the saints that God sends their way, then the ministries God needs us to establish in our churches will be adequately staffed. That means, we have to stop treating people like they were a sock and treat them like they were a shoe.
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.