Pastoral mathematics

I keep hearing horror stories about the number of pastors who are leaving the pastorate, something which is expected to accelerate post COVID due to decision fatigue and exhaustion. If those stories are right there is a crisis looming. But that is nothing new. I remember when I first entered ministry hearing horror stories of the majority of pastors being in their final 10 years of ministry, with a shortage of replacements waiting in the wings. That impending apocalypse doesn’t seem to have hit in quite the way that was feared thanks to God’s gracious provision and equipping. But there is a simple thing I think we often miss in churches and as pastors..

Pastoral mathematics ought to be focused on multiplication not division. It’s the Biblical pattern. Adam and Eve are to fill the earth with others made in God’s image. Moses is exhorted to multiply leaders not hoard the decision making by his father-in-law. Jesus gathers around him a band of twelve that will form the foundation of the early church, and in Acts we soon see them multiplying minsters. In the pastoral epistles we see that ministry is about multiplication of leaders and teachers and elders and deacons.

And that multiplication is not for the good of one church but for the good of the kingdom. Paul trains and sends out. The church at Antioch trains and sends out. They don’t build a ministry team and keep on building a ministry team for their own good. But they keep on training up and sending out their brightest and best. Too often in the West we aren’t multiplying leaders, we are replicating a ministry that forgets to multiply, or is hesitant or fearful of multiplying leaders. Or if we are multiplying leaders we are multiplying for our own benefit not for the good of the kingdom. Even where we multiply we hoard.

For those reading this in ministry, who are you training up? How are you multiplying ministers of the gospel both in terms of gifted lay people being invested in and discipled so that they can lead but also in terms of those who may be set apart for full time gospel ministry? For elderships; what priority are you giving to training up the next generation of pastors, elders and deacons? To what extent does that extend to developing them for the kingdom rather than just your churches? How will you do that intentionally?

I don’t think the answer is to send people away to bible college. I think the answer is in house training, it’s the apprentice model, where ministry is explored alongside and mentored by a more senior minister. I really valued that as a younger man with a young family, bible college was financially beyond us, so the opportunity to be assistant to a godly experienced pastor on the ground was brilliant. The training provided, the conversations after pastoral visits and other things were vital. It was an ideal training ground. I am grateful to God for that, and then the ongoing support and mentoring once we had planted.

The model for ministry is multiplication.

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