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A Reformed Fellowship


How should we view the gospel ministry?

Opinions are like noses—everybody has one and usually they are different! When it comes to what the ministry is to be in the twenty-first century, many are the opinions people give. Most folks in our day, it seems, have a view of the ministry which likens the pastor to being the chief executive officer of a religious corporation. Pastors are judged by how large their congregations are, how many baptisms they produce, and how much their churches’ budgets have grown.

Rick Warren is doubtlessly one of the best-known pastors in America today. His Saddleback Church is viewed as a model of what twenty-first century churches should be, and his Purpose-Driven Church explains how Saddleback was begun and is organized. Numberless churches advertise that they are “purpose-driven” churches, following the model of Saddleback.

Warren’s model provides direct implications for how churches view the min­istry. In “Structuring to grow, not plateau”, Warren writes: “How do you structure a church so it just keeps on growing and doesn’t plateau? I believe there are 10 essentials you must focus on as you structure your church.” Among those ten essentials, one which directly impacts the view of the gospel ministry is particularly enlightening: “You must change the primary role of the pastor from minister to leader.” He explains: “You can grow a church to 300 with pastoral skills or ministry skills, but for it to grow beyond 300 will require leadership skills. As a leader, you must learn to communicate your vision in very personal and practical ways. You must also learn to motivate your church through your messages, and understand that it’s easier to motivate a group than it is to motivate individuals.” He goes on to assert that “a leader also equips others for ministry. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and the church won’t grow. An expanding ministry also demands you learn how to raise money. Those who write the agenda must underwrite the agenda. And you must learn to manage your time. Effective leaders know where their time goes.” For Warren, the pastor who wants his church to grow beyond three hundred in attendance is to see himself no longer as a minister but as a leader. In essence, he becomes the church’s chief executive officer, not its watcher over souls.

The question has to be asked whether Warren’s model for the ministry is the biblical model. Has God called pastors to be CEOs of religious organizations, or has he called men to be spiritual leaders over the churches of Christ? Doubtlessly, Warren does not see the pastor as merely a CEO, and, to be fair, there are aspects of his Purpose-Driven Church, particularly the idea of restoring accountability to membership, which are good. Nevertheless, one of the problems with Warren’s view is that men who would be pastors of larger, growing churches must become visionary leaders, not spiritual guides.

Contrast Warren’s business view of the ministry with the more biblical one provided by eighteenth-century British pastor Samuel Pearce. Encouraging church members not only to submit to the biblical teaching of their pastor but also with gratitude to realize that the pastor’s duty is not to placate his hearers but to propagate truth, Pearce wrote what should be the cry of each member of Christ’s churches: “Give me the preacher who opens the folds of my heart; who accuses me, convicts me, and con­demns me before God; who loves my soul too well to suffer me to go on in sin, unreproved, through fear of giving me offence; who draws the line with accuracy, between the delusions of fancy, and the impressions of grace; who pursues me from one hiding place to another, until I am driven from every refuge of lies; who gives me no rest until he sees me, with unfeigned penitence, trembling at the feet of Jesus; and then, and not till then, sooths my anguish, wipes away my tears, and comforts me with the cordials of grace. Give me the preacher ‘who constantly affirms that they who have believed, be careful to maintain good works;’ who in­sists, that a life of peace and communion with God, is utterly abhorrent to the practice of iniquity; and faith­fully reminds me, that ‘if I sin, that grace may abound, my damnation is just.’ Give me the preacher who pants not for my safety only, but also for my increase in grace; who cautions me, ‘reproves me, rebukes me, exhorts me with all long-suffering and doctrine;’ who charges me ‘to give all diligence to add to my faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to pa­tience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity.’”