If you’re doing everything at your church yourself, what are your people doing?
If you have been involved in any type of ministry for any period of time, you know that ministry can be extremely rewarding work. But it can also be very tiring. The stress of criticism, the long hours, the grief over friends wandering from Christ, and especially that feeling of carrying so much alone can really get to us. Yet, despite these realities, many pastors tend to continue to try and do it all themselves.
There is a lot of talk these days about ministry burnout. A life overflowing with ministerial mayhem is not necessarily something to be proud of. In fact, in our attempts to do it all, we may actually be robbing our church members of opportunities. Here are three reasons why trying to do it all as a pastor, far from being a noble sacrifice, may actually be a great disservice to your people.
Doing It All Is a Lose-Lose
In many churches, there is this peculiar assumption that the pastor is the go-to guy for absolutely everything. This perception is understandable since the pastor stands in front each week and is, in a sense, the face of the church. And pastors certainly do need to be willing to be servants in everything, not thinking they are above changing the toilet paper rolls, stacking chairs after an event, or helping in the nursery. But regularly doing it all is neither biblical nor wise.
Every Christian has gifts that differ according to the grace given us (Rom 12:6–8; cf. 1 Cor 12:8–10, 28–30; Eph 4:11). You may be able to teach, but be terrible at planning and administration. So, you should find help in these areas. In seeking help to coordinate events you are not abdicating your responsibility, you are actually helping your people by giving them opportunities to serve. You are relieved of an unnecessary burden that you might focus on your particular gifting, and someone else is granted the opportunity to exercise their gifts for the Body of Christ. That’s a win-win!
In Acts 6, the Twelve were having a rough time trying to do everything themselves so they found others within the church to help with the service work. They reasoned, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.” And from this one act of delegatory discipleship, the office of deacon was born. Then the Twelve were able to “devote ourselves to prayer, and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2–4).
What a sad situation it would be if you were limping along trying to do something you don’t have the time or gifting for, and meanwhile the person gifted to do that very thing was twiddling their thumbs thinking, “there’s nowhere for me to serve in this church.”
Doing It All Is Bad Leadership.
I recently heard John MacArthur say, “leadership is getting things done through other people.” A good Christian leader strives to equip the body of Christ for ministry (Eph 4:11), not do all the ministry himself. We want to help people to mature in Christ (Col 1:28), and this cannot happen apart from them taking on responsibility. If you’re pounding the pulpit each week for people to put what they’re learning into action, why not give them some action in which to put that learning?
Often in a smaller church, you may, by necessity, have to be the preacher, the worship leader, the head usher, and the janitor. But that arrangement should not persist indefinitely. A good leader raises up people and gives them opportunities to serve. Even if, at first, you might be able to do a better job, still let them—no, ask them—to serve. And disciple them into that role.
Doing it all yourself is bad leadership. Delegating is good leadership. Delegating is discipleship.
Doing It All Is Failure in Discipleship
Delegating things you are not gifted in is not neglecting your responsibilities, it is exercising one of your primary responsibilities, discipling others (Matthew 28:18-20).
So when you get people involved in leading a homebound ministry, organizing a food drive, or administrating home Bible studies, this is a chance to train them, to help them grow more into the image of Christ, and to build up the body with what the Holy Spirit has gifted them to do.
Proper delegating isn’t dodging duty. Delegating is discipleship.
We need to trust that there are others God has gifted in the church and serve them, the body, and Christ by getting them involved in the areas where they are most gifted so that we can focus on the areas where God has gifted us. In this way, we will be good leaders and disciplers.
If we would burn out serving Christ, so be it. But let us not self-immolate in the service of our pride. Instead, let’s work to light many more candles to burn alongside us.