What does every pastor need? Surely dozens of answers might be offered. A nice facility? Or, perhaps, a growing community surrounding the church that would provide a field ripe for harvest might head the list. I suppose every pastor might desire an expanding budget to allow for additional staff or upgraded technology. Each of these is legitimate. But I think there’s an even more vital need for every pastor in every church.
Every pastor needs a critical mass dedicated and involved in the central ministries of a local church. Nothing can replace the involvement of the local body in ministry. Too often church members can treat ministry as if it’s something only ministers do, without realizing that every Christian is a minister. The body needs all of its parts to function correctly (1 Cor. 12). Emphasizing the priesthood of all believers can help plant the seed in members’ lives about the role they can play in their church.
1) Immediately the leadership should begin calling on new members to find a place of service, at the earliest possible moment. Engaging new members in finding a place to minister can help build community and a sense of belonging. Many churches have a new members class, or one devoted to those who are thinking about becoming members. The leadership can raise the level of expectation by pointing out ministries that members can join.
2) The pastoral staff should make every effort to identify a handful of people to disciple and engage in ministry. The pastor can help raise up a group of ministry leaders who can then, in turn, each lead a group of future leaders. With just a few cycles of this in the life of a church, it can produce an ever-expanding group of members involved in ministry.
3) A sermon series on Spiritual Gifts can centralize the focus of a church on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the series could conclude with a push to have everyone join the efforts of one ministry. This can be emphasized annually, either in the fall when attendance is typically higher, or around the first of the year, when people are considering how to make the next year better than the last.
A key element of this plan is to clarify to all members that conversion represents quite literally the very first steps of the Christian life that begin a whole life devoted to maturity, growth, and depth. Every Christian is a minister; each with a specific gift. With more members of the body exercising their gifts the entire body can function.
Dr. Neal earned a BA in Political Science from Texas Tech University. He then pursued theological and ministerial training and is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDivBL), and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (MTh; PhD). He is married to Jennifer, and they have four children.
Dr. Neal’s teaching and research focuses on the relationship between biblical interpretation and theology. His Ph.D. research focused on systematic theology, specifically questions raised in contemporary German theology. He is the author of Theology As Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of Jurgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of Hope, and has published a variety of essays, articles, and chapters on theological topics. Dr. Neal has presented papers in several academic venues in England, Scotland, New Zealand, and the United States. Most recently he presented a paper on eschatology at the University of Notre Dame.