How Well Does Your Church Understand the Role of the Pastor?

Whenever I hear someone say..

I’m helping my pastor get his ministry accomplished

..I cringe just a little. I know that comes from a good heart, but there is a better and biblical principle still to be discovered.

Ephesians 4:11-13 seems clear enough, but a striking number of churches don’t fully understand, embrace, and practice this biblical plan.

When this biblical plan is not followed, the result is often frustration, lack of growth, and the congregation does not realize the joy and fulfillment of service in the body of Christ.

There are three interpretations commonly practiced within the local church when it comes to an understanding of the role of the pastor and the congregation. 

Matt Piland, 12Stone Church - Flowery Branch Campus Pastor

1) The church hires the pastor to do the ministry.

This is common in long-standing small churches, almost always under 100 people.

The board has a long tenure and owns the real leadership authority in the church.

This is the group that “runs” the church and hires the pastor to “preach and visit.”

Other than a few of the most dedicated people who do a few things like help in the nursery, serve as an usher or play the piano, the pastor does the work.

It may well be a kind and loving church, but often inward-focused, it is still a very difficult scenario in which to lead change and make progress.

2) The people help the pastor do his or her ministry.

The people helping the pastor do the ministry is the next level and better than the “Hired Gun” illustrated in the first point.

In this scenario, there are a number, sometimes many, people, who eagerly jump in to serve in all the ministries of the church.

The pastor is the encouraging shepherd who expresses gratitude for helping him carry the load. And in many cases, there is good training for the ministries.

But the pastor is still the spiritual hero of the church. He is the one seen as the leader who makes it all happen.

It’s often a positive environment, willing to embrace change and has the potential to grow, but usually slowly. It is a friendly environment but has not yet embraced the biblical model in Ephesians 4.

3) The pastor helps the people do their ministry.

This approach represents the biblical principle found in Ephesians 4:11-13. It’s a radically different approach than the first two models.

The pastor is the leader who equips the people to do the work of ministry that God called them to do!

The pastor is the coach, and the people are the spiritual heroes who build the church! In this scenario equipping (training) is provided for all ministry positions.

The pastor expresses gratitude to the people not for helping him or her (although I’m sure they are appreciative) but for serving Jesus and advancing the Kingdom vision of the church.

In this model, the people are empowered to serve and lead according to their gifts and calling, and the potential for change and growth is significantly higher.

This is when church becomes fun, fulfilling, and experiences the greatest Kingdom impact.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

Verses 12-13 reveal the purpose: Build the body of Christ until we become mature in our faith and experience unity in the fullness of Christ!

15 thoughts on “How Well Does Your Church Understand the Role of the Pastor?”

      1. Thus article is fair, The problem is that especially in smaller churches if the pastor does not do all the work he is dismissed. I went to a church in Texas and was admonished about the fact that I talked about the shock of the price difference for bringing a car across the state line vs re-licensing a car in Texas. I was criticized for not doing the deacon / members work in the nursing home, in spite of the fact that as a layman I ran a nursing home ministry for four years. I was criticized for getting the mail for myself and the church. The pastor is responsible for seeing the church does the work, He is not responsible TO anyone but Jesus. As long as the pastor has not committed immoral acts, or Biblical Heresy the church is not allowed to remove him. My last church asked me point blank if I knew I was called to pastor their church and was glad when I assured them I was, and in the next breath forced me out. If I was there, and had not did one of the above sins, it is SIN if they remove me. After this I put in 1600 resumes with not even a response. When you dismiss a pastor you destroy his ministry. Instead of murdering the prophet you murder the prophet’s ministry THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE!

        1. Blessings to you Mr. Maine,
          You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
          God is good … He sees and He knows.
          Try to forgive as soon and as completely as possible.
          All the best to you!

        2. Phillip,

          You are right, some small churches can be tough, but the good news is there are many, many great small churches.


  1. I’m grinning as I read this….and see our Rev. all over #3. Now, to ensure she continues to be supported fully to do the work.
    Thanks for the biblical reference…… the catalyst to effective Ministry.

  2. Pastor Samuel Maddox

    You always seem to hit the nail on the head
    I’ve been in two of the three and am transitioning into the third. What a joy to be able to be the provider of biblical information and also a provider of inspiration for those who are serving our Lord in daily their lives.

  3. Dr. James G. Graham

    As always, you give valuable help. However, I do have a question. I work with and help church planters. Over the last 30 years we have planted churches all over the world.

    Since we start from scratch, no boards, no existing believers at first, the article would not apply until the church becomes well established.

    Do you have any advice for the guys that fall into the pioneer category?

    1. Great question Dr. Graham.

      Yes, first I generally encourage church planters to not be in a hurry to formally organize the church. I find that many planters over organize and under evangelize.

      You are right, this article doesn’t apply unless the church opens with lots of Christians with either of the first two frames of reference. Either way, I would encourage the pastor to start by teaching the Ephesians 4 passage even before opening Sunday. In partnership with this biblical philosophy, I would make sure the pastor and team know how to build great volunteer teams that are focused on the mission of the church.

  4. That was very insightful and clearly written. I never realized that the other two ways were not biblical in nature.

    1. Hey Dr. Carter!
      Glad you had a few minutes to read this and great to see you today.
      Enjoy your Christmas holidays, and see you in January!

  5. In my first pastorate out of seminary, an agricultural congregation of less than 100 people, I was told by a woman member, a rancher; “I regard you (me) the same as I regard my hired hands. When I tell them what to do, they damn well better do it.” If anything like that happens to you, know it is highly unlikely the culture can be changed. It is time to move on.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.