So you're a pastor. What are you supposed to do with this thing called "church"? Is it a family to simply enjoy and have fun with? Is it an army to try to take the world with? Or is it a business? Gaining a proper perspective on church can be quite a challenge but it is essential.
Read the following Scripture slowly … "But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs" (Phil 2:25).
Paul describes his team member, Epaphroditus, by three words, each portraying three different aspects of their ministry relationship that we need to keep in balance as we lead our churches.
Let's unpack this a bit further …
1. Brother (Community – Pastor). We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the same Father, because we have all been "born again" by the Spirit (Jn.1:11-13) and adopted into God's family (Rom.8:15. Eph.3:14-15). We are related by the blood of Jesus. The church is to be a close-knit community of people who see each other as family. This is not just a job. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. A great family has a strong sense of community. This can be created by loving one another deeply (through encouragement and kindness), sharing our lives with each other (through openness, interest and care), serving and helping one another and sticking together no matter what (through loyalty, integrity and forgiveness). Pastors and leaders determine the "relational warmth" of their church. Think about what you can do to turn up the sense of community in your congregation.
2. Fellow-Worker (Corporation – Manager). Epaphraditus was working and labouring together with Paul in the same occupation. They were associates and companions in work. The church is not just a "community" or family. We have a job to do. We are here to work together in the business of the church. The church not only has a "community" aspect, but also a "corporation" aspect. Some people don't like the idea of a church being likened to a business, but that fact is, that it is a business – God's business and it's big! Jesus said that he must be about his Father's "business" (Luke 2:49). Many of Jesus' parables gleaned examples from the businesses of his day (fishing, vineyards, property management, farming, agriculture and finance). A great "corporation" requires things such as a good work ethic, good organisation, good policies and procedures so that things run smoothly and consistently, great customer service, proper accountability (clear lines of responsibility and accountability), good financial management (budgeting), good communication and strategic planning (goals and objectives). Most people (including church staff) have little appreciation for the corporate side of things. However, it is extremely important. Making a "profit" means we get to minister another day. The gifts of leadership and administration are given by the Holy Spirit and are vital to ensure we build a good "corporation" (Rom.12:8. 1 Cor.12:28).
3. Fellow-Solider (Cause – Leader). Epaphroditus was a soldier in God's army fighting for God's cause in the world alongside Paul. The church is not just a "community" and a "corporation". We have an urgent cause to fight for. The gospel must be taken to our community, city and nation(s). We must declare the truth and stand for righteousness. We must push back the forces of the enemy and advance the kingdom of God on planet earth. Fighting for a good "cause" requires commitment, passion, focus and a sense of urgency (2 Tim.2:3-4). Visionary leaders and pioneers always push us out of our comfort zone and into the frontlines of the battle. They heat up the cause and the mission we've been called to fight for.
These three views must be held in delicate tension. As leaders, we must ensure that a balance of these perspectives is maintained.
Too much "community" without "corporation" and we become slack and unproductive.
Too much "community" without "cause" and we become complacent and self-centred, accomplishing nothing.
Too much "corporation" without "community" and we become rigid and unfeeling, lacking warmth.
Too much "corporation" without "cause" and we become efficient but ineffective.
Too much "cause" without "community" and we burn out and abuse people.
Too much "cause" without "corporation" and we fall apart.
Each person is ignited by different things based on their personal calling and gifting. Pastoral people are more "community" minded. Administrative or managerial people are more "corporation" minded. Visionary leaders and pioneers are more "cause" minded.
What's your strength? What's your weakness? It is vital that you build a team of people around you that will ensure a balanced perspective so that your church is healthy and moving forward in effectiveness. Get with your leadership team and rate your church from 1-10 in each of these three areas. Then determine what you could do in the next few months to improve your weakest area.
Together, let's seek to enhance our sense of community, excel in our corporation and run passionately towards the cause given to us by Jesus Christ.