Three Vital Roles of Pastors in Management, Succession, and Preaching

A woman pastor consecrated the wine during a communion service at Beijiao Church in Foshan, Guangdong, on Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2024.
A woman pastor consecrated the wine during a communion service at Beijiao Church in Foshan, Guangdong, on Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2024.
By Su Ran May 20th, 2024

Paul said in the Bible, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” This is collaboration work between God and humans. The development of a church relies on both God’s work and human efforts. So, what role does a church leader play in the growth of a church?

“Management models evolving with the church’s development”

A pastor once mentioned four common church management models: corporate business model, activity center model, social service model, and school model. Each model has its own focus and attracts different groups. Regardless of the models, the key is to make it suitable for your own church. That requires the pastor to have a clear understanding of the church’s positioning. As emphasized in the book Purpose-Driven Church, a good church should be one with a purpose.

Pastor L, who has 24 years of pastoral experience, shared her management philosophy. “There is no fixed model for church management; it must evolve with the church’s development,” she said.

She took over a church of a dozen members and led it to become a church with a thousand members. In the early stages, when there were fewer than 50 believers, Pastor L could personally visit all the members who needed help. As the number grew to over 100, she realized the importance of coworkers and began cultivating and establishing them. When the congregation reached 300-400 members, the pastoral model shifted from large-scale gatherings to a cell-group model. When the church reached a thousand members, they adopted a school management model with enrollment periods, breaks, opening ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies. The message imparted to believers was that the church was a theological training base to learn and understand God. Her church fostered a strong learning atmosphere.

In her leadership role, Pastor L always maintains a learner’s mindset. When the number of believers grew to 400, they decisively created cell groups. Considering the church’s situation, they initially did not adopt the Bible study but focused on supplementing and reinforcing the messages from sermons, helping believers apply the word of God in their lives, and meeting believers’ needs, gradually forming a stable system and structure.

“Healthy succession relying on cultivating young successors”

From leading a dozen believers alone to serving a congregation of thousands with a team, Pastor L realized that a crucial aspect of church development is talent cultivation, but not all pastors can realize this aspect and be willing to do it.

There was the head of a church who was an elderly pastor in his eighties and had not been to the church for years. However, when a fifty-year-old pastor graduated from a Bible training school and returned to take over the church, the elderly pastor claimed he was still in charge and wanted to manage the church. Due to differences in perspectives between the two generations, under the elderly pastor’s management, the new pastor struggled to carry out his work. Over ten years’ time, the church that originally had a small number of members dwindled to only five or six people. It eventually disappeared after a three-year lockdown due to the pandemic. A similar experience was encountered by Pastor Y, who served at another church in the same area. Although the church often has explicit regulations specifying the retirement age for leaders, some often delay their retirement, citing a lack of successors.

Pastor Y believes that a significant reason why older pastors and fellow workers are reluctant to let go is that their perspectives are rigid and out of touch with the times. Therefore, the concepts of reform and church development advocated by younger fellow workers are perceived as unsafe factors that exceed their comprehension. Locally, there was Pastor C, who was invited by an elderly pastor to serve in his hometown’s church after graduating from theological studies. However, upon returning, he found himself constrained in all aspects of preaching and ministry by the elderly pastor. Pastor C served under the elderly pastor for seven years and only took over the church’s management when the elderly pastor became bedridden.

Pastor B, who serves a church in City C, also had a similar experience. In his initial years as a fellow worker, he had no involvement in delivering sermons. Now, his church has over 5,000 believers, and he believes in providing opportunities for younger people to give sermons. Pastor B also teaches at a theological seminary and invites seminary students to participate in weekly sermons, as he believes the best training is through practical experience.

“Pastors must cultivate their brothers and sisters as they would children, allowing them to grow,” Pastor L urged. She called on older pastors to guide their fellow workers with the heart of a parent.

“Utilizing sermons to convey the vision of the church’s mission and nurturing believers”

Pastor L likens the Sunday sermons to a showcase of exquisite automobiles, emphasizing the need to present all the best aspects. Every design element in the worship service should be imbued with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but the most crucial aspect is the message delivered from the pulpit, carrying the vision of the church’s mission. During her 24-year ministry, the church has experienced remarkable growth in terms of the number and quality of believers as well as in its construction, all of which is attributed to the sermon’s effective messages of the church’s mission vision to the congregation.

Pastor L believes that the atmosphere of a church worship service and the state of its believers are largely determined by the church’s leaders. She said that the atmosphere of a church is set by the lead pastor, and a healthy church begins with healthy leaders. Therefore, pastors must pray daily to maintain a harmonious relationship with God, be friendly with people, and maintain a healthy spiritual state. This will enable them to be full of vitality, and naturally, the church they lead will also be vibrant.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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