It takes both: heart and skills

By Juan Carlos Del Valle

The first time I read Psalm 78:72 it dawned on me that it takes more than a calling to be a leader among God’s people. “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” That’s an enlightening statement: Pastoring people is not an easy task. It requires both, a heart that reflects character and a set of leadership skills. It is obvious that without a heart that loves people and the willingness to take on the burden of shepherding, no one would ever answer the call of God. However, after 30 long years of ministry, I have observed that many pastors who do have an amazing heart for the ministry, also struggle with growth. A good heart is not what causes a church to grow. A set of necessary leadership skills are crucial to guide their followers towards new levels of spiritual maturity and personal growth.  Hard work without tangible growth is frustrating leading to discouragement and burnout. Let me share with you three things I’ve learned about the difference between churches that grow and those who stay average.  These differences can serve as a compass to re-orient ministry life in the right direction.

A pastor’s work schedule is not like the average hard working man. They do not have a  9:00 to 5:00 kind of job. Their working hours do not end at the end of each day and their weekends are not as free as many people think they are. Also their work week is always Sunday through Thursday and a large majority of them still work on their sermons on Friday and Saturday. It is obvious that you may be tempted to ask the question: what would their day off be then?  Well, most pastors take Monday off, but rarely as a relaxing and playful day. Instead Monday is the day where they re-hash the Sunday morning service and wonder what they could have done better: Why was attendance low? Where were my children’s workers? How does today’s offering compare with last Sunday’s and the list goes on. I know this because I have been a pastor for well over 20 years and have experienced many joyful and painful moments that made me feel like I was tied down to a never ending emotional roller coaster.  What I’m trying to say is that pastoring a church is not an easy task. You have to be called by God to be in that office. But that’s not all that it takes if one wants to be fruitful and see the increase that God promised. Overseeing the process of growing a church becomes almost impossible without a set of leadership skills necessary to break the hideous barrier of average.  I believe there are many different reasons that affects church growth, but it always boils down to leadership. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “Every organization is the lengthened shadow of a single man” and what that means is that his character determines the character of the organization. Let me share with you the three things I have learned about the leadership at the top of churches that grow.

The first thing they do is what I call Culture Creation.”   Culture creation is the process by which an identity is established so that peoples of like minds and hearts can be attracted.  Peter Drucker famously said that “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast”. This phrase means that no matter what the plan is, the culture will or will not allow it. For example, if I want to have a church that attracts youth and college students, then desire is not enough. I have to create a church culture that places a high premium in that age group. Meaning I must have every department of the church represented by that group. The style of worship we have, the clothe we wear, the music we play, and the lively and organic way in with we share Bible stories and teachings, all of this elements help with culture creation. Being consistent and intentional always pays off. Give it a couple of years and the church culture begins to emerge and take shape. Inevitably, the ministry  will become known for the culture it has created. 

Another thing that I have observed is that Sunday morning is not perceived as a “Slam dunk service.” Growing churches do not treat Sunday morning as the day where everything has to happen: salvations, healings, restorations, deliverances and so forth. For pastors of growing churches the purpose of the Sunday morning service is to make sure that people come back the next Sunday. If they do, then there are another 51 Sundays in a year to heal their marriages, their bodies and teach them God’s word which ultimately is what produces the faith necessary to live a victorious life. 

There is a very common excuse among people who jump from church to church. Their argument sounds like this: ‘I’m not being fed.’ Well, I don’t think it is healthy for the soul to stay connected to a ministry that is not both, Word-centered and people oriented. However, believers need to develop the ability to feed themselves for one simple reason: personal growth and spiritual maturity is nobody’s responsibility but ours. One healthy habit that pastors of growing churches seem to have is that they teach their people to be ‘Self-feeders.’  This means that people are taught consistently to be proactive in developing a strong relationship with God by studying the word and applying its principles to their daily walk with the Lord. When that becomes a habit, people learn to depend less on their pastors and more on their personal relationship with God. Allow me to say that being a self feeder does not mean indifference for pastoral instruction, it simple means that meeting ones’ spiritual needs are not solely dependent on the pastor’s availability to pray for me. 

The last but not least of my observations has to do with what’s at the heart of the believer’s mission on earth: to win souls and make disciples of Christ. The great commission is not suggesting what our mission should be. It is a command given by Jesus himself before his ascension to the Father. Our mission as believers is to win souls and make disciples, and that is the ultimate mandate for the church as well. Churches that emphasize the great commission and facilitate the development of discipleship groups grow naturally. Churches that grow understand that they’re not only a community of the redeemed, but also a redeeming community. 

If this short article was helpful, please leave me a comment bellow.

Thank you 

Pastor Juan Carlos Del valle

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