In Exodus 18, we have recorded the advice that Jethro gave to Moses.
Moses was the sole judge for all the people of Israel and as such spent all of his day hearing the cases that came before him. Jethro’s advice was to set up judges under Moses who could hear the minor cases and make decisions. Thus a management structure was born.
One man cannot minister to all the people in his congregation, no matter how small the congregation may be. The pastor needs to have elders and deacons to whom he can entrust the ministry tasks. Even in the smallest congregations, the pastor cannot do all the ministry or make all the decisions. He must work together with the congregation for effective ministry to take place.
For such a structure as Jethro recommended to Moses, the viability of the structure depends on the degree of empowerment that the judges are given. If a particular judge’s rulings had to be repeatedly overrulled, that judge would have to be removed from his office since he would no longer have the credibility to do his job effectively.
In the same way, the pastor must empower his elders and staff to do the work of ministry and make decisions on their own. If every decision has to be made by the pastor, very little real ministry will take place. It does not matter if there are 100 people, 1,000 people or 10,000 people in the church, Others beside the pastor must be empowered to minister as they are led by God.
With empowerment will come mistakes. Ministry is sometimes a messy business and hindsight is always 20/20. When mistakes happen it is important that the leadership team is open about the mistake and learns from it.
What then is the Pastor’s role in the ministry? He should play a major role in setting the priorities and being the most visible voice for announcing those priorities. However, the pastor should remind himself that he is the first among equals and is himself subject to weaknesses and blind spots. The pastor should not want to make all the decisions.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:11–13 what the goal of ministry should be:
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (NASB)
The goal is the equipping of the congregation for the work of ministry (ESV). It is the entire church body that is to be God’s instrument for changing the surrounding culture.
If the entire church body is ministering together in the community, not only will the pastor influence the congregation, the congregation will influence the pastor. When this happens the congregation will “stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)