Today, church leadership magazines list the fastest growing churches in the country; ministry websites announce the largest churches in the country each year, and even the SBC has created a version of the Fortune500 called the SBC500. Many pastors feel pressure to lead churches to be bigger, better, and more influential on a regional or national scale. This pressure is not based on a biblical call to pastor the church; it is rooted in the perspectives and philosophies of the world.
The internet and social media intensify the pressure for pastors and churches to be successful by offering the opportunity to build a platform for influence that extends beyond the local congregation. To help a pastor build his platform coaching networks and consulting firms offer help to get more people in the door while also adding followers and connections online.
Culture is an incredibly distracting environment for pastors today. However, it is similar to the tone of the culture of the New Testament. Pastors in the NT struggled to stay focused on God’s call to shepherd the church. NT pastors were tempted to use ministry for personal and selfish gain instead of serving and equipping the church to the glory of God. Here are three things to focus on in the pursuit of being faithful to God’s call to lead his church.
1. Focus On Your Flock
Jesus says that his sheep know his voice and that he knows them (John 10:27). Like Christ, God calls pastors to “shepherd the flock that is among them” (1 Peter 5:2) through preaching the word, praying for the members, equipping the saints, making disciples, and serving as an example of faithfulness to Christ in the congregation. The global church is made up of an unknown number of local churches led by millions of God-called, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered pastors. That is God’s plan, to use local churches led by local pastors to grow His kingdom.
2. Focus On Yourself
Pastors pursue personal faithfulness and holiness in leading the church. Paul encouraged the Ephesian elders to care for themselves in the same manner that they cared for the church. In Acts 20:28 he said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
In addition to the personal walk of a pastor, Paul’s instruction applies to the struggle and distraction of platforms and social media as well. Staying focused on the church and yourself requires humility. Humble pastors recognize that God hasn’t called one pastor or even a team of pastors to be the chief shepherd to the global church or even a regional church. There is only one chief Shepherd, and His name is Jesus Christ.
3. Focus On Biblical Results
Faithful shepherding results in a healthy and mature congregation. God’s purpose for giving the church pastors is to produce faithfulness and obedience to His Word. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The health of a church cannot be measured by numbers and statistics alone. Equipping a church requires a depth of relationship that cannot be gained through a podcast. It requires a commitment on behalf of both the pastor and the church to God’s will and ways as defined by His Word. Christians have been created in Christ to perform works of ministry (Eph 2:10), and faithful pastors lead faithful churches to pursue the good works of their members over personal platforms and online followers.
Does This Mean That Pastors Are Wrong To Be Online, Write Blogs, And Use Social Media?
No, as a matter of fact, pastors should use social media and technology.
Church members are online. Facebook has over 1.5 billion active users, Twitter over 307 million active users, and Instagram over 300 million active users. Pastors have the opportunity to take advantage of social media for the purpose of equipping and shepherding the congregation. Social media is more than an opportunity to advertise calendared events and information; it is an opportunity to be connected, encourage, and edify the body one post at a time.
You are more than a pastor. You are husband, Dad, brother, classmate, friend, and neighbor. Make sure that your use of social media as a “regular” guy still fits the character of a pastor described in 1 Timothy 3. Social media is not private; it is social. Who you are online should be synonymous with you who you are at home, at work, and in the pulpit. Pastors are examples to the flock to faithfulness in all things, including online persona. Pay careful attention to who you follow, what you repost or retweet, and how you interact with others.
Platform Building Is Not Synonymous With Pastoring
At our church, there is a 5th-grade girl who has over 1000 followers on Instagram. She follows over 3,900 people on Instagram. She loves Jesus; I am grateful for the witness she is for Christ online. I pray that God uses her to influence her family, friends, and followers for Christ. Culture says that you and I should have more followers than she does if we are truly significant and successful. What good is it to have people all over the world following you online, if the flock you shepherd isn’t growing and maturing in obedience to the Word? What does it matter if people are podcasting your sermons from around the country if the congregation in the pews isn’t growing in Christ? Scripture says something very different; it says that there is a greater reward than clicks on websites, listeners to podcasts, and followers for faithful pastors. When “the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Stay humble and stay faithful.