People Want a Pastor

As the church grows, so do the demands on church leaders. They implement new programs and recruit new volunteers to staff them. Cradle to grave, everyone has somewhere to go.

This might be the typical pattern, but is it inevitable? What are the costs of bigger and better church programs for every stage of life? What is the pastor’s role in relation to the members?

It’s popular for evangelicals to say every member is a minister. But Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller discuss in this video whether that idea truly reflects Scripture and the best interests of the church. Indeed, Horton argues that the office of the ministry is in trouble. Watch the video for his explanation why along with responses from Keller and Chandler.

  • Todd Capen

    Good example of listening well by all three. Love the less program-driven approach.

  • Don Sartain

    Excellent discussion. So glad to have Pastor Matt on the council now! Very grateful for his service and leadership to us at The Village as well.

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  • Reg Schofield

    I could listen to these three men all the time. The grace,wisdom and honesty they share is so awesome to witness.Plus I totally agree with less programs driving the Church. I have witnessed fathers and mothers who barely know their kids because they were always attending a “Church program” or outreach “program”. I think what Dr.Horton has been preaching about just being salt and light where God has placed you , is so refreshing and liberating . In an ironic way it opens up ministry opportunities to your wife and kids, friends and neighbors .Great discussion.

  • Robert Barnes

    I think these three gentlemen have been bugging our elder meetings at Dayspring Church. We’ve been discussing this problem and solution. Rather than being perceived as being against the general office of believers/priesthood of the believer, would it be better to encourage such, emphasize such, but within spheres of sovereignty? The father is the king and prophet and priest in the home, not the church, and so forth?

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  • Rodrigo Freitas

    I see a great hope in the churches there are based in small groups. Not the churches that just have small groups, but those which their main DNA are the groups. I testify of some people here in my country that live church this way without compromising the doctrinal deepness, nor biblical preaching. Where “everybody is a minister” can be said without loosing the authority of the pastor, and without loosing the “pastorship”. Here is an example, just if anybody want to have more information with the people there:

  • Bill

    These types of video clips are great. Out of curiosity, where do these men meet to record these conversations? And if they’re flying to a central location, why are the clips only ten minutes? I’d love to hear them discuss these topics in greater depth.

    Regarding this topic, I think this is a good discussion to have. I’ve grown up in program-focused churches. Even today, when I have discussions with people about the reason they attend a particular church, it almost always is related to some program. “They have the best children’s ministry in the area, and that’s very important for our family.”

    Many churches have success building around ministry-driven business ideals, so naturally other churches will follow suit. The hard question becomes: how much of that is okay? If you don’t have a Sunday School program, most families will not consider attending your church. You might even be able to take it up a few levels and attract many in the community by having desirable programs. 9Marks even posted an interview recently regarding “Business Practices in the Church.”

    I would be interested in contrasting those ideas with The Trellis and The Vine models (I think it’s interesting in that Collin Hansen posted this video). I am a big fan of the book. My heart resonates with disciple-making disciples models instead of program models, but can you be faithful to that idea and not alienate families in your community?

    • John Peterson

      To Bill regarding where they were filmed. I’m rather sure these were filmed when these men went to the 2011 Gospel Coalition National Conference (compare Keller’s jacket to the one he preached in)

      As to the length, I’d guess they’re adding short segments to this site on a set schedule to make them last until the next conference.

      • Ben Peays

        We record these videos every year when all 58 Council members meet together. Every other year we are together at the national conference. On the off years, we are meeting together at a seminary for three days of prayer, fellowship, presentation and discussion. We keep these to 10-12 minutes for two reasons–time and interest. We shoot about 50 videos per meeting and time does not allow for longer sessions. We usually shoot for 30-40 minutes with each setup and break it up into smaller, more focused, digestible clips. About 10 minutes is good for keeping most people’s attention. Also, our new TGC app will make these videos easy to watch in a mobile setting. In our experience, streaming more than 10-12 minutes is not preferred from a user experience. Thanks for watching!

  • joy

    I agree with the need for us to be less program-driven. At the same time, we do need to make sure to meet the needs for training and discipleship in the church, teaching new believers, etc. These programs do have considerable value- in their proper places. Where is the line, and how much is too much?

  • Josh

    Sounds great, but what do you do with the kids?

    • Joseph Louthan

      Why not included the kids in the fun?

      God called us to come play. Why not bring kids into ministry? What would that look like?

      • Josh

        I’m all for it but easier said than done in a big bulky 170 year old church.

  • Joseph Horevay

    Good interview, great spokesmen. Is it true that every-member ministry is widely promoted? Frankly I rarely see it…what I do see is a clergy dependent audience who loves Jesus but remains ill equipped to minister. We confuse the function of the pulpit with the calling to equip (Ephesians 4:11-12). People need pastors. In fact we need many more pastors and a more biblical ecclesiology that sees every saint actively pastored. Perhaps the most valuable pastoral function is to equip the saints to experience and walk in the priesthood of believers.

  • Stephen

    I am in the direction of Joseph’s thought above. This video confused me with the fusing of theological terms and practical examples; there was some jumping around and I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say sometimes. I think their main point was that a church really isn’t healthy if it’s demanding its members be at the church 6-10 hours a week when they could be out in their communities? If so, that is a great lesson. Absolutely we need to be encouraging people to infiltrate their surrounding cultures and communities, in fact every single member should be doing such ministry, ie every-member ministry!

    Maybe I’m not as in touch with Christian culture as these guys are (btw, I very much respect all 3 of them), but I honestly haven’t seen a church model where the church members did not look up to the elders for instruction and admonition (at least not since the hyper congregationalism of 300 years ago); instead as Joseph said there are too many where the members sit idly and expect that their pastors will do all the “ministry.”

  • David Wilson

    my question is at the village are there only two people in the water or is the pastor there also?

  • Jesse Kincer

    This is a great discussion, but one that probably scratched the surface. Would love to hear from each of those guys how they “equip” their people to be true witnesses of Jesus on mission to seek out the lost and see them saved thru the power of the Gospel? I’m all for avoiding “programs”, but also see that a “program” can be strategic and not necessarily counter-effective to missionalism (if thats a word).

    Creating cultures within our churches should be the end goal and thus programs can’t be the centerpiece of our strategies to achieve that. At the same time we can’t avoid them altogether.

    Also, the phrase “every sheep is a shepherd” was used in a broad stroke. As far as traditional pastoral care goes, “shepherding” would be a calling/gift (Eph 4). However, would it be true to say that every father/husband is a shepherd of his household? In Titus the older women all called upon to teach younger women.

    I would like to hear this discussion developed more as I don’t think enough time was allocated to truly define their positions. The danger I think Michael was getting to in the traditional church is one that was mentioned in a previous comment; that people see it as only the pastors duty to do “pastoral” ministry, yet we are all “prophet, priest, king”.

    Michael, Tim, Matt PLEASE discuss this in more detail…

  • Justin

    Q: What is the “Great Commission”?
    A: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

    Q: When Jesus “made disciples”, what was he making them into?
    A: “Follow me, and I will make you FISHERS OF MEN.”

    Q: Why is the church utterly failing at making the type of disciples Jesus made?

    Q: Why is the church utterly failing to make disciples who go out and PREACH THE GOSPEL in our culture today?

    Q: Why is the church utterly failing to make disciples who are “ready to give an answer to the hope that lies within them”?

    Answers, anyone?

    I find it interesting that the ONLY biblical examples we see of evangelism is people actually going out and taking the gospel to the unbelieving world. We see no examples of “lifestyle evangelism” or “workplace evangelism”; we see no examples of “neighborhood evangelism”. Every biblical example we see is a made disciple going out and declaring the gospel to a lost generation. (Please keep in mind I am not speaking against workplace/neighborhood evangelism, just pointing out the fact that we have no direct biblical narratives of such evangelism. The biblical narratives we DO have of evangelism we are entirely failing to engage in.)

    Why has the church completely dropped the ball in training disciples to evangelize according to the biblical narratives? Instead of churches training young men to take the gospel into the public square and boldly proclaim the truth, rogue maverick preachers have filled the void, completely tainting the name of Christ and creating a stigma in the mind of the heathen; when they think “street preacher”, an unbiblical image is immediately conjured up in their mind. Since the church has stopped producing fishers of men, Satan has instead produced them in order to harden people to the true gospel. We now have Palagians and Arminians who dominate the open-air landscape. We find ourselves in a conundrum that we ourselves have created.

    So I ask Dr. Horton and Mr. Chandler and Dr. Keller, why are we ignoring the ONE PROGRAM we have been biblically mandated to institute; namely, MAKING FISHERS OF MEN? It seems like the only valid open air to preach in is overseas, and even then, half the American missionaries we are sending are doing nothing of the sort.

    My question is this: How can the church get back to the basics of making disciples the same way Jesus made them? How can we make fishers of men who storm the gates of hell and take the gospel triumphantly to the unbelieving world?

    God bless,

    • Brad

      Hey Justin!!

      It seems to me that the church is NOT failing. I think it is succeeding in America and all over the world. My only evidence is that I see a lot of new churches being planted and the gospel being preached and a lot of people becoming Christians. I also see and hear about a lot of people whose lives are being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus. Plus, Jesus said that the church will never fail, it will always succeed. Nothing can stop the church, not even hell. If we think that the church is not winning, then I think we don’t believe what Jesus said.

      I was wondering why you think that the church is failing?


      • Justin

        Hi Brad,

        Thanks for your comments. We clearly disagree :). But that’s okay. I would like to address your points individually, if you don’t mind.

        You said: My only evidence is that I see a lot of new churches being planted and the gospel being preached and a lot of people becoming Christians.

        Personally, I do not see “a lot of new churches being planted” as evidence for anything. A vast number of churches I see being planted are seeker-driven, self-help type churches. Churches where the gospel is NOT preached biblically.

        Also, where do you see the gospel being preached? In the churches? That’s fine, but that’s exactly where the failure is occurring; the church in America has completely dropped the ball in preaching on the streets, highways and byways of America. When we look at Scripture, we see the “fishers of men” doing just that–going out and catching fish OUTSIDE of the church walls. Where do you see this happening? Where do you see churches doing this? I see none of it, except for a VERY small percentage of churches being faithful in this regard.

        You say you see a lot of people becoming Christians. Where do you see this? I see a lot of people in seeker-driven churches praying the sinner’s prayer and getting baptized, but these are largely false converts; just look at the statistics. We’re planting carnal churches and filling them with carnal people. This is just a fact.

        You said: I also see and hear about a lot of people whose lives are being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.

        I see it differently. I do see transformation, but I see the church being transformed by the world, not the world being transformed by the church. Of course there are people being saved here and there and being transformed into the image of Christ, this will always happen according to his promise. But how is it happening? Are new people being won to Christ, or are churches merely sheep-swapping?

        That gets to my next point. I do not see lost people, who will never step foot into a church, being evangelized. Fishers of men are not leaving the four walls of the church building and actively storming them with the gospel in the way we see it done in the Bible. Period. I don’t see it at all. Where/how do you see it? Maybe I’m missing something.

        You said: Plus, Jesus said that the church will never fail, it will always succeed. Nothing can stop the church, not even hell.

        What did Jesus say the church will never fail at? That’s right–storming the gates of hell. Jesus said the church is OFFENSIVE and the gates of hell will not prevail AGAINST this onslaught of the gospel.

        Secondly, he never promised it would be successful in America until the end of time. The church in America very well could die. And this is what I’m addressing. And I do believe the church is not winning in America; rather, the world is storming the gates of the church, and successfully transforming the CHURCH. Based on this, you cannot assert I do not believe Jesus; just look at places like China, where hell is NOT prevailing against the onslaught of the gospel. His promise will remain, but it could very well be removed from America.

        You said: I was wondering why you think that the church is failing?

        For one very basic reason. The gospel is not leaving the four walls of the church in the same way we see it done in the Bible. Period. This is not happening. It happens on a very small scale with a few faithful churches who make fishers of men and send them on the streets to preach the gospel. But the church by-and-large has dropped the ball in this regard. Especially the YRR style churches. They’re not doing it either. Unfortunately I think the Arminians have a better handle on this.

        Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thanks for your time.


        • Brad

          Thanks Justin!!

  • Greg Teegarden

    It is an encouragement to see church leaders begin to discuss how we can retract from society-driven church models and get back to being what God has commissioned the church to do. Eph 4:11-13

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  • Matt Hauck

    Great discussion. Thanks for posting this. I’d be interested to hear them interact over something like the paradigm presented in “The Trellis and the Vine”, a recent / popular book that represents a sort of tension with what they’re saying. It has a strong emphasis on people as opposed to programs, yet at the same time I see it as a kind of “erosion” of what they called the special office.

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  • Buck Jacobs

    Please read Acts 17:17. There we see Paul DAILY in the marketplace “reasoning” about the claims of Christ. In reality it is not either/or but both/and in terms of where we should express our ministry. I see it this way, life IS ministry. In the church and when we leave it and enter the outside world. The idea that we can separate our lives into sacred/secular pieces is a poison. We are each called to be Ambassadors for Christ 24/7 and are sent to a specific arena to represent the Kingdom of God. Some are called to lead in the local church, others to foreign missions, everyone else is called to local ministry and equipped to do it by God’s Spirit who selects the gifts they will need. We will never see the world won to Christ until we reverse the contemporary translation of Ephesians 4:11,12 which we have allowed to be practiced as though it read “God has given to the church members to support the professional staff in the work of ministry. The office gifts are given to to the Church to equip US for the work of ministry in the “program” of life in the roles God has given us.
    One definition of insanity is to keep repeating and act expecting a different result. Our model of the church form has been what we received from Europe and we need only to glance over to Europe to see a preview of what we can expect to experience here in America unless we are willing to change. Empty cathedrals used as tourist attractions and a people to whom the Gospel has no meaning. I agree not only that the church can fail but it is failing and will continue as long as the model we are using doesn’t change.

    • Justin

      Hi Buck,

      You said: Please read Acts 17:17. There we see Paul DAILY in the marketplace “reasoning” about the claims of Christ. In reality it is not either/or but both/and in terms of where we should express our ministry. I see it this way, life IS ministry. In the church and when we leave it and enter the outside world.

      I agree with you 100%. But the main thrust of my point is this: It seems churches have “dropped the ball” when it comes to making “fishers of men” who can “reason” about the claims of Christ, both from Scripture and natural revelation, or even do it intelligently from the accepted authorities in culture as we see Paul do on Mars Hill.

      Also, the main descriptions/narrations of evangelism we see in Scripture are men taking the gospel to the streets, religious centers, and markets for the sole purpose of PREACHING the gospel. This is something the church has lost. ALL the church seems to emphasize is “personal, one-on-one, workplace-style” evangelism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that style in and of itself; but if purposeful, evangelistic preaching outside the walls of the church is not being emphasized, then the church is severely dropping the ball and has lost a main biblical means of evangelism. Let’s face it; churches these days are too civilized for street preaching. But instead of shunning it, they should be sanctioning it, training people up in it, and sending missionaries into this lost culture to preach the gospel to people who would otherwise never hear it.

      Thanks for the thoughts Buck, and I agree with everything you said. Thanks for the dialogue.

      God bless,

  • Steve Cornell

    Very interesting conversation. Perhaps a key is not to see it as an either/or. Either programs or …what? Instead, teach people that any context where our lives intersect (whether volunteering in nursery together or in the Church kitchen) becomes and opportunity to encourage one another. If we are just “doing programs” to “do” them, we are not “being” the Church, we are “doing” Church. Should we be more strategic about emphasizing being in the context of doing? Now, if we overload “doing,” with busy fruitless programs, another issue must be addressed. I agree: Simplify and prioritize is the word for the day!

    I also believe we should strategically teach a ministry balance between Hebrews 3:12-14 and 13:17. Although God has assigned watchful accountability as the special responsibility of leaders, Hebrews 3 reminds us that the whole church shares the responsibility. The leaders do not need to micromanage this ministry. Sometimes the people in a Church can provide aspects of accountability that pastors cannot as effectively offer (e.g. a plumber helping another plumber; an attorney encouraging another attorney, etc…).

    Here we learn about God’s intention to use the accountability of Christian fellowship to help believers “hold firmly till the end.” God wants us to be communities of mutual accountability and mutual encouragement. And you don’t need a Church program to do this. Instead, each believer should view it as a personal responsibility — even an essential part of belonging to Christian community. It must be taught and exemplified by the leadership because they are overseers of the Church (Hebrews 13:17). But it must be a dynamic of Christian fellowship in the way each believer connects with others.

    An unavoidable implication from Hebrews 3:12-14 is that God uses the accountability of Christian fellowship as an ordained means for helping saved ones persevere.

  • Billy Hamilton

    Would it not be more Biblical to say that people need pastors. Given that a church is governed by elders (plural) – all of whom are pastors. Is it Biblical to single one man out as pastor and load him with all pastoral responsibilities? Really good to listen to these men.

  • Casey

    Chandler’s exhortation to “study up” on baptism was worth the 10 minute discussion.

    • Brian

      Exhortation or an off-target pot shot? I have yet to see any of the Paedo-baptists on the Gospel Coalition give these kinds of jabs in the midst of a discussion that is not directly related to baptism. I realize that it was all in good fun, but I found it more distracting than helpful to the dialogue.

  • Middleberry

    love this…these are some huge things that they brought up! Intentionality is the key…whatever you do needs a purpose! Never mistake activity for accomplishment! I think we do keep people way to busy to do ministry amongst their friends. But at the same time I think you have to redefine realtionship…most people have now idea how many non-christians they run across in a day!

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