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A church on autopilot?

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–A car can’t drive itself, at least not on our streets — yet. In 2006 Volkswagen showcased a version of the Golf which actually drove itself on a closed track and can reach speeds up to 150 mph. By using radar and laser sensors, the car’s “eyes” maneuvered the vehicle at high speeds around various obstacles. The day may be coming when cars will have autopilot.

Could it be some churches are already stuck on autopilot? Are some pastors and staff expecting the church to run itself? While I hope this is not the normal experience, it is obvious some churches are struggling from a lack of experience and/or resources.

Several reasons may contribute to churches finding themselves in this dilemma. One reason could be church members are not allowing the pastor to lead. Ultimately, God has given the pastor the role of shepherd. The members are to follow their shepherd because he submits to the leadership of the Good Shepherd. When the roles of sheep and shepherd are reversed, problems arise. Another reason could be a lack of knowledge. With the many things a pastor learns in seminary, his church’s particular need might be an area of weakness in his education or retention. It may be the pastor was not afforded the opportunity to attend Bible college or seminary.

In a recent study, LifeWay Research found less than a third of pastors in small churches (running less than 100 in worship) strongly agree that they have a clear plan for their church to move forward. Almost half of the pastors surveyed indicated they didn’t know why the things they tried did not work.

The study also showed that pastors have studied their communities and their communities’ particular needs; they just don’t know how to meet the need. How can a pastor receive help?

Here is where the power of the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program shows its strength. A pastor can receive help through the association, state convention and national entities. Each level provides training events on leadership, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, evangelism and numerous other areas of interest.

Here’s the key:

Pastors must take the initiative to attend and to bring church members to acquire the training. Most state conventions partner with the local association to make additional training available to our churches. Also, LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board offer resources.

Many times I’m asked, “What if I can’t come to the events? I’m bi-vocational. I have to work.” Often, training and resources are available online. Also, your associational staff and state convention staff would be willing to help you through personal consultation or through direct training for your local church.

On other occasions, I’ve heard pastors say, “When I go to a training event, I only get one or two things out of a whole day spent in training.” But that’s not all bad. As a pastor, I tried to find at least one thing I could tweak in my ministry from every training event I attended. I knew there was not one “magic bullet” seminar I could attend that would fix all my problems.

Just as a car can’t drive itself, a church can’t move forward without a pastor or staff willing to lead. A key element to being a good leader is to surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. Lead your people to be a part of the training that is available to you and to your congregation so you may become more effective in your ministry.
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism & church growth team.

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  • Keith Manuel