While many pastors and church leaders see empowerment as essential in the church, some seem to have that reluctance and fear of empowering people.
As you read this article, please be aware that I am referring to both pastors and ministry leaders in the church involved in pastoral ministry. As a Baptist, I believe in the priesthood of all believers, and therefore the use of “pastor” or “pastors” in this article does not refer solely to the church pastor but all believers.
I have met and known many pastors who have sincerely devoted time to disciple their members and empowered them to become ministers themselves. The result of empowerment in the church is a dynamic, growing, and productive congregation.
On the other hand, churches with pastors and leaders who don’t empower, stifling instead of enabling members’ spiritual gifts, micro-managing instead of delegating, results in a static, lethargic, slow-growing (if they grow at all) church.
I find this a bit funny but disturbing to learn that some pastors don’t want to empower their church leaders and members because they fear losing their pastoral job.
They fear that empowerment will lead them to lose their work if the church members know how to study the Bible, preach, do pastoral care, pray for the sick, etc.
The fundamental reality of empowerment is that only the empowered person can really empower. As Matthew 15:14 says, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
A Biblical example of empowerment
The Bible has many examples of empowerment. For the context of this article, let’s reflect briefly on the Jethro’s wise advice to Moses in Exodus 18:13-27:
13 The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.
14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”
17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.
27 Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.NEW LIVING TRANSLATION BIBLE
The need for choosing leaders and empowering them
A pastor must consider primarily the empowerment principles that Jethro presented to Moses more than any successful secular corporate examples (e.g. Toyota, Fortune 500, etc.).
From Jethro’s advice, we learned that choosing leaders and empowering them are needed because:
- You’re going to wear yourself out;
- You will wear out the people, too;
- This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself;
- You need to be able to endure the pressure;
Qualities of a good leader
Based on verses 21 and 22, we can list the qualities of a good leader, which are:
- Honest men who fear God
- Hate bribes
- Can handle big and small groups
- Always available
The key to empowerment is TRUST
Moses trusted his leaders to bring major matters before him. He entrusted the leaders to decide the smaller matters themselves.
Like Moses, the pastor must trust the leaders around him. He needs to trust them to do what has been planned. He must allow them to carry the load, making the pastoral ministry task easier.
A wonderful aspect of trust is that the pastor is willing and humble enough to accept his or her inadequacy and learn from the leaders.
It could have been so easy for a proud Moses to shutdown Jethro’s counsel by saying, “I’m the prophet here. I was the one who met God in the burning bush, led these people out of Egypt, etc. Shut up, Jethro!”
Moses is humble. He knows and always aware that it is only through God that he was able to accomplish anything. He trusts and respects Jethro, so he listened and obeyed.
Because empowerment has made the church leadership a shared responsibility, the pastors and their leaders create an atmosphere of learning.
Pastoral ministry should be anchored in faith and trust, believing and following what God has commissioned the pastor to do.
Moses informs the people of God’s decrees and gives them his instructions from morning until evening (verse 16). What a commitment!
Pastors should never see their job as an “idol” that must be maintained and appeased but not done seriously.
Pastors are to serve and shepherd the Lord’s flock. They should not serve nor be enslaved by their personal interests or act as a mere hireling.
The pastor committed to his calling is the happiest person to lead in training and empowering the church members to become leaders.
And in case everyone in the church has been empowered, and nothing is left to be done (which is unlikely), the true pastor will have that strong conviction to trust the Lord God’s leading and provision.
Jethro tells Moses of the benefits of empowerment. He says, “If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace” (verse 23).
Indeed, an empowered pastoral ministry will enable the pastor to endure the pressures and the church members will live in peace.