What Do You Want From a Pastor?

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98 Responses

  1. brian says:

    This is simple, not to think I am trying to get attention all the time and that said pastor does not think I am scum.

  2. Eric says:

    There’s been much talk here and elsewhere about what a pastor is supposed to do. The trouble is that we call the leaders of large congregations pastors, when that’s not always a good descriptor of their role.

    The pastor Baxter describes is the pastor of a small church, or the leader of a home group. For a large church you need lots of them. The leader of a large church is typically a preacher and ministry team leader, not primarily a shepherd.

  3. dswoager says:

    Brian, it is interesting that you put that the way you did. There is a blog that I post at pretty regularly (though it drives me crazy I should stop) that I think feels like it ministers to pastors. One of the prevailing attitudes that I have gotten from those who write for the blog as well as many who comment there (as pastors) seem to think that there is a division within the body. You have on the one hand the pastor who has been called by God for great works of ministry, and on the other are the scum that get in the way of the vision that God has given them. The selfish, needy, lazy, complaining, cowardly nuisances that are constantly distracting him from the great work that God has called them to.

    I don’t think that all pastors feel this way (far from it), but I think that it is an attitude that is being actively cultivated and encouraged. Some of it is structural, as you get larger congregations you end up with pastors being responsible for the care of more and more people, likely more than they can reasonably keep track of. You also, no matter the size, have pastors often being expected to handle a whole host of things that are far outside of their calling. You also have a focus on number based performance which means that the pressure is on to put butts in the seats, your focus becomes evangelistic at best, but also spins out toward trying to figure out how to entertain people, and strategizing growth campaigns, all of which draws pastor away from building up the body and training them for ministry which means you will have more people to take care of (hopefully) but less people equipped to labor alongside you because there has been little focus on discipleship.

  4. I want a pastor who will forgive my sin, preach the word, properly deliver the sacraments and prepare me for my death.

    I once asked my pastor “what is your number one priority?” he answered, “to prepare you for death.” Can’t get more to the point than that! 🙂

  5. Babylon's Dread says:

    I like his hair.

    Get busy living or get busy dying…

  6. EricL says:

    But… but I thought a pastor was supposed to tell the masses how to have a better sex life, how to keep their wife in her place, and then provide untrained medical advice from the well-lit stage. Oh, and make sure the show is first rate.

    Frankly, my first reaction was that Baxter’s examples seemed almost creepily intrusive, which just shows me that I’ve had too many years in churches that had a radically different approach to ministry.

    I like that Baxter keeps the pastor aimed squarely on his area of expertise: the spiritual health of the congregation. Even the apostles realized the need to get away from trying to be all things to all people, which is why they handed things off to the first deacons. Leave off the politics, the pastor diet plans, the pop psychology, etc. etc.

  7. EricL says:

    BD, you are just envious of his “soul patch”. 🙂

  8. mike says:

    I don’t want a pastor.

    Would rather a New Testament plurality of elders and a fully functioning Body of Believers.

    Trumps show offs and megalomaniac any day of the week.

  9. Corby says:

    There are things to consider on both sides of this discussion, those sides being that of the pastor, and that of the individual member of the flock. Michael asked at the end, “Do you want a pastor to “take heed” of you this way?” which is an important question. My initial thoughts, as a former and-about-to-be-on-staff-in-a-mega-church pastor, are these.

    1) One has to take into account the structure of the church (from an organizational standpoint). By the above quotes, Peter, James, John, and there others, were bad pastors in the early church. In Acts 6 the found other people to do certain jobs so that they could stay focused on other jobs. Peter did not know the name of everyone in the church of Jerusalem. It comes down to roles and functions as a church body grows. I think we see these alluded to in the epistles. I think the pastor of a church can still be called pastor, even if he is functionally an overseer and teacher (but not a celebrity).

    2) Branching off of point 1, I’m about to be a pastor on staff in a large church. I’m going to have the care of a certain group of people that, prayerfully, will grow, and then I will need to raise up people to take care of those numbers that I can’t personally care for. The term pastor becomes an issue of semantics at some point as a church grows, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    3) When I was the pastor of a church where I knew everyone by name, when I tried to care for people as described above, they did not take to it well. People wanted encouragement, teaching, but no correction or gettin’ all up in their business when they were making bad choices. I had one husband/father who was frustrated that his kid’s sports activities took so much of their time and money, to the point where they could not be involved beyond Sunday and gave nothing to the church. When I made the simple observation that they had a choice in the matter and they they should consider making a different choice, there was much indignation, how dare I, “we prayed about it” (uh huh, God told you to give your with to the sports).

    4) Building on number three, most Christians don’t want to be pastored in the way described in this post. In fact, if I may be so bold, this blog (and others) has contributed to the difficult process of pastoral oversight in people’s lives because of the pointing out of abuses in ministry. I’m not saying that these abuses should not be pointed out. I’m saying that the abuses have caused a reaction to the point where people a coming into churches with an eye toward finding abuses of power, and that’s it. The ODM blogs have caused people to come into churches with an eye toward finding false doctrine, and that’s it. I had several people, over the years, for seasons, who would come in and stay for a time because I didn’t abuse power, or stay for a time because I had safe doctrine, and that was the limit of their interaction. The problem was that people now come into a church with the mentality that says, “I will let you lead me in these areas and teach me these things, and that’s as far as you go, buster.”

    Church leaders are supposed to lead people. That means teaching, rebuking, correcting, and exhorting among other things. Can that be abused? Obviously. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done correctly and Biblically, because it can and we should strive toward that. Can a church grow to the point where one person can’t do it all, and potentially become a personality? Again, obviously. But that doesn’t mean that a church shouldn’t adopt the structures given to us in the word with the right hearts all the way around to accommodate that growth.

    In my church we had what we called leadersheep (leadership) and membersheep (membership). We’re all sheep under the same Great Shepherd, but we have different roles. When we function in those roles rightly, the Spirit has room to play. That’s the goal. Just because it’s done badly doesn’t mean it can’t be done rightly. It can be. Pastors/Leaders need to learn rightly. Flocks need to learn how to follow rightly.

    OK, I’m rambling. What I found in ministry that was the most frustrating was the old adage “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” turned out to be, in many cases, “You can’t even lead a horse to water, and if you can, they prefer lemonade.”

  10. dswoager says:

    Mike, I don’t think that you have to choose one or the other. Ideally a pastor should function in the body as an elder and among a plurality of elders. What EricL said above about focusing on their area of gifting is key. I think that most of the things that we bristle at when we think of a pastor deal with unbiblical concepts that have been added to the pastoral gifting itself.

    If anything, I would like a pastor rather than whatever it is that is heading up most of our congregations.

  11. Babylon's Dread says:

    Honestly I do not want Richard Baxter as my pastor.

  12. Alex says:

    I’d like a pastor to be accountable, honest, not a narcissist, not rich from selling the Gospel and Jesus for greedy gain, not a child abuser and someone who treats people as equals and with mutual respect.

    In other words the opposite of some of my experiences.

  13. Sinner and Saint says:

    BD – hahaha

    At this stage of my life I would not respond well if Baxter/pastor showed up at my house and started getting in my business…I wish that wasn’t the case but it is.

    I want (and would want to be if I ever do it again) a pastor who consistently points me to Jesus and his finished work. That is, he makes Jesus the hero…not himself, or a flawed Bible character. Nor does he try to make me the hero by failing to distinguish law and gospel.

    I’m with Luther here…I don’t want a theologian of glory, I want a theologian of the cross.

  14. mike says:

    B D
    Amen and ditto.
    …. Good freaking luck with that one. Lol.

  15. Steve Wright says:

    A minister is not to be merely a public preacher, but to be known as a counsellor for their souls, as the physician is for their bodies, and the lawyer for their estates
    It is no accident that these two professions were used in the illustration because theology, medicine and law were the three areas of study for higher education in those days.

    I think it is imperative to recognize that the pastor of Baxter’s day would be almost certainly the most educated person in the entire congregation of most small towns and likewise a large portion of the church would be without much more than a few grades of school as a small child – many would be illiterate. Most would be working the land.

    A very different world…

  16. Captain Xthian says:

    One pastor here spent 13 years, along with his wife, sitting in the front row of Greg Laurie’s Harvest Church.

    They left Greg’s church because they felt that he was not really a pastor per say to them.

    He hardly knew them after all those years spent in the front rows.

    I hope this pastor and his wife are more pastoral to their flock than they found Greg to be.

    Anyone who has ever observed Greg knows he takes off as soon as he is done performing his pastoral duties as it were.

    Greg is more of an excellent teacher/evangelist than a pastor.

    Tom Stipe once made a comment that he didn’t feel he was getting “pastored” by Chuck Smith so he attended John Wimber’s Vineyard Church where he felt he had found a pastor.

    They wanted a pastor to actually pastor them.

    The point is that it really is hard to perform as a “pastor” in a large venue such as most men in ministry tend to build who are called to be in the front of people.

    A home study group is a perfect place for ultimate pastoral care.

    There used to be a home fellowship in Newport Beach California called the “Resurrection Fellowship.”

    Their format was, (in this order):

    * Fellowship

    * worship

    * teaching from the Word of God

    * then more worship

    * a time of exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit

    * then anyone with need was allowed to sit in a chair in the center of the room, called the Love seat, and everyone would gather around them and minister to them and lay hands on them and pray over them after anointing them with oil.

    The Body of Christ would bring forth prophetic words that included wisdom, knowledge and understanding, along with loving words of compassion.

    There were many verified physical healings as well as spiritual healings that would transpire.

    I don’t believe the fellowship would have been as effective as it was in ministering to the Body of believers if it was a large venue.

    It’s success in ministry was it’s compact size.

    People got to know each other in a deeper way, the brothers in ministry were able to oversee the flock more adequately than a pastor who is afraid of being tied down by the people because he has become such a celebrity mega pastor.

    People were not opposed to opening up while sitting in the Loveseat.

    Many times healing tears flowed freely as the person being ministered to by the Body of Christ shared their hearts pains as they sat in the love seat.

    The Resurrection Fellowship was the perfect body of believer’s fully functioning in government of a New Testament order.

    The love of Christ was very evident among the attendees.

    There was such growth and maturity in the family of believers who came together every Friday night.

    Pastor Chuck Smith, to his credit, knowing full well what a home fellowship is like, constantly encouraged his flock to get involved in one.

    If you have never attended a home fellowship, you really should seek one out and give yourself some time to get to know the people and for them to get to know you.

    You would be totally amazed at the difference between “Church” and intimate home fellowship with other Christians.

    The Body of Christ originally started out in small intimate gatherings of Christians before it dissipated into the large watered down Church formats of today.

    It truly is hard to be accountable when you are just another unknown face in the large crowd of a mega Church.

    You really don’t get personalized ministry for the most part in a mega church setting.

    Home fellowships that you commit to are the finest places to get personal ministry and loving care from people who know your name and know your situations in life.

    Think about adding a home Fellowship to your “Church” going.

    Christians grow healthier and enjoy a better quality of Koinea when they know each other on the basis of seeing each other in the small home fellowships.

    When you sit in the Love seat, the Body ministry is very personal and much more fine tuned to your ministry needs because everyone knows you personally and draws from the Lord on your behalf.

    The prophetic flow is unlike anything you could ever get in a mega church environment.

    No one gets rich from the offerings, which are only used to buy the coffee and snacks for the time of fellowship.

    And there are no super stars, everyone is equal and enjoys being in fellowship with one another.

    I really can’t describe how good it can get in a home fellowship when it is done in the format that the Resurrection Fellowship followed.

  17. Sinner and Saint says:

    Great point Steve.

  18. Captain Xthian says:

    I forgot to add that John Wimber called home fellowships “Kinships.” The Vineyard Church has a lot of Kinships that are every bit as good as the Resurrection fellowship was.

  19. Michael says:

    Baxter also encouraged pastors to personally catechize people in their homes:

    “It will show men the true nature of the ministerial office, and awaken them to the better consideration of it, than is now usual. It is too common for men to think that the work of the ministry is nothing but to preach, and to baptize, and to administer the Lord’s supper, and to visit the sick.

    By this means the people will submit to no more; and too many ministers are such strangers to their own calling, that they will do no more. It hath oft grieved my heart to observe some eminent able preachers, how little they do for the saving of souls, save only in the pulpit; and to how little purpose much of their labor is, by this neglect. They have hundreds of people that they never spoke a word to personally for their salvation; and if we may judge by their practice, they consider it not as their duty; and the principal thing that hardeneth men in this oversight is the common neglect of the private part of the work by others.

    There are so few that do much in it, and the omission hath grown so common among pious, able men, that the disgrace of it is abated by their ability; and a man may now be guilty of it without any particular notice or dishonor. Never doth sin so reign in a church or state, as when it hath gained reputation, or, at least, is no disgrace to the sinner, nor a matter of offense to beholders.

    But I make no doubt, through the mercy of God, that the restoring of the practice of personal oversight will convince many ministers, that this is as truly their work as that which they now do, and may awaken them to see that the ministry is another kind of business than too many excellent preachers take it to be.

    Brethren, do but set yourselves closely to this work, and follow it diligently; and though you do it silently, without any words to them that are negligent, I am in hope that most of you who are present may live to see the day, when the neglect of private personal oversight of all the flock shall be taken for a scandalous and odious omission, and shall be as disgraceful to them that are guilty of it, as preaching but once a day was heretofore.

    A schoolmaster must take a personal account of his scholars, or else he is like to do little good. If physicians should only read a public lecture on physic, their patients would not be much the better of them; nor would a lawyer secure your estate by reading a lecture on law. Now, the charge of a pastor requireth personal dealing, as well as any of these. Let us show the world this by our practice; for most men are grown regardless of bare words.”

    I couldn’t agree with him more…

  20. Jim says:

    “Do you want a pastor to “take heed” of you this way?”

    Mostly good thoughts from Baxter. The book was popular in my former denom, and since power corrupts, you can do the math.

    I’d rather a couple of friends “take heed” of me in some way.

  21. covered says:

    Shepherd is a good word. We all have an example and a Chief Shepherd. I hope that He can forgive what we have done with His Word and His flock. Rock star, celebrity, entertainer, drug addict, adulterer, abuser of children and of others is not what He intended. I think it’s simple and it’s to love and shepherd those He puts in front of us.

  22. Michael says:


    There is potential for abuse here and it’s chilling when groups like your former denom take this model and run it to hell.

    I think Baxters principals are rock solid, though.

  23. Michael says:

    “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
    (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

    You can’t keep watch over the souls of those you don’t know…and I surely wouldn’t want to give an account for hundreds or thousands who I never even knew their name.

  24. pstrmike says:

    What I want from a pastor is honesty, genuineness and a heart without greed.

    In my morning meditation, I was think about the conversation on one of the other threads where Dread and mld pointed out that the church is nothing more than an expression of a free market society. I found these observations by these two men striking, considering their backgrounds. I could not argue with their observations as they seem accurate on to me.

    In my own assessment, what I feel they are identifying is that the modern church is an expression of modernism with a foundational philosophy that really has more to do with Machiavelli and Hobbes rather that with Jesus Christ and His apostles. If such an ethic is so prevalent and supported within the ranks of pastors, why should we be so surprised when we find out that they are taking the best share for themselves?

    Lakota Sioux people have a name for that : wasichu, meaning one who takes the best meat for himself. It is a derogatory name for white people, well earned I’m afraid for their greed and injustice in dealing with First Nations people.

    I was particularly intrigued by Dread’s observations in that he is a charismatic. In a very real sense, he is saying that the construction of a successful church really doesn’t have as much to do with godly ethics of humility as it does acquisition. Such realities create a battle within my own soul that confirms my inner suspicion of anything charismatic and supports the reason why I have let go of almost every tenant of Pentacostal theology.

    In short, it has been a long time since Holy Fire has fallen. What we have in its place is strange fire. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. Have we reached that place where all we can proclaim is vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecc. 1:2)?

    What I want from the church are congregants who are honest, genuine, and without greed.

  25. Michael says:


    Good stuff…I will be thinking about “wasichu” the rest of the day…great analogy.

  26. Charles says:

    I want mine to be open and honest with me, keep his books open and honest, to teach me and to be able to know my name and my wife’s name.

    And to prepare me for guiding through this life and beyond.

  27. Captain Xthian says:

    Baxter had divine revelation!

    Is it any wonder some of todays large Churches have never mentioned his name?

    He would be told to go and start his own church if he was not in agreement with “in statu quo.”

    I am blessed you brought him out here Michael, he is my kind of pastor.

  28. dswoager says:

    Pstrmike and Captain Xthian, really appreciate what you brought to the table, good thoughts.

  29. Richard says:

    Nothing like idolizing the family.

    Today I think we’d broaden the term. And “the master of the family”? Seriously?

  30. Michael says:


    Thanks…this model is pretty much what a small town pastor does.

  31. Captain Xthian says:

    “Calvary Chapel wasichu.”

    Well not really, there are quite a few CC pastors like Steve Wright who remained untainted by wasichu.

    They are an example of the spiritual chef who prepares the meal and delivers it amazingly fresh and hot to their people before partaking of what is cold and left over for themselves.

    That is the pastor I like.

    Not a hireling who leaves at the slightest point of contention…and the flock is left without a shepherd.

    Fresh tasty, piping hot, revelation from the Word of God, labored over by a pastor who loves to loyally serve his flock selflessly.

    His reward shall be great of a certainty!

  32. I want a pastor for what I stated in my #4.

    Now, if I want someone to get into my life (because my life is made up of so much that is not spiritual) – I’ll take someone like Tommy Lasorda – who, while teaching me to live right and help others, will still daily remind me of the Great Dodger in the Sky and to remind me to bleed Dodger Blue.

    Back in Baxter’s day, everyone in his church probably live in the same half mile square, went to the same school and market and many probably worked together. He could wander into a field and talk to a farmer at mid morning – where he wouldn’t get past security at my work.

  33. Francisco Nunez says:

    Regardless of whether a shepherd is reformed or Arminian, the office of pastor is first and foremost relational and functional, not simply a platform. A man could very well have a so called successful platform ministry with a large audience simply because he is a great communicator, yet that role and function is not the same as a the office of pastor as defined by Christ in John 10:11-14 and by Peter in 1Peter5:2-3.

    In modern day evangelicalism we’ve seen folks who have tried to redefine what success in the ministry is with sheer ministry size and numbers. We have many folks today who have large platform ministries via radio or television and their audience may very well refer to them as “pastor”. Many of these men have an ability to entertain their audience but by definition they are not carrying out the relational and functional roles of a shepherd. We can say that in the mega churches of today it is the small group pastors who are actually the true shepherds in these fellowships because they are the ones who are caring for and discipling the members of the flock. Let’s not forget that it is the shepherds who know, feed, care for ,correct, exhort, and most importantly disciple the members of HIs flock .That is what Christ and Peter had in mind in their definition of a good shepherd. Finally if the faithfulness of a shepherd is measured only by how large his platform is or a large weekly attendance, then we’ve missed failed to truly understand what a shepherd is and does.

    thinks he’s called as a pastor simply because someone has put him in the positon/role/office of pastor but if he does not carry out the functions or have the relationships of a pastor toward members of the flock, then by definition he is not a pastor.

  34. MLD,

    Can you explain what you mean when you say you want a pastor to forgive your sins?

  35. Hey Piney,
    The short answer – I believe that Jesus has graciously empowered pastors, through their office of the ministry to forgive sin. They become the audible voice of God, so we can actually hear God’s forgiveness spoken in our ears.

    Matt 18:18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

  36. Steve Wright says:

    So I did some research…the largest city in England in Baxter’s day was of course London. Estimated population only 350,000. There are that many people in a very reasonable radius around our church, not to mention if we are comparing to a major city.

    I think what needs to be accepted is that good churches will be large. Already an argument could be made that a lot of pastors in pulpits do not have the skills and education to be there, and if we were to demand multiple church splits to smaller size we would need thousands of new pastors – those denominations like MLD’s that DO require specific educational credentials are in need of new pastors to serve the smaller churches even today (as he has shared)

    I’m assuming we do want a lot of the population in church 🙂

    The answer has already been stated. The importance and need for small group ministries. Home fellowships being an excellent example, but there are other ways for small group ministries to flourish.

    But the senior pastor can’t be the head of all the small groups, nor should he.

    Again, I repeat my earlier comment…a different world. Not a better or worse world (in this church context) just a different one.

  37. Michael says:

    “I think what needs to be accepted is that good churches will be large.”

    I could not possibly disagree more.

  38. Paige says:

    Again, I have no idea of what I ‘want’ from a “pastor”.
    Right now, I’m just pretty much completely afraid of them…. and church, in general.
    As I read and re read the Bible and particularly, the Gospels and NT epistles…..
    I feel like that what I’ve seen as ‘church’ is not really connected to scriptures….
    It is what I call ‘church culture’.
    I love one on one fellowship with other believers, speaking of the greatness of God, the food of the Scriptures and the mystery of prayers, most of which seem apparently unanswered and our utter dependence on Jesus and His Spirit.
    Definitely PTSD as far as ‘church’ or ‘pastor’ goes….

  39. mike says:

    Ptsd from church… Priceless and true of many of us. Thx for calling it out.

  40. dswoager says:

    Steve, I’m not sure that I get your distinction. Wouldn’t the people that would be leading these small groups be acting in a pastoral manner, and thus need to be qualified to do so? If the things that you hear about seminaries placing graduates in pastoral positions is true, you probably do have thousands of even educated people out there that could fill these roles, and that is assuming that you need to have some sort of degree to be qualified.

  41. Steve Wright says:

    I regretted the way I wrote that once I posted. I almost wrote a 2nd post that size does NOT equate to how “good” the church might be.

    I don’t know everyone’s name at our church. I don’t say that proudly, but it is a fact. However, we are not going to close our doors this Sunday to new visitors, and I expect in the year 2015 we will have some people visit us, and stay for years to come.

    I shared my testimony the other day about first to CCCM, then to a smaller CC for a couple months only to leave due to poor leadership (and the guy years later disqualified through adultery) – so went back to CCCM where I not only worshipped but served in small group ministry.

    Surely you don’t think all large churches in America have bad leadership.

    If God leads His sheep (and I think that is without dispute) the reality is, like He did with me way back then in my first year in Christ, then you can attribute the size of SOME (not all) large churches to the work of God.

  42. Michael says:


    I think the model is broken.
    I believe Baxter is consistent with the Scriptures on the role of a pastor even if culturally we would have to tweak the particulars.
    If I am going to give an account for the souls that are in my church I’m certainly going to ‘take heed” to their individual spiritual health.
    The person who goes to church, hears a sermon, and leaves isn’t under pastoral care, he’s attending religious lectures.
    There is some benefit to that, but if that’s the extent of his participation in the Body of Christ he may as well stay home.

    I realize that I have a radical view here, but I believe it is consistent with the Scriptures and the call to make disciples.

  43. Steve Wright says:

    . Wouldn’t the people that would be leading these small groups be acting in a pastoral manner
    My point is that even in the larger churches where the one pastor can’t do all pastoral work for all people, he CAN do a lot of work in the discipling and mentoring of such leaders..who may in fact (as it turned out with me) will be future pastors one day.

    I am very clear that no matter the size, the pastor must still be about marrying, burying, visiting the sick – even if he can’t do so for all

    And as we always say, there is more to the “business” of church and even if the pastor is not involved in business matters, it just does not make sense to me for thousands of independent new small churches to all try and survive, pay the rent, insure the people, PROTECT the children etc. A large church can have many small ministries to do the work Baxter speaks of in the micro during the week, with the large Sunday worship service being the macro

  44. Steve Wright says:

    Michael, with all due respect, while your pastoral efforts very much model Baxter’s teachings and are to be commended, the choices you have made for your church – namely being by invitation only, closed to visitors, and effectively unknown to exist to any who you choose to keep in the dark – is far from what Baxter lived through. There was no doubt where the town church in Baxter’s day was to be found, no confusion on how to visit it. It maybe even had bells to proactively call people to worship.

    We’ve got a big old cross on the side of the building. We come up on search engines and have our own website as well for any of the hundreds of thousands of people in the area looking for a church – and as I said, I believe God guides His sheep.

    But at the end of the day, we can’t MAKE people participate in small groups. And anyone who does want a small church can certainly find one in America. MLD’s denomination has one right down the block. 😉

  45. mike says:

    FIGHT!!!! LOL

  46. Surfer51 says:

    I fully understand Michaels church model. All it takes is a few negative naysayers to quench the Holy Spirit.

  47. JTK says:
  48. mike says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m closer to Michael’s model being correct than steve’s

  49. Jim says:

    I agree with Paige, although I don’t have PTSD. I’ve just lost interest in the modern method.

    The discerning will know who the elders are in a community. Most don’t have a title, and many don’t attend a lecture on Sunday morning.

    I think that we should seek them out, and if we have the stuff, should join their ranks.

    No offense to the pastors here…

  50. Steve Wright says:

    I’m not opposed to Michael’s model at all, and he of all people knows that. I am pointing out that one can’t have conflicting goals – and we live in the 21st century in the USA and not in the 17th century in England.

    Pastors in Baxter’s day often lived on the church. So now the argument is Baxter expects the church to “live” at the pastor’s house? Hardly.

    Churches pay rent. Rent is expensive. There is a reason it is so hard for churches to get leases or mortgages today, because a whole lot of them go under financially each year. Of course, sometimes an elder or the pastor may have to co-sign the contract and assure its payment from his own personal funds. Did Baxter talk about that?

    Likewise, for Baxter’s model above to be followed, visiting people through the week etc. pastors in his day were likely not working 40 hour shifts in a day job. So while obviously not making the pastor rich, there still is a need for a certain amount of support if someone wants a fulltime pastor.

    Rent, salary, and of course there will have to be insurance (the landlord won’t agree with “we are trusting God not to get sued). Will the church have an electric bill? Bathrooms and a water invoice? Maybe a phone?

    Right there it takes a decent number of people if and only if that Is ALL the church does each week. No missionary support. No benevolence programs.

    Like I said, if one wants one thing, sometimes it means the sacrifice of another thing.

    However, what a large church CAN do is to cultivate the importance and development of small, home groups so that aspect is not lost, but so the church can also do a variety of other things that a small church simply won’t have the resources to do.

  51. dswoager says:

    If you are limiting yourself to only the number of people that you can reasonably shepherd, is there really any need to take out a mortgage on a building, or rent out a facility? You don’t necessarily have to settle for a set number of people to stay small either. The way I see it, we should be raising up leadership internally anyway, by the time that you reach a number that is unmanageable, you should hopefully have someone trained up who can take a few people off your hands. As far as paid full time ministers, I think that this could be something that could be taken on a case by case basis. I personally think tht if you strip away a lot of the uneccessary stuff that takes up a pastors time, and empower the people in the congregation to minister to each other as well there might or might not be a need for it.

  52. Michael says:

    I’m not here to sell the method by which I do church.

    What I am saying is that Baxter is right on about the responsibility to care for individual souls.

    My contention is that this is not happening in much of evangelicalism and my question would be how a large church can do so…and why aren’t we even asking that question?

    Part of the reason for this is that we have a grossly biblically illiterate laity that is unable to fill the place of a true elder.

    In Baxters time the children were catechized and by the age of ten or twelve were expected to be able to recite it with scriptural proofs.

    Today we tell a story and hope Jesus doesn’t fall off the felt board.

  53. Michael says:

    “O, happy had it been for the Church, and happy for the bishops themselves, if this measure, that is intimated by the apostle here, had still been observed: that the diocese had been no greater than the elders or bishops could oversee and rule, so that they might have taken heed to all the Rock: or that pastors had been multiplied as churches increased, and the number of overseers been proportioned to the number of souls, that they might not have let the work be undone, while they assumed the empty titles, and undertook impossibilities! And that they had rather prayed the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers, even so many as were proportioned to the work, and not to have undertaken all themselves.”

  54. Steve Wright says:

    If you are limiting yourself to only the number of people that you can reasonably shepherd, is there really any need to take out a mortgage on a building, or rent out a facility?
    I don’t get the question. Who has a living room that can fit 100-200 people? The average size of 90% or so of churches in the USA.

    And in the spirit of my ‘conflicting goals’ message…how healthy is it to the pastor’s wife and children to have even their own home be the center of ministry?

  55. Steve Wright says:

    have someone trained up who can take a few people off your hands
    LOL. I know you did not mean it poorly, but that sure does not sound like the heart of the pastor Baxter is trying to proclaim.

    All the more when one recognizes that “trained up” in Baxter’s day was a very formal, thorough education process at the university level

    But on a practical note, who would I kick out? The people who have been coming for 20 years and we are their home church but they tend to make it maybe 50% of the Sundays? All the newcomers who stayed because they did learn and grow so much under the pastor’s teaching.

    And you still have the problem of needing to basically shut the doors to the public so no new growth possibly takes place.

    Again, our church has a couple million people in a reasonable commute distance to our fellowship. If the Lord wants to bring them, I will not stop that. What I will do is seek to be good stewards, available as much as humanly possible (which so far in 7 years has meant to everyone who has ever asked me) but to encourage community, small groups and the body of Christ working together.

  56. mike says:

    From this grossly bible illiterate layman… that was a grossly insensitive and elitist statement to make.
    And just when I was seeing common ground with you.
    Oh well… I forgive.

  57. I like the way we do Church. A whole bunch of small churches to handle the personal needs and a large synod to handle more global issues.

    In the church we build up the believer, get him all forgiven and fed, then from that start we can prepare and equip him / her for the work of the church (him / her) for the following week. You cannot get a smaller serving unit than the individual working to serve his neighbor. And the cycle starts all over each week.

    The smaller units (churches) work in concord with each other through the synod to work larger and usually intimidating works of mercy.

  58. Michael says:


    Sorry…but it’s a fact.

    The majority of people in churches today couldn’t pass a children’s catechetical exam from the 1600’s.

    If you think we have a well educated laity, go look at the best selling Christian books in the country and get back to me…

  59. dswoager says:

    Your view of the number of people that one person can reasonably shepherd is much bigger than mine. I honestly think that you would be pushing things once you got much past about 20 people. I live in a little cape cod and I could find a place for 20 people.

    And yes I should have known better than to use that wording. By take a few people off your hands I mean that there is likely going to be a logical split within the fellowship that would allow them to separate and do their own thing, and since the fellowship is theoretically built on community rather than any particular address, just because you split a fellowship doesn’t mean that they people in the other one are dead to you.

    I’m sure it is completely naive, but if you have a focus on spiritual growth in your community then people should be equipped to not only facilitate numerical growth, but to fill in the roles that are needed when the number of fellowships grow as well.

    I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but as far bringing new people in, I would guess that a fair amount of them are probably invites even within a conventional church setting.

  60. dswoager says:

    Michael, as far as Biblical illiteracy goes, when I first became a Christian I had an atheist friend who was throwing books at me (I think ti dissuade me), and one of them was Stephen Prothero’s Religious Illiteracy. I don’t remember huge amounts of it, but it did encourage me to not want to be “one of those people”.

  61. Steve Wright says:

    Your view of the number of people that one person can reasonably shepherd is much bigger than mine
    Maybe, but it is based on my experience. We have hundreds each week (not thousands) but if everyone who considers us “home” showed up at once, it would be a lot larger. That is true of all churches..not everyone comes each and every Sunday morning.

    Does anyone think that if there were people asking to see me, speak to me, email me, marry or bury them, that I would take the time instead to spend even a minute on this blog?

    (Our visitors (and we have some each week) are far more likely to not know a soul. They aren’t invited by anyone already at the church. And relatively few of them anymore come because they are specifically looking up a calvary chapel)

  62. London says:

    “I think what needs to be accepted is that good churches will be large. ”

    I don’t accept this at all.
    The size of a church does not necessarily reflect its quality or effectiveness.

  63. Steve Wright says:

    By the way, there is a danger too as seen in past shepherding movements where the pastor felt he should be involved too far in the person’s life and somehow was the one to put God’s stamp of approval on every life decision. I am about as opposed to that as possible and I tell people up front there is no way I will make a decision for them (if it is not something the Bible specifically forbids of course) – we pray and I assure them the Holy Spirit is more than capable of working in them, and not through me when it comes to THEIR life.

  64. mike says:

    My comment was towards the overgeneralization. You’ve explained your opinion. I don’t share it.

  65. Steve Wright says:

    London, I clarified that and admitted that was poorly worded

  66. Michael says:


    Knowing the faith simply isn’t a cultural priority today,even in the church.

    It’s hard work and the television, radio, internet, and all manner of entertainment beckon…

  67. Paige says:

    I recently had an interesting conversation with a trainer from Intel. She teaches, among other subjects, “Succession Planning”. This is a process of raising up one’s potential replacement, since in all likelihood, you will move on, change tasks or out grown the current position. As she spoke further about the subject, I said “You should be teaching this in churches”…. She agreed and also mentioned that many companies should learn as well.

    IMO, some of the issues we encounter with powerful, famous, big name, etc ‘pastor’ types would be lessened if there was a continual sense of being replaceable and being obliged to train a successor. Succession Planning. A very good concept, IMO

    Btw, you already know, Michael that I love that most popular selling Christian book 🙂 While I am not a theologian by any stretch, or a historian, I am “somewhat well versed” in the Scriptures and I still love “Jesus Calling”. 😀

  68. Jim says:


    Your qualification req’s are higher than Paul’s. I think we need more Ephesian elders (or at least recognize those among us), not seminary grads.

  69. Why folks insist on church leadership remaining uneducated, and ignorant I will never understand.

  70. Michael says:


    I’m not talking about needing seminary grads.

    I do believe that you should be able to define terms like justification, expiation, etc.

    We’ve spent the last 120 years in fundamental circles ignoring creeds, confessions, and catechisms while calling seminary “cemetery” and finding it to be high hilarity.

    The bar I speak of was expected of all the laity in centuries past.

  71. Michael says:


    If Baxter found that in your house he’d visit twice a week… 🙂

  72. Jim says:


    I don’t insist on anything but Paul’s qualifications. I’m not against seminaries.

  73. Jim says:


    That’s easy. “just as if I….. ” 🙂

    i understand your perspective. Didn’t mean to derail, and I’m with ya on the heart of a pastor.

  74. Jim, I don’t understand why you hold the Ephesian elders up as some desirable standard in the church – someone once said of the Ephesian elders;

    ” Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

  75. Michael says:


    You didn’t derail…and you’re well steeped in the doctrines of the church.

  76. Jim says:


    I don’t see the elders addressed in that passage.

  77. PJay says:

    I’m appreciating the responses here. Good stuff!

    Baxter began his appeal to other ministers, who, for the most part, were professional clergymen. More specifically, they spent the bulk of their time in an office parsing the Hebrew and Greek in order to deliver a fine sermon on Sunday.
    The pastors of the time were seldom with the people. This powerfully impacted Baxter’s heart. The move to engaging a people in their home was counter-cultural to pastoral ministry of the time.
    Further, Baxter’s heart was moved to compare the work of ministry to the lIfe and ministry of Jesus, the only Senior Pastor.
    Another question to ask, and each of us as ministers must answer…”What Does God Want From A Pastor?”
    When I answer this question, personally, I find myself on my knees and face to the ground…humbled that God would desire to use brokenness instead of success. That God would use the lowly, to shame the wise… we know the rest of the list.



  78. Jim, well that makes it even worse to hold up the Ephesian elders as an effective unit if they have no control over the wayward congregation.

    I always vote against ineffective eldership 😉

  79. Jeff Jones says:

    As a pastor, I aspire to teach as correctly as possible the text God has given me. Give to the poor, and to godly widows. Bear and have compassion with those who hurt. To be a human example of Jesus. ( C’mon now. Whoa.) To pray privately as an intercessor for the needs of each person in my church and to be available to assist them and be with them. Trying, failing at times, learning, growing, all the while being wounded myself so I can minister to the wounded. I have never felt such joy, sadness, pain and healing all at once. God help us all…Mercy Lord. We need mercy and light.

  80. Francisco Nunez says:

    Amen to what Jeff Jones shared

  81. In regards to your response at #35. Got me thinking. It may sound like splitting hairs, but I wonder if I would phrase it as affirming the forgiveness of sins. I dunno, just thinking out loud.

  82. Piney,
    At times I think we are afraid to sound “too Catholic” so we don’t want to say what the scriptures say. Perhaps evangelical pastors think they will look like a RCC priest if they are seen as ‘forgiving sin’.

    ” If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” it doesn’t say “if you affirm the forgiveness of sins”

    I think this is real authority given to pastors through their office.

  83. brian says:

    dswoager thanks, I appreciate what you said, I think it should also be on us as members of a faith community to not expect the pastor to be a magician. It is very complicated to be a pastor.

  84. Linda Pappas says:

    Like Alex, “I’d like a pastor to be accountable, honest, not a narcissist, not rich from selling the Gospel and Jesus for greedy gain, not a child abuser and someone who treats people as equals and with mutual respect.”

    I would add to this that they be trained in domestic violence as well. Or at minimum, understand what it is and what it is not. A plurality of elders and board members designated as such, but not solely by the Senior Pastor. A rotation of elders and board members, deaconess, male and female, not to exceed 5 years, generating at least 50 % of their own income, working at a job apart from the church body, to keep it real with those whom they are serving: first the Lord, and then their fellow brother and sister.

    If a person is called to be a Pastor, then this is their primary role, not being the key, and in many churches, the primary or only person who teaches. There are many who have been called to teach, but not all are Pastors, nor should they be.

    When I see only one “Pastor” overseeing everything, then be showboated as the “main” attraction, I get this gut wrenching urge to scream: Foul!!!!! Man’s Kingdom, at is worse.
    A real Pastor needs to be where their congregants live, not up on stage, and certainly not calling all the shots.

  85. Bob says:

    “When two or more are gathered…” Minimum size to be called “a church.”

    A pastor who actually “tucks their shirt in.”

    One who cares more about what the people get tha what they get.

    Knowledge of the scriptures greater than his knowledge of his church’s traditions.

    Must love Jesus!

    Married and for a more mature church, grown kids, one wife (that is living).

    Leads in giving money. Outside his church.

  86. Linda Pappas says:

    If the congregation is so big that the Pastor has little time for his wife and children, while having to develop and maintain a pastoral up close and personal relationship with the congregation, and if, called to teach, to do this as well, then it is time to add another pastor to also provide pastoral care and if called to teach, as well.

    Why in the world there is not a rotation for the Pastors in the church is beyond my understanding. So, the Pastor is covering a certain book in the Bible, fine. But when it’s over, step aside and let another teach behind the podium. Sure people are going have their favorite, yet this is far better than worshipping the wrong person and being more active in searching the scriptures, themselves. So when the series is over, turn up the time in spending time walking in the shoes of the congregants. Cleaning toilets and hanging outside of the fish bowl, is a wonderful task to take on when learning about one’s brother and sister.

  87. We have 2 pastors, a Senior and an Associate. They alternate every other week preaching while the other handles the liturgy.

    Surprise of all surprises they each get a Sunday off each month so they can have a regular weekend with the family..

  88. Captain Xthian says:

    I like what you said Linda Pappas.

    The Early Church allowed everyone to interact and to share their revelations about the Scriptures.

    Some of the participants stood out more than others but all got involved.

    It wasn’t until Constantine that the “everyone shut up” while I speak model came along.

    Most synagogues today still operate the way the early Church did, where everyone gets to discuss the matter at hand with no one taking supremacy over another in the on going conversation.

    Some men are drawn to the spotlight and perform well there, but I don’t think God intended it to be like that.

  89. Pineapple head says:

    MLD, I just wonder if John 20:21 is speaking about forgiving person-to-person sins as opposed to forgiving sins between God and person The verse seems, to me, mirror Matthew 6: 14-15
    14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
    15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  90. pstrmike says:

    “It wasn’t until Constantine that the “everyone shut up” while I speak model came along.”

    Constantine gets the blame for so much…..

    There is evidence that one central speaker in church meetings became the norm quite early. The trend toward bishops began in the era of the Apostolic Fathers (which end about 150). Some things to consider.

    First, although 1Corinthians gives us an outline of how to conduct meetings, there were done orderly.

    Second, most early congregations patterned their meetings after the synagogue. It was orderly, with one main teacher, although others would speak or read.

    Thirdly, Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd century) wrote seven letters to different churches while he was being transported to Rome to be executed. He addressed 6 out of the 7 letters “to the bishop” at a particular church. That implies a single leader who oversaw the affairs of the church. Interestingly, the only church he did not address to the bishop was the church in Rome. Ignatius fosters a three fold system of deacons, elders and on overseeing bishop. Most churches that claim a Pauline origin had a twofold structure of deacons and bishops.

  91. Pineapple head says:

    If a pastor says to me, “I forgive your sins,” I’m leery. If he says, “Your sins are forgiven,” I’m good.

  92. Piney,
    I think there is a big difference between the two. In the Matthew passage, the disciples are new at this Christian stuff and Jesus is teaching them – in this case a Christian is to forgives his brother 100% of the time … as you said person to person, and I think that is clear in the passage.

    The John 20 passage comes after 3 yrs traveling and learning from Jesus and he is now commissioning them to be the leaders of this new church, and as the leaders he does give the pastors / apostles special functions. It does not seem that this is a person to person experience as Jesus seems to tell them that there are circumstances where their sins are not to be forgiven and should be retained. If this we a retelling of Matt 6 he would have to give the warning again and we don’t see that.

    This (John 20) does appear to be bigger – man’s sin against God.

    And then you have this part “if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” – if this were brother to brother and I came to you and asked forgiveness does that mean by your refusal that I still remain in my sin?

  93. Piney,
    I think there is a big difference between the two. In the Matthew passage, the disciples are new at this Christian stuff and Jesus is teaching them – in this case a Christian is to forgives his brother 100% of the time … as you said person to person, and I think that is clear in the passage.

    The John 20 passage comes after 3 yrs traveling and learning from Jesus and he is now commissioning them to be the leaders of this new church, and as the leaders he does give the pastors / apostles special functions. It does not seem that this is a person to person experience as Jesus seems to tell them that there are circumstances where their sins are not to be forgiven and should be retained. If this we a retelling of Matt 6 he would have to give the warning again and we don’t see that.

    This does appear to be bigger – man’s sin against God.

    And then you have this part “if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” – if this were brother to brother and I came to you and asked forgiveness does that mean by your refusal that I still remain in my sin?

  94. brian says:

    For what its worth thank you all for your support.

  95. Bob says:

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects — education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects — military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden — that is what the State is for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.

    In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose

    Good and worthy quote, worth posting over and over again.

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