I was speaking to a friend the other day. He is not a pastor; he is an itinerant preacher and teacher. All his time is simply taken up with teaching the word of God. When I asked him about how his organisation works—its strategic plans for the future, its governance structures and so on—he did not have any clue. He said he doesn’t have to think about any of these things. All he has to do is what he is told to do, which is to preach, teach, train and disciple people.
We signed up to give ourselves fully to the ministry of the word and prayer.
What a dream job! This is why we went into ministry. Like the apostles, we signed up to give ourselves fully to the ministry of the word and prayer and not to be bogged down with endless administrative matters and long boring committee meetings that seem to go around in circles like the people of Israel wandering in the desert.
In the last few months, in addition to my preaching, teaching, evangelism and discipling of others, I’ve also had to think about issues like …
- Communication styles;
- Property searches;
- Audio Visual set up;
- Manpower planning;
- Constitutional matters;
- Cleaning up rosters;
- Working out job roles and responsibilities;
- Compliance issues.
Some of these issues only need a glance over, but others require a lot more attention. But they all float around in my brain and clog up my neural pathways.
Needless to say, this is NOT what I signed up for, but it is also an unavoidable part of gospel ministry. I can complain as much as I want, but it won’t change that. Ministry, like every job, has unavoidable aspects that we need to do.
In my early years of ministry formation, I had the three P’s of ministry drummed into me: People. Prayer and Proclamation. Yet after 30+ years in ministry, I’ve come to realise that there is actually a fourth and often overlooked or undervalued P: Platform. Platform relates to the “trellis” work mentioned in Trellis and the Vine—the structure, programs etc. that support the vine work of actual preaching and teaching.
To put it another way, if we want to preach the gospel, we need a platform to do it. It can be as simple as a soapbox or as complex as a church maintaining its own buildings and denominational responsibilities. Whatever it might be, we need a platform from which to preach the gospel.
Someone might object to this. Can’t we just go out and preach the gospel? Maybe we can, but it’s not so simple. Even a (literal) soapbox in the middle of a bustling city street needs to be sourced and located. You’re going to have to find a place where the acoustics are okay and which location will give you access to the people you want to preach to. You’ll need to investigate whether certain times will work better than others … and if it’s legal to preach there … and if will you need an AV system … and what you’ll do about follow-up.
And besides all this, you’ll need to think about where you’ll get money to fund this and live on. Maybe you can work part-time—great. But what if, by God’s grace, thousands start coming in (as per Acts 2)? What are you going to do then? Will you need a better venue? A building? Suddenly you’re back to fittings and utilities and rent agreements and bank loans and hiring extra staff and managing payrolls and superannuation and housing.
If that sounds too hard, maybe you can do what the apostles did and appoint deacons to manage it all. Great idea. But you still have to work through the governance issues: roles and responsibilities; accountability structures. You will still have to manage your team and keep them happy.
The list goes on and on.
I’m not saying that pastors should be consumed by all these things. Like the apostles, we need to give ourselves to the ministry of word and prayer. When the apostles were presented with a big pastoral issue, they wisely delegated administrative tasks to other gifted lay leaders.
We need leaders who are painfully aware and appropriately equipped to do the fourth P.
But none of this will completely remove your platform responsibilities. And if you’re a solo pastor in a small struggling church in a rural area, you may not have the luxury of delegation. You might be the only one able to deal with the admin stuff.
And even if you’re part of a bigger and more established church, you’ll have other things to look after. You may not have to deal with day-to-day operational matters. But there’ll be bigger administrative issues that will need your oversight. Much of your ministry will be simply about running the church.
We need more and more people going into gospel ministry, but unlike my friend, who has the very, very rare luxury of simply focusing on preaching and teaching and nothing else, most of us will need to manage that fourth P: platform.
We need to raise up leaders who are not simply good in the first three P’s— people, prayer and proclamation. We also need leaders who are painfully aware and appropriately equipped to do the fourth P.
Come to think of it; maybe there is a 5th P—what a PAIN!