A Layman Speaks

Let it be understood that we laymen hold our pastors in the highest regard. We love you and we want you to be happy in your work. We don't want you to develop heart conditions or nervous breakdowns. We don't want you to become discouraged with your ministry or get the feeling you are not appreciated. We want you to have the time to generate high and lofty thoughts, to prepare helpful sermons, and to perform good and noble deeds. . .

We Love You and Want to Help—But

Let it be understood that we laymen hold our pastors in the highest regard. We love you and we want you to be happy in your work. We don't want you to develop heart conditions or nervous breakdowns. We don't want you to become discouraged with your ministry or get the feeling you are not appreciated. We want you to have the time to generate high and lofty thoughts, to prepare helpful sermons, and to perform good and noble deeds.

There is no doubt but that the lay leaders can be of greater help to you. Ability we have in abundance (I'm generalizing, of course), for I find that some lay leaders have performed almost all the duties of a pastor including the preparation and delivery of the sermon. The key is getting the cooperation of a group of people who are free to refuse you.

We are quick to pledge our undeviating devotion to the cause, our undying allegiance to the church and its programs, and this we did at Gearhart. "All that the Lord has commanded we will do." Sound familiar? But we all know what happens when we get a few miles and a few weeks away from our pledge. Perhaps the battle is not entirely lost, for at least we recognize our weakness. We recognize too that our failures increase the weight of your burden.

With this in mind, I offer two simple suggestions generated by the discussions at the seminar.

Pastor, Do You Have a Program?

First, there must be a program. It must be a program acceptable to you, though it might have originated with the General Conference leaders or maybe your predecessor, or it may be a continuing program of the church. If you don't have a definite program that your church is attempting to follow, develop one quickly. Make it a unified church-wide program. Don't use the scatter-gun approach. Integrate all the goals and drives that are expected of you under one heading. The setup that exists in our churches at present is the best approach to unified control, whereby the pastor is the titular head of the church and the head elder and the board of elders under him actually run the church -and its subprograms. All the programs are subordinate to the board of elders and the head elder. This plan of organization exists in theory; unfortunately, however, not always in practice. Too often it results in a debating society among the elders, leaving the pastor with the work that must be done.

Do You Delegate Responsibilities?

The next step, I suggest, is the crucial one and is the place where most of your failures lie. Assign duties! And let each one know how to perform his duty, how his job fits into the over-all program, and what goals are expected of him. He must know if he has succeeded or failed. If you operate under a board of elders, put an elder in charge of each department and make that department his responsibility. If you have another system, make certain someone is responsible and knows for what he is responsible.

When I say assign duties, I mean all the duties. Make sure all responsibilities are delegated. You are the boss of the church and the job of a boss is to be the boss. Once freed of all the trivia of the church you will be able to concentrate on those functions that should be your first responsibility.

I realize I have not said anything new, and that you are going to ask what happens when one of these leaders fails to perform and your overseers look to you for results. I would emphasize that you do not assume those duties. You are not to do the work you are to have it done. This was the feel ing of the lay leaders at Gearhart. If the lay leaders will not do the work, then the work will remain undone.

There was strong feeling that your job as pastor has to do mostly with the heart, not the mechanics of the church. After you have done your part in organizing, assigning, and instructing, then your time should be spent in caring for the spiritual welfare of your members. As you follow this plan you will probably be amazed at the new-found concern of your lay leaders for the well-being of the church, for in the last analysis the condition of your church is determined primarily by the heart condition of its members.

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April 1971

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