William B. Hull is field service director for the Faith for Today television program at Newbury Park, California.


Should a pastor be expected to function as both a minister and an administrator? There are many conscientious pastors compelled to divide their time between these two sometimes incompatible activities. As an administrator, the local pastor is often expected to see that the church bulletin is prepared, the directory printed, the sound system kept functioning, the building kept clean, dry, and warm, facilities constructed or improved, and the Path finders properly organized. He must chair the church board, attend the school board meeting, and promote all the departments of the church, as well as send in regular monthly re ports to the conference. The work of God has suffered because ministers have been caretakers, campaigners, fund raisers, promoters, and errand boys. Only when all these tasks are done can the pastor settle down to study his Bible, prepare the next day's sermon, and minister to spiritual needs.

It was never God's design that the pastor should have to serve as such an administrator, with Bible study, sermon preparation, and soul winning as mere sidelines. Yet that is the way it is!

There are several reasons for this:

1. Church members are accustomed to looking to the pastor as the figurehead of authority in the church, the ultimate answer to all problems. They are content to let him carry the load, though they may at times complain about his inadequacies.

2. The impatient pastor thinks he can achieve his objectives faster if he does the work himself.

3. Conference departments look to the pastor as their errand boy in the local church. This attitude rein forces the church members' view of his ministry.

4. The minister also may accept this view, and regard administrative accomplishment as the mark of success, the key to advancement. Conference departments most often are staffed with pastors who have shown promise as administrators. Further more, having administrative authority leads some to relish the feeling of power that goes with it.

5. Some pastors find it more satisfying to administer than to minister.

6. Though most pastors enter the ministry with high idealism, their concern for duty in church affairs may compel them to neglect soul winning. Many, on the other hand, try unsuccessfully to fill both roles, and then, overworked, frustrated, discouraged, and disillusioned; leave the ministry.

What is the solution to this problem? Our ministers are trained to become Bible students, public speakers, and soul winners. If they are to excel in these lines they must in most cases spend most of their time and energies at it. Who, then, is to do the necessary physical, financial, and promotional work so important to a church's health?

This problem has been with the church for a very long time. Moses exhausted himself trying to deal with all the administrative problems of the Israelites. His father-in-law, Jethro, chided him for attempting to handle so many things himself. "It may be that he [Moses] doubted the ability of his countrymen, who had been slaves all their lives, to serve [as judges]. . . . They did not look to Moses as they had looked toward the judges they knew in Egypt, but considered him as the appointed mouthpiece of God. . . . Since the Lord had not instructed him other wise, he felt it his duty to decide all cases brought to him."—The SDA Bible Commentary, on Ex. 18:13, 14.

Jethro recommended that Moses look for capable, honest people who could take over the mundane administrative duties so that Moses could concentrate on representing God to the Israelites (see Ex. 18: IT- 20). Ellen White comments on this incident: "The time and strength of those who in the providence of God have been placed in leading positions of responsibility in the church, should be spent in dealing with the weightier matters demanding special wisdom and largeness of heart. It is not in the order of God that such men should be appealed to for the adjustment of minor matters that others are well qualified to handle." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 93.

Centuries later, the twelve apostles were called and ordained by Jesus "that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:14). Following His death, they did indeed preach with great success, winning converts by the thousands. But with the converts came problems. Many, cast out of their homes,_and disowned by relatives, needed food and shelter. The crowds of new Christians needed organization, operating procedures, and instruction on how to get along with one another in a new kind of community. Dissension arose among the differing ethnic groups (see Acts 6:1).

The apostles tried to cope with the growing problems, but finally saw that they were riot equal to the escalating task. They had to get help. They called a general meeting of the believers and said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables" (verses 2-4). Led by the Holy Spirit, the apostles outlined a plan for organizing all the working forces of the church, so that they might be free to carry forward the work of preaching the gospel.

As a result of the reorganization, "the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly" (verse 6). "This ingathering of souls was due both to the greater freedom secured by the apostles and to the zeal and power shown by the seven deacons." —Ibid., p. 90.

Can we benefit from the experience of these men of God? If they felt it necessary to cut down on their responsibilities in order to present the Word of God properly, how much more do we need to consider doing so in this day of complexity? Indeed, unless we put some of our duties in lay hands, the work will never be done. Ellen White ob serves, "The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers." —Gospel Workers, p. 352.

If she were writing today, would she phrase it, "Until the ministers join hands with the laymen"? Are pastors encouraging and training lay people as they should? Recently a group of ministers met to talk about developing a team of lay persons to follow up television interests. One of the participants became alarmed and said, "No, you can't do that! You will have an independent organization on your hands that you cannot control." Such mistrust of people can only stymie the work of God.

"The work of God is retarded by criminal unbelief in His power to use the common people to carry forward His work." —Review and Herald, July 16, 1895. "If men in humble life were encouraged to do all the good they could do, if restraining hands were not laid upon them to repress their zeal, there would be a hundred workers for Christ where now there is one." —The Desire of Ages, p. 251.

In the business of the church, too, lay persons may serve on a far broader scale than they do at present. "Too often, ministers have been brought in to carry responsibilities which they were in no way fitted to bear. Lay these responsibilities upon men who have business tact, men who can give themselves to business, who can visit the schools and keep an account of the financial condition, and who can also give instruction regarding the keeping of accounts. . . . Let the ministers act as counselors, but lay not on them the financial responsibilities." —Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 216.

To make it possible for lay per sons to take over administrative functions of the Adventist Church, especially in North America, some fundamental changes in attitudes and structures will have to take place. I would suggest, as a start, that the following four lines of action be considered:

1. The pastor should make it plain to church officers that they are not his assistants, but God's, even as he is. The head elder could chair the board and be an unpaid or supplemented "associate pastor." Deacons and deaconesses should care for the church facilities and visit the sick, the Dorcas ladies should minister to the needy, and the finance committee should handle finances and fund raising. Thus the preacher could fulfill the purpose of his ordination: to study, preach, and train church members to win souls.

2. Every church should have a business manager responsible to the conference administration. In smaller churches, professional business people or some with natural business talents could serve in this capacity without pay. In larger churches, which require more time, the manager could be paid. If the business of the church were done by the laity, the ministers could be free to establish new churches.

3. College curriculum designers should develop courses in church administration. Students who would like to be conference administrators could train for that work and not have to use the ministry as a way to get there. Treasurers could be trained specifically for church business. No ordained minister should be taken from soul winning and placed behind an adding machine.

4. Every theology student should be challenged to think carefully about possible areas of service. Ordination would be commitment of one's life to a particular Bible calling. Ordination was never designed to be an award for achievement, but commitment to a specialized service.

If these suggestions could be put into practice, we would no longer see ordained ministers wasting their time, talents, and training "waiting on tables." The operational details of the church could be handled by some lay persons, others could be learning how to give Bible studies and even evangelistic sermons, and the pastor could be leading them all in a deeply spiritual, intellectually stimulating, and vitally inspirational program of Christian birth, growth, and maturation. Thus the pastor could become what he was intended to be—a minister, not an administrator.

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William B. Hull is field service director for the Faith for Today television program at Newbury Park, California.

May 1978

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