The Pastor's Largest Obstacle in Discipleship


Pastors are always struggling to decide how to best use their time. I am convinced that their most persistent daily obstacle is distraction. Pastoring is a type of work that is continually filled with choices. To use our time effectively, we must have a philosophy that guides our ministry and helps us set priorities. We need a picture of what we want to accomplish, something clear enough to us that we can remember it and explain it to others. 

Recently a pastor shared with me a daily mantra he has made as an antidote for distraction, “I am a pastor who is making disciples who make other disciples.” He recites this sentence to himself several times daily, his staff does as well.

Our vision should certainly include preaching, which is a key component of pastoral ministry, but we should broaden it to developing people in the way commanded by Jesus. Pastors have been entrusted with this responsibility, and as Paul points out, “Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2 RSV). But there is a problem. To make trustworthy and faithful disciples, the teacher must first be trustworthy and faithful (See Luke 6:40; 2 Tim. 2:2).

The Struggle is Real

Having served as a pastor and worked with pastors for many years, I know that many struggle with distractions and a boatload of expectations. In response, some prioritize preaching; others try to be good at helping people with their needs; and others run programs or focus on leading staff. The tendency is to become either a narrow specialist or a generalist who does just a little bit of everything.

On top of this, pastoral ministry is often specific and detailed because it focuses on individual people, and every person is unique. Pastors don’t “generally” love people—they minister to specific individuals who have different needs, which requires a demanding level of attention and detail.

Committing to a Specific Way

Finally, many pastors agree that making disciples is a good idea, but they have never committed to it in any specific way with specific people. They delegate the real work of discipling people to others who are often paid less, effectively deciding that this work is just not an essential task of their pastoral ministry.

But all of this reveals a deeper problem. As we have seen, a church’s primary work is to make disciples. So if the pastor is leading the church to accomplish its mission, everything the pastor does must necessarily fall under this primary calling. Let me be up front: I am convinced that not making disciples is sin. And until pastors and leaders come to the point where they see anything other than total devotion to this task as a denial of their God-given calling and a gross sin, real change is unlikely to happen in their life and in their church.

So where does church change begin? In the soul of pastors.

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This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.

Image credit: Unsplash.