Who’s responsible for a growing church?

Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle has recently come under intense scrutiny for his leadership style and alleged abusive tactics.  He and some others started what is now Mars Hill in 1996.  Today they report that they have 15,000 members.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to remain humble and listen to others if you were the lead pastor of a church that goes from a few people to 15,000?  It would be way too easy to begin to think that you were responsible.  Yet in some ways the pastor is responsible along with a lot of other people.  (Don’t quit reading, give me a chance to explain as I unpack this).  In ways that defy logic, God does use people in the process of making disciples and building His church.  We look at the Bible and see stories about Peter and Paul and James and John and we revere those people.  And we tend to look at effective Christian leaders the same today.  I was bummed when we were at the Village Church in Flower Mound, TX in July and Matt Chandler’s sermon was on video.  He was supposed to be there in person, but needed some rest so they showed a video from him preaching the earlier worship.  I wanted to see Matt Chandler in person.  I was later convicted about feeling that way even though I still wish he’d been there in person.

I said two Sundays ago that Paul was responsible for (arguably) writing 13 books in the New Testament.  I said in the previous paragraph that pastors are responsible for making disciples and building Jesus’ church.  But let me tell you how I define the word responsible.  Paul was responsible for writing what God wanted him to write.  Paul was responsible for going where God wanted him to go to preach and to plant churches.  Pastor Matt Chandler was responsible to lead Highland Village First Baptist Church (which is now known as The Village Church) to where God could use them on a larger level than anyone could have ever imagined.  So are pastors and Christians responsible?  Absolutely.  But our responsibility ends with being obedient to and glorifying Jesus Christ.  God must get credit for the growth.  When the leaders start to believe that good results are because of them, that’s taking too much responsibility.

What has happened to Mark Driscoll is nothing new.  It’s nothing new that people think too much of a leader and nothing new that a leader thinks too much of himself and lets the people down.  And the people who go to church because of him, the people who go to The Village Church because of Matt Chandler, or anyone else who goes to a church (including Wesley Chapel) because of the pastor, must constantly be reminded that pastors are people, too.  A pastor is first and foremost a follower of Jesus going through his or her own sanctification.   (Sanctification is the slow process of becoming more like Jesus.)

I count it a privilege to preach the Gospel.  I know I am responsible for doing the part God has assigned to me to the best of my ability.  And I know when I do my part, God will do His part.  And I pray that as He continues to bless our efforts here at Wesley Chapel, and continues to grow churches here and throughout the world, that I and we will continue to impact our communities for Him, see people saved by Him, and believe His promise that He builds His church and the gates of hell cannot stand against it, as we, His servants responsibly and imperfectly do our part.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:4-9

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