By Daryl Crouch
Pastors are measured by the progress of our church, but what happens to our daily schedule if we move from the question, “How’s your church?” to “How’s your city?”
In Acts 17, we find the apostle Paul in Athens. When looked around the city, he became “distressed when he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). He responded by not only teaching in the synagogue, but that he engaging with people in the marketplace every single day.
Paul sensed a responsibility to not only teach the gospel to those who were near to God, but to build relationships and to engage in gospel conversations with people who were far from God.
His daily priorities included spending time with all kinds of people including religious leaders, philosophers, marketplace leaders, and politicians.
So how do local pastors both lead our church and love our community well? And how does this calling inform the pastor’s leadership priorities and daily schedule?
1. Rediscover the lostness of your community.
The best information available suggests that almost 80% of the people in the Southern (formerly Bible Belt) city where I live have no connection to Jesus or to a local church.
That reality alone not only grieves us for lost souls, but also helps us better understand what pervasive lostness means to our community.
Lostness infects the cultural DNA of any community. Absent Spirit-filled believers living on mission with Jesus, a community will soon be filled with personal hopelessness and family dysfunction that lead to crippling pockets of vulnerability such as addiction, poverty, and crime.
When Jesus looked over Jerusalem, He wept over how spiritual darkness enveloped the city, blinding the eyes of image bearers to the peace of God He had come to provide.
So as a local church leader, I must become a missiologist in my own community. Each week, I connect with people not just to invite them to church, but to ask them questions, listen to their personal stories, and pray for them and for our city.
In the process, I learn to care deeply about the things my neighbors care about.
2. Reevaluate how your church measures success.
We often view church success in terms of Sunday attendance, baptisms, and giving. Those are important metrics, but they aren’t the only ways to measure progress.
For example, our church is now asking questions like: Are there fewer lost people in our city today than five years ago? Are there more gospel-centered churches in our city now than there were 10 years ago?
How many church members are actively engaged in reading programs at the school, coaching city league sports, or regularly serving first-responders?
If we gather for worship on Sunday and send out disciple-makers to live on mission with Jesus throughout the week, perhaps we should equip, expect, and then evaluate progress in both gathering and sending.
3. Rewrite the pastor’s job description.
Pastors “shepherd the flock” (1 Peter 5:2) and “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). As church leaders lead and equip believers to make disciples, we will inevitably lead them to be a good neighbor and engage the city in pockets of vulnerability where sin is wreaking havoc.
So as a pastor, a central part of my job is to lead my congregation to serve our community in way that puts church members in a position to show and share the gospel—away from church property.
That means I build genuine relationships with community leaders, I champion community initiatives, and I equip believers to serve the most vulnerable among us.
The responsibility to love our community does not distract from my responsibilities to preach, lead, and care for the congregation. Instead, it reframes these responsibilities in a way that mobilizes the church to live for Jesus’ kingdom in every domain of our community.
4. Realign priorities that will lead to community transformation.
When we see the depths of sin’s influence on our city and embrace our calling to make disciples of Jesus wherever we find people, we then realign our church priorities, calendar, and budget to serve our city well.
Church members care for one another through the small group ministry and we keep organizational meetings to a minimum, which then allows all of us to focus on loving God, loving one another, and loving our neighbors.
So as a pastor, my priorities often take me away from the church office. They put me in meetings with people who will most likely never attend my church.
They challenge me to share ministry with other faithful men and women. And they reflect our church’s generous commitment to love the community as we become the neighbor that stops and helps.
DARYL CROUCH (@darylcrouch) is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.