The email said, “Mark, we’d like you to address this topic: ‘Are We Training Our Pastors Wrong?’” Now, there’s a good way to alienate yourself from godly men you have served alongside for several decades! At least I was able to add, “Or How Can We Train Pastors More Effectively?” (The link goes to the entire project.)
The article required hours of research. I began to understand that there was a disconnect between pastors and their church members. The Bible created the biggest gap. Biblical ignorance is rampant in our churches. I discovered that pastors often talk about the Bible, but rarely, if ever, tell intact Bible stories. Most Bible narratives only take about three to five minutes to tell, so why not use them? The index of stories listed in the Reese Chronological Bible adds up to 500 to 700 stories, comprising some 75 percent of the Bible.
Before summarizing a Bible story as his text, one pastor in my hearing said, “I don’t want to bore you with the details of this Bible story….” Yet this same preacher told a detailed joke and a longish life story that served his purpose.
Church members have been subtly trained by pastors to tolerate the Bible passages being read in order to hear their pastor’s own thoughts he devoted to sermon development. The random verses used in sermons and Bible studies are often abstract to someone without a broad Bible knowledge coupled with proficient reading levels.
Rather than establish the authority of God’s Word, some pastors unwittingly establish their own authority at the Bible’s expense. Personality cults flourish that generate a consumer mentality among church-goers. The pastor is expected to do most everything, while the church members watch passively from the sidelines. No wonder the Barna Group reports that only 18% of men volunteer in churches and only one in eight men attend weekly Bible study.
Few churches evaluate the quality, but celebrate the quantity of their members. Encouraging small group leaders to not just teach the lesson but make disciples must become a priority. Celebrations must erupt over disciples reproducing the evangelism and discipleship process done with them in the lives of others.
There is a need for deep change. Pastors are usually trained with such high literacy standards that they forget how to communicate with oral-preference learners. And the majority of people in the U.S. only “hear” this way (Rom. 10:17).
- Systemic changes in education mean taking the training to the pastors. Online learning helps some, but I recommend learning on a local level. The Bible Training Centre for Pastors is one curriculum available for a “cohort” to form and study for two years using only $200 worth of study manuals. www.bibletraining.com
- Teaching pastors how to preach needs to change to encompass the oral learning preferences of most people. A list of training is online at my blog. Just look for “Training” or write me to schedule TruthSticks or Workers in the Harvest — or something else.
- Pastors should be teamed up with an accountability coach who can make their worship experiences to be more interactive, communicate in the common language their people use, and humbly lift up God’s Word over their own. Your association’s director of missions is well-connected and can assist pastor-mentoring.
- Pastors must know how to develop different expectations of their members, raising the bar for disciple-making by learning how to coach, support, and empower. Why not model church multiplication within the life of the church?
- Pastors should value Bible Storying as a reproducible method. A tremendous opportunity exists for Bible colleges, seminaries, and others engaging pastors. Training is increasingly incorporating orality methods. Pastors need to experience it firsthand to see the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the Bible conveyed in oral form. And they will be excited to see church members catching it, then sharing their faith and the Bible with the lost in their own community.