Why I Quit Pastoring

I’m not your pastor, and this is not a church.

One Sunday in early 1984, I informed Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay that I was no longer their pastor and that we were no longer a church.

Their church was their microchurch. Their pastor was their microchurch pastor. Were a convention of churches. My job was to equip them to serve in their churches and outside as everyday missionaries.

It started with a promise, “If you are in a hospital due to injury or illness, I solemnly promise that I will not visit you there.” That was because “I’m not your pastor; your microchurch pastor is your pastor.” The lesson continued, “If your microchurch pastor is doing their job, they won’t visit you either; your fellow members will be there for you.”

Equipping for Multiplication

As lead equipper, my weekend job was to equip our members for ministry according to Ephesians 4. My through-the-week job included equipping our microchurch pastors to further equip their members.

If all went well, we could expect several outcomes:

  • A solid volunteer base as members learned to serve one another.
  • We would invade Oahu since our members served as everyday missionaries.
  • Everyday missionaries would disciple people into Christ.
  • Some of those microchurch pastors would plant churches and a few microchurches outside of our congregation—some on foreign soil.

It worked as planned. We teased attendees who didn’t participate in the microchurches. That went, “If you’re here because I’m so good-looking or such a great Bible teacher, we want to welcome you. But please realize that you are a spectator, not a member. Membership works at the microchurch level. We’re glad you’re with us, and please be sure to toss a few dollars in the bucket each week.”

A Useful Tool–But Use with Caution

What started as a joke became a useful tool to drag out a few times each year. Each time it stimulated spectators to get off a chair and into the action.

A few years later, my wife and I, along with several friends, planted Hope Chapel Honolulu (at age 66). We enhanced the script by adding, “If you know my phone number or someone who knows it, you’re probably a member. If not, you are not.” We intentionally had no church office or phone. That saved us unnecessary expenses. It also helped people understand that membership in the body of Christ comes at the cost of functional involvement.

It’s easier to pull stuff like this in a new church than in one that’s been around a while. The lesson here is to see yourself as an equipper rather than a shepherd. When Paul wrote to the church at Ephasus he described five ministry “gifts” as equippers of the saints, not doers of the ministry.

Which are you?

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