The Pastor as Discipler and Equipper

The Priority of Relationships

Many pastors have been taught the shepherding model of pastoral leadership. The shepherd is to care for and protect the flock. A pastor is expected to be equally available to the entire congregation and especially present at crisis times in people’s lives. This means the shepherd is a responder to the needs of others — others set his agenda.

An equipper or discipler has a different mentality. He is proactive as to who gets on his agenda. His focus is to expand the number of reproducing disciples and to grow the leadership base of his congregation. The breadth of one’s ministry will only be as expansive as he has self-initiating, reproducing disciples.

How does a pastor deal with this potential clash of congregational expectations between the shepherding and discipling model? If a pastor/discipler meets weekly with a few people, the rumor mill may start to churn. The pastor may be accused of having favorites; of creating a power base from which to operate; or of only meeting with the big givers. Jesus’ public selection of His disciples was His way of giving pastors cover.

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ call of His disciples, it appears that Jesus walked among the larger entourage that had been following Him. From this group He called out those whom He designated apostles (Luke 6:12,13). Jesus was modeling the only way to grow people. A discipler must be with his disciples intimately over time. The pastor is doing what Jesus did.

To be an equipper and discipler, pastors need to meet weekly with people in whom they are investing themselves for growth, maturity, and multiplication. At 6:30 a.m. on Thursdays I feel I am doing what I have been called to do as a pastor. Three men and I open our lives to each other, catch up on the journey of the week, interact with Scripture and the curriculum, share our insights, confess our sin, and confide in each other the challenges of the week. I walk away energized, knowing I have been a pastor. Then when I see these same men take up the challenge to disciple others as a lifestyle, it does not get any better than this.

Greg Ogden, Oak Brook, Illinois

Excerpted from pp. 40–54, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois, 2003).