By Aaron Earls
Sticking to a weight-loss or exercise goal can be tough on your own, which is why many people hire personal trainers.
Unfortunately, too many Christians treat their pastors and other church leaders as if they were a spiritualized version of this, whose job it was to yell at them until they felt like reading their Bible.
Personal trainers can help people stay motivated about their physical goals when enthusiasm wanes, but pastors and church leaders cannot and should not play this role for Christians.
Church leaders should work to develop a congregation in which discipleship and spiritual growth flourish and are a natural outcome of being a part of the body.
They should not, however, encourage members to see them as their personal spiritual guide that will always be with them to push them further along their spiritual journey.
Regardless of how practically effective it may be in the short-term, eventually it will bring about dire consequences for the leaders, the congregation, and the church as a whole.
Here are six reasons church leaders shouldn’t be their congregation’s personal spiritual leader.
1. Pride and idolatry take root
Let’s say everything is going great and people feel like they’re growing in your church as never before.
The natural temptation will be to lionize those responsible, which can quickly become idolatry among the people and pride among the leaders.
2. Leaders burn out
Even if things are perfect for a short time, eventually the load will become too much to bear. Leaders will lose energy, focus, and commitment.
The problem you were trying to change will move from being an issue among the congregation to an issue among the congregation and the leaders.
3. The service of other Christians is hindered
When leaders do all of the discipleship and encouragement of everyone in the congregation, that prevents others from stepping up into those roles.
Many will not be able to use their spiritual gifts and others won’t grow as they should, if the same church leaders attempt to be everything to everyone.
4. Law, not love, becomes our guide
With a personal trainer, they want you to stay the course and do certain things simply because you should. That can work for the physical, but it is missing something with the spiritual.
There are times when Christians should simply obey what God has told us, but the goal is to move away from being driven by the law to being stirred by a love for Christ.
5. Motivations are misplaced
Similarly, when a Christian is relying on a pastor to provide him or her with the motivation to grow spiritually, the tendency is to have the wrong motivation.
Others can and should motivate and encourage us, but if we constantly need them to manufacture that for us, something is wrong.
Christians should be driven to obedience and service by gratitude for what Christ has already done for us.
6. The church is weaker
When church leaders take on all the responsibility of disciple-making and spiritual growth within the congregation, they end up with the very thing they sought to prevent—a weak and anemic church.
Leaders are worn down and exhausted. The people are underserved and discouraged. No one is being inspired by Christ’s love to serve. Everyone becomes either too busy or too lazy.
The goal is for an interdependent church, not a codependent one.
In a codependent congregation, the people take no individual or corporate responsibility and instead rely on the leaders to meet all their spiritual needs, while the leaders take pride in being “needed.”
Instead, we need an interdependent congregation where leaders and the rest of the body understand how much everyone needs everyone else and they all encourage and serve one another.
As a church leader, you have many responsibilities to encourage and cultivate the spiritual development of your congregation, but you are not your congregation’s personal spiritual trainer.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.
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