Friday, 11 August 2017 10:33

One Horse Church

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Pastor, are you guilty of allowing your church to become a “one horse church”? That’s an intimidating phrase - one horse. It stirs a challenge to our leadership and tends to carry negative connotations. Despite its negativity, I feel compelled to use it because we need to challenge ourselves to recognize and reverse it if it’s happening in our church. Notice I said “we.” I include myself in this challenge.

“One horse” originated in the agricultural field. It referred to a wagon that was drawn by a single horse. Just like a wagon, a church can be led by a single “horse.” There are many situations where the pastor is the only paid staff member. Obviously, in those situations “one horse” would seem to point to the pastor. The “one horse” phrase could be descriptive of a single staff or multi-staff pastor. So, the question becomes, how does the church become a “one horse” church? And who is the horse – you?

What causes a church to become a “one horse” church, led by a single person, namely the pastor? Consider these possibilities.

  • Sometimes the pastor has an emotional need to be in charge. This need is due to insecurity, fear, or similar emotional needs. In these situations, the pastor may be a “control freak” or micro-manager.
  • Another reason is that the pastor feels he must take charge of everything. He controls or leads without committees or any leadership teams.
  • Another reason is that the pastor may not be exercising leadership skills and developing people to serve as leaders.
  • There are some situations where the church people leave everything to the pastor. In these situations, there are many causes: apathy, complacency, lack of passion, hard hearts, past conditioning by a previous pastor, or the present pastor does not encourage people to take initiative.

I could list other causes and I’m sure you can, too. It’s not my intent to be exhaustive. We understand the issue.

So, how can we hitch up more horses to the wagon that is our church? We should be open to several vital truths.

  • We need to remember the church is a body. We find this doctrine throughout the New Testament. The Lord intended for His church to function by the gifts and abilities of all His people (I Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4).
  • The pastor is to be an equipper. If the pastor does all the work he is not fulfilling the role of equipper (Eph. 4:12-16).
  • When the pastor does everything, he is robbing his people of a blessing. Peter (I Pet. 4:10) discusses how our gifts are an encouragement to others. We would not want to rob people of this blessing.

The need to move beyond the “one horse” approach is certainly a complicated subject. Whether the dilemma is due to emotional, church, or leadership issues it will require effort to undo. We owe it to ourselves to reverse this situation. The reversal will strengthen our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It will encourage the people of the church. Last, and certainly not least, it will expand the growth and ministry of the church. In this God will be glorified.

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