How Do Pastors Raise Up Pastors?
WHERE TO BEGIN
9Marks: Starting with day one of your pastorate at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, you didn’t have an internship program. What little things did you start doing to help equip future pastors?
Mark Dever: Taking my sermon preparation very seriously; praying for evangelism and discipling; trying to model that by befriending non-Christians; sharing the gospel with them; befriending members of the church and trying to help them grow in Christ; watching who responds to my work, who picks up on the pattern, and who begins to reduplicate what I do with others; praying in particular for those brothers. That’s a sign that that person should be an elder—whether or not they’re paid.
Also, I took our inductive Bible study on Wednesday nights seriously. As soon as I got here, every Sunday night and Wednesday night I would try to give out a book—a good book—which slowly but surely seasons the congregation with good books. And some of those books, at least, get read. If nothing else, I’m familiarizing the whole congregation with names of authors that are trustworthy and that I think will help them; and they’ll notice other names are absent.
In short, raising up future pastors is done through faithfully pastoring and discipling your church. For a lot of men, this may mean recovering what it simply means to pastor and disciple biblically. Internships programs and the like can be useful for equipping future leaders, but they are not necessary. And if you don’t start with faithful pastoring and discipling, neither internships nor seminaries amount to much.
9M: At the risk of repetition, then, give me a bullet list for the pastor whose church is a long way from being able to offer some fancy internship program. Very practically, what should he start doing right now for equipping future leaders?
Dever: One: Pray that God will honor your congregation by raising up elders for you.
Two: Pray that those future elders could be identified and trained.
Three: Prepare to set aside part of your income and part of your church’s budget to facilitate this goal. Maybe that means helping a young man from a poor family get a good education, maybe even just at a bachelor’s level.
Four: Prepare to set aside your time and your church’s time for this purpose. For example, from my fifth or sixth month at this church, I would have laymen who were leaders in the church preach on Sunday night. And then I would take personal time to give them reviews. This gave them a taste and taught them about preaching.
Five: Read Robert Coleman’s old 1963 classic Master Plan of Evangelism. It’s really not much of a book on evangelism, but it’s a great book on discipling. It simply calls us to follow Jesus by pouring our lives into a few men—three, twelve—and realizing the power of doing that. We tend to think that addressing meetings of several hundred people is always the best way forward. And there are certainly times to do that. Our Lord addressed large meetings. But that’s not all he did, and probably not the main thing he did.
BLOKES WORTH WATCHING
9M: How do you discern between a guy worth spending and pouring your life into and one who is not?
Dever: What Phillip Jensen calls “blokes worth watching”! I would say the main way is to observe the difference between the men who don’t respond to initiative and consistently show little interest and the men who do respond and show consistent interest. These are not always the men who are gifted for ministry, but often they are.
9M: I have known guys who enjoyed hanging out with me, but who weren’t finally teachable. Is there something more that’s necessary than simply being “available”?
Dever: You make a good point there. There can be people who simply like the personal relationship but don’t show themselves responsive. You can still love them, but you don’t pour into them in the same way. You’re trying to—particularly if you’re a pastor, you’re an elder—you’re trying to multiply, not just add. You should be attempting to find the multipliers, and multiply them and through them.
TAKING “THE LONG VIEW”
9M: I remember you once said to me, “You will never be a successful Christian father, husband, or pastor if you don’t know how to take the ‘long view.'” Do pastors today struggle with taking the short view as opposed to a long view of things?
Dever: I don’t know about pastors everywhere, but certainly in affluent, immediate-satiation culture like the West, yes, because we can have gratification so quickly whenever we choose it.
9M: What do you mean when you advise pastors to “take the long view”?
Dever: You can’t get wrongly encouraged or discouraged by what you see in yourself right now, or in what you see God doing with you right now. God’s not trapped in time; he takes the long view. And if we’re going to be his servants, we have to do that, too.
You know with your own children that you don’t get immediate response. You know in your own marriage you don’t necessarily get immediate response. What we’re to do in our husbanding and parenting is the same thing we’re to do in our pastoring. We know where we want to go, and so now we just move in that direction. Whether or not others immediately respond like we want isn’t up to us. We just keep moving in the right direction and try to lay down tracks for that.
9M: What is the relationship between equipping future pastors and taking the long view?
Dever: Future pastors aren’t built in a day. They’re not necessarily identified correctly at first; once you do identify them correctly all the fruit’s not there. There’s some people who you don’t think will go anywhere who do; others who you think will, don’t. But you have to slowly but surely, patiently and encouragingly, push along. And you’ll find that you can’t literally “make” pastors; only the Lord will give growth. I’m not always right about who will and won’t be a good pastor. Nevertheless, the Lord allows me to pour in as I can. So I push ahead and the Lord blesses.