Future Church: Equipping Group Members to Pastor

By Paul Wilkinson

Pastor Mike has been saying for the entirety of 2017 that the time is coming soon when we will be called to pastor our neighborhoods and house churches as opposed to expecting unbelievers to come to a centralized institution. We, as LIFE Group leaders, are crucial in this endeavor. What Mike cannot do when speaking to a couple thousand people, we can do speaking to a couple dozen people. We have the opportunity to train and equip those in our groups to pastor their neighborhoods!

We want transformational learning to empower our group members to pastor their neighborhoods. There’s some debate about the order of head-heart-hands, but in keeping with the command to renew our minds for the sake of transformation (Romans 12:2), I want to begin with the intellect. As I sat with a young man last week to talk about possible teaching opportunities and his continued development in the faith, I gave him the assignment to write out his personal statement of faith. To equip our people to pastor well, we must help them think through and shore up their own beliefs. They don’t need to know every answer, but they have to understand their own faith and be able to help others think through faith.

A tool that I use for theologically training is theological triage (I’m endorsing the concept rather than the details). This tool helps me focus on:

  • First-order Doctrines that I want to hammer into people’s minds
  • Second-order Doctrines that I want to help people think through because they are important but not essential
  • Third-order Doctrines that I want to answer quickly and move on from

We must help our group members develop their skills in thinking biblically about life with respect to the essentials. Break out your Transforming Truths travelogue to help you think through these first-order doctrines. And please reach out to an adult team member to think through these doctrines with you as you have need or desire. Here are the prompts I provided my new friend (in no particular order):

  • Articulate your understanding of the Trinity. Do you think that the Trinity is a necessary belief for salvation?
  • Articulate your understanding of the Incarnation. How can Jesus be truly human and truly divine?
  • Articulate your understanding of the Bible.
  • How do you defend the historical resurrection?
  • Articulate your understanding of God’s power; of God’s knowledge.
  • How do you reconcile evil and suffering with a loving God?
  • Articulate your understanding of sin and the Fall.
  • Is Jesus the only means of salvation? How does one “get saved”?
  • Articulate your understanding of the Holy Spirit.
  • What is the purpose of our (humanity) existence?
  • What are your thoughts on eternity and the afterlife?

Base Role and Ministry Stretching

By Paul Wilkinson

Mike Breen offers a helpful analysis of our development in our ministry roles in his book Building a Discipling Culture. He argues that we are each hardwired with a base ministry but that, over time, the Lord stretches us to learn other ministry functions for the sake of having larger and larger kingdom impact. The model looks like this:

I’ve shared with you my personal diagram. My base role is pastoral, meaning that I enjoy, receive energy from, and derive purpose from walking through life with God’s people helping them to engage one another and engage a hurting world.

But God has stretched me greatly in many of the other roles. Through my studies in philosophy and my 5 years teaching Bible, theology, and apologetics at Brentwood Baptist, the Lord has formed me into an adequate teacher who really enjoys helping people know God more deeply and live out God’s mission more fully.

Because of my study of philosophy, which quickly and inevitably translates into apologetics in the local church, the Lord stretched me in evangelism. Defending the faith and questioning other worldviews has been a fruitful field of evangelism and evangelistic training of others.

In my job caring for adult groups, the Spirit is pushing me into becoming more apostolic. By default, I want to tinker with and perfect systems, yet, as we all know, there are more people needing to be saved, more people needing to be connected, and more people needing to be taught God’s Word. Thus, we need new groups with new leaders to reach new people.

I’m not sure how God might stretch me in prophetic roles, but I do know that after being stretched in each phase, God has brought be back to the pastor He designed me to be. I still love teaching and do it as much as a I can, but I am not looking to simply give information to a group or to simply teach a group how to think better. Instead, I’m fishing for people who are ready to walk through life in a more transparent way as Jesus did with Peter, James, and John for the sake of developing them into disciplemakers. I still love evangelizing through apologetics, but part of the reason I do is so that I can invite the new convert along into a discipling relationship. We will always return to our base role as we are hardwired that way but, throughout our lives, the Lord will develop other skills and values in us to make us more well-rounded and impactful for the kingdom.

I pray you learn your base role and I pray that you remain open to the way the Lord will move you and stretch you to become all that Christ intends for you to be!

To find your base role, utilize this Fivefold Ministries’ handy website.



Fivefold Ministry Pentagon

By Paul Wilkinson

Mike Breen in Creating a Discipling Culture offers a helpful image of the fivefold ministry. In addition, he highlights the consequences of immaturity in each role. I share these ideas with you because, in understanding these roles, we can do two things: empower our group members to fulfill their calling in Christ and maintain unity in the body by not forcing our role on someone else.

The definitions come from page 25 of Spiritual Leadership by Jeff Iorg, the core question comes from Breen, and the immaturity comments come from Breen.


  • Evangelists share the gospel and train others to share the gospel.
  • Core Question: Are new people entering into the Kingdom of God?
  • Immature Evangelists:
    • Reduce the gospel to simply getting out of Hell.
    • Move on immediately after conversion to get to the next unbeliever rather than walking with the new convert.


  • Apostles are pioneers sharing the gospel in new communities or new ways.
  • Core Question: Are we leading the people of God to their destiny?
  • Immature Apostles:
    • Lack discernment between good ideas that they have and the innovative ideas that God has given them.
    • Lack follow-through, e.g., throwing out new ideas but never working them to fruition.


  • Pastors care for and coordinate believers ministering together.
  • Core Question: Are the people of God caring for and showing compassion for people?
  • Immature Pastors:
    • Lack the confidence or skill to move people forward out of their struggles into the kingdom life and work.


  • Prophets speak truth and call people to live up to God’s standards.
  • Core Question: Are the people of God hearing his voice and responding appropriately?
  • Immature Prophets:
    • Share what God’s vision is and then they provide the interpretation of the vision themselves rather than giving it to the faith community to interpret.
    • Have a tendency to assume that they are always correct.


  • Teachers instruct believers and help them apply the Bible to life.
  • Core Question: Are the people of God immersing themselves in Scripture and incarnating it?
  • Immature Teachers:
    • Allow Scripture to be the end rather than the Triune God, e.g., they make the Bible their idol.
    • Rely on their own intellectual prowess to impress people rather than the authority of Scripture.