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Can The Pastor Do It Alone?

by Ron Johnson

Interact Magazine 1990

Volume 1 Number 3

A study of a recent Anglican Year Book revealed that there were three hundred and fifty-nine clergy in the Diocese of Sydney with an average tenure in their present church of 5.89 years.

Why is it that we clergy don’t stay very long in one place? There are probably many reasons why clergy change churches so often, but could one of them be that we try literally to be ‘all things to all men’?

I once read that the ideal pastor:

  • is twenty-six years old and has been preaching for thirty years.

  • preaches exactly twenty minutes and sits down.

  • condemns sin, but still never offends anyone.

  • works from eight in the morning to ten at night.

  • has a keen sense of humour which keeps him serious about his work.

  • is great with teenagers and spends all his time with older people.

  • makes 15 calls a day on church members while out evangelising in the community.

  • is gifted at preaching, teaching, evangelism, administration, finance, counselling, pastoral care, public relations.

  • is a model family man.

  • is always in the office when you want him.


When impossibility of what we are trying to do in the name of ‘ministry’ takes its toll, do many of us move on, simply to ease the pressure? I wonder how often the ‘call of God’ to another church is actually a misreading of His call to modify our ministries according to His will in the place where we are?

Dr. Mel Steinbron, author of the book Can the Pastor Do It Alone?, tells of his frustrations in ministry as he tried to be the typical conscientious Pastor. He was run off his feet to the point where his marriage began to suffer, but he still felt a real burden of guilt for not ‘getting it all done’.

Yet he acknowledges that for the first thirty years of his ministry he had known that God had given gifts to all Christians to use in His service. He also believed that Ephesians 4:11-12 principle that his main role in the church was to equip those Christians to do the work of ministry.

He confesses though, that he did not translate his theology and theory into practice. Therefore he unconsciously helped propagate the traditional belief that clergy are ‘givers of ministry’ while church members are recipients of it.

Then one day someone who heard the cries of unmet needs in the congregation said to him ‘When are you going to do something about pastoring our people?’ Mel knew that a radical change needed to happen in the way he went about things. He then began a journey from where he was in his ministry, to where he had always known he ought to be.

With his particular gifts being in the area of pastoral care, he learned to put aside traditional methods of trying to care for his flock, in favour of equipping those Christians who had pastoral gifts for a caring ministry.

Can the Pastor Do It Alone? describes the model they developed. In this book Dr. Steinbron explains:

  • how to reach out to every church member on a continuing basis

  • how God gives pastoring gifts to lay people

  • how to prepare your congregation for a lay pastoring ministry

  • how to get organised

  • how to choose lay pastors

  • how to conduct a 15-hour equipping seminar

  • the commitments a pastor must make

  • common ministry problems and their solution

  • how to evaluate your ministry


In our church we have implemented the lay pastors’ ministry as set out in the book and have found it to be a very exciting ministry indeed. It is adaptable. Any cultural differences are minimal and easily overcome.

What this Ministry Means to Our Church

1. For those being Pastored

156 families have someone who …

  • is praying for them every day

  • is available to them when needed

  • contacts them on a regular basis

  • seeks to be a Christian example to them


2. For the Lay Pastors

Forty-six people with pastoring gifts …

  • are developing those gifts

  • are growing spiritually as they use their gifts

  • have been commissioned to use them in the name of our Lord and on behalf of our church

  • know that they are being used significantly by God

  • are finding joy in new relationships

  • are finding fulfilment in caring for others


3. For the Clergy


They are …

  • getting their priorities right

  • no longer spread so thinly as to be ineffective

  • touching more people than they have ever done

  • enjoying ministry instead of being burdened by it

  • growing spiritually through obedience to God’s method of ministry

  • developing their equipping skills.



Can the Pastor Do It Alone? is a how-it’s-being-done-and-you-can-do-it-too book. A two cassette video training series is also available on order through Australian Religious Films, North Ryde.


* Can the Pastor Do It Alone? Melvin Steinbron, Regal Books, 1987

* Can the Pastor Do It Alone? Study Guide by Mart Vahi, Smythe St. Cathedral, Box 341 Fredericton N.B. E3B 4Z9 Canada

* Can the Pastor Do It Alone? Video Equipping Seminars, Australian Religious Films, North Ryde, NSW

* Network News – Write to Dr. Mel Steinbron, Hope Presbyterian Church, 7132 Portland Ave South, Richfield, Minnesota 554423.

Ron Johnson is the Associate Minister of the Bulli Anglican Church, N.S.W.

© Rev Ron Johnson (1 November 1990)

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