Balanced scales
(iStock photo)

There are two requirements set on pastors and their churches, and they seem to be contradictory:

Our churches must simultaneously go deep and wide. Here's what I mean by that: When I listen to people talk about different kinds of churches, a tension I hear is that there are "seeker friendly" churches on one side of the spectrum and churches for established Christians on the other.

The first is criticized for not being deep enough—for serving up a watered-down gospel that's appealing enough to draw in the masses but doesn't actually challenge anyone. The second is criticized for having a knowledge and vocabulary that is almost a prerequisite for getting in the door.

The activities, the messages, the programs are all set up for those who have been in the church their whole lives—making it hard for a newcomer to feel welcome.

This is the tightrope we walk as pastors. We want to speak and lead in a way that draws in new people while still challenging those more established in their faith to move to deeper levels of faith. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle.

Here are three suggestions as you try to navigate this tension:

1. Know your calling. Do you have a heart for the unchurched or do you have more of a heart for those who have spent most of their lives in the pews? It's OK, as a pastor, to have a group of people to whom you feel particularly called. It is also okay to order your ministry in a way that caters to that calling.

You're not leaving people out. You're being obedient to who God made you to be.

Your church is not required to be a good fit for every person in every stage of life. In fact, sometimes you'll end up taking better care of your church by not trying to serve every single person (with every unique need) who walks through the door. God calls many different pastors, at many different churches, to minister in unique ways.

Do what you're called to do, leaving the faith and growth of all believers ultimately up to God Himself.

2. Teach plainly; challenge deeply. When it comes to teaching God's word, sometimes we feel pressure to excavate the Scriptures for new and profound truths to keep our audience engaged, but the truth is: His truth doesn't change. Take yourself off the hook from having to find something previously unearthed in the most-read book in history.

Just teach what it says.

If you do that, your whole congregation will be able to keep up, no matter their church background.

The place where you can dive deeper into new territory is in the application. Whether you're teaching a small group Bible study or teaching in front of the entire church, challenge those listening to apply this truth to their daily lives. By teaching God's word and challenging them to apply it to their lives, you'll be able to meet them where they are in different stages of their Christian walk.

3. Provide a safe place, and trust God to do the rest. Everyone, no matter how long they've been going to church, is going through something different. Your job is not to make sure you say the perfect thing to each person, each Sunday, but to love people where they are.

If it's their first Sunday at church, invite them in and give them the space and freedom to figure out who God is, and what that means for them. If someone has been going to church forever, invite them in, and give them space and freedom to figure out who God is and what that means for them.

Your job as a pastor is not to create a one-size-fits-all maze for your whole congregation. If you provide a safe space and point them towards God's truth, you can trust God to do the rest.

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and, all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Jentezen Franklin encourages church leaders to encourage their flocks to vote their values.

    Why We Must Count the Cost—and Vote

    There is a propaganda war that is raging in this country, and it is full of manipulation, lies, ...

  • Why did you choose the church you attend?

    7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

    The real issue is not the intrigue of this research; it is what you and your church will do about ...

  • Have you ever had a cringe moment during your church announcements?

    The 7 Deadly Sins of Church Announcements

    Sometimes they just miss the mark, albeit unintentionally.

  • Some of these reasons for leaving the church are simply not plausible.

    7 Reasons People Leave Their Church During Crisis Times

    Some of the excuses are pretty extreme and, quite frankly, lazy.

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Praying for leaders

    Failing to Do This Can Spell Disaster for the Church

    And it has the potential to destroy many lives.

  • Many of these issues are self-inflicted.

    10 Poisons That Will Kill Any Church

    Here is why the churches that die from them do so by their own hand.

  • Graveyard

    An Autopsy of a Deceased Pastor

    There are eight common patterns to look for.

  • Do yourself and her a favor. Take the target off your pastor's wife's back.

    Why Pastors' Wives Have a Target on Their Back

    Here are three instances of what we are doing to the wives of God's servants sent to ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders