You can’t reach the world when all you have is a hammer


“Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding,” said philosopher, Abraham Kaplan.

In the Church today, we have one single instrument for leadership—the pastor.

Search church positions on any of the many job search forums and recruitment sites and you’ll find there is only one tool churches are searching for—pastor.

Senior pastors, teaching pastors, executive pastors, worship pastors, children’s, teens, collegiate, campus, in-take, discipleship and volunteers pastors.

We seem to think the only kind of leadership we need can only come in one form—pastor.

To be fair, pastors are important and should be instrumental in leading the Church but it was not God’s design for the Church to have but one instrument. Because we only have one tool, every task, goal, obstacle, vision statement, purpose statement, and organizational strategy typically has just one leadership perspective–a pastor’s perspective.

When it comes to leadership, the Church in North America is like a small boy with a hammer and because of that, everything looks like it needs pounding.

We cannot reach the world with just a hammer, no matter how great that hammer is.

Ephesians 4:11-13 tell us, however, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (NIV).

Leadership in the Church is five-fold and incorporates an array of tools to achieve missional maturity.

Missional maturity is the goal—a maturity that has breadth and depth, that is centripetal and centrifugal.

Missional maturity achieves evangelism and discipleship, community engagement and spiritual formation.

Missional maturity can only be achieved when we have more tools in our toolbox than just a hammer–as great as hammers are.

What the church needs are apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors.

Even when a church looks for a senior leader who will operate as an apostle (typically a church planter/multiplier) or as an evangelist, they smack the word ‘pastor’ on top of their role and superimpose the additional character/gift traits of pastor onto their expectations.

In other words, even when churches are open to a screwdriver, we want that screwdriver to also double as a hammer.

Evangelists, in particular, are important for missional maturity but they often aren’t great doubling as a pastor.

To be sure, many evangelists have secondary gifting in pastoral ministry—I’m not one of them.

I’ve met these people, I envy them, but as much as I’ve tried, I’ll never be like them.

Most evangelists are extremely externally facing, super-passionate about making spaces and experiences open to non-churched people. They think primarily of the ‘milk of the word,’ or the simple gospel message and how to colour everything the Church does with that message.

Evangelists are angular in the best sense of the word.

I remember showing up to a leadership gathering with some fellow evangelists some years back and having one of the organizers bemoan our entrance.

With a long, annoying slur, he said, “Oh great! The evangelists, the angular people!”

What was then a slight that hurt my feelings has now become a badge of honour.

I’m not like the pastor, I’m not the one ‘go-to’ tool in the toolbox but my leadership is important, even necessary, for missional maturity in the body!

While teachers and pastors are celebrated, rewarded and empowered in the Church, the angular leaders—apostles, prophets, and evangelists—are encouraged to look and act more like a hammer if we want to get by.

This is to our shame and part of the reason why so often our churches lack missional maturity.

Click to read five ways having an evangelist on staff as a senior leader will change the way you think about missional maturity. Continue reading

  • York Moore is the Executive Director-Catalytic Partnerships and as National Evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA.
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