Pastors Who Walk The Factory Floor

Paterson silk city

My biological father died in his early 40’s from “Rheumatic Fever.”  He was the father of three children — a two-year-old son, and about three weeks prior to his death, the birth of twin boys.  I was one of those twins.  It was 1946 and what would have been much more medically addressable today was not then.

Much of what I know about him came from my mother.  She tells me that he was the “floor foreman” at one of the looming mills in Paterson, NJ.  At that period of time, Paterson was known as “silk city,”  a major fabric producing mill town in the northeast.  The job of the floor foreman was to make sure that everybody and everything was working properly.

“Walking the factory floor” may be a dated or scant term in our culture.  There are fewer factories in America today.   Nevertheless, “Walking The Factory Floor” is a good term because it speaks of activity, production, presence, and awareness.

In leading a ministry or the local church, all of these elements are consequential.

Activity – Walking: The Lord connects wickedness and laziness — “Thou wicked and slothful servant.”  Those in ministry are not accorded a life-style that God’s own people do not have.  The “floor foreman” is walking, not sitting!  “Sitting in an office” is not the logo that brands our calling.  Ministering to people in word and deed is our trademark. [1]

Production – Factory: There is something terribly wrong with a factory which has product, people, and money going in the front door, and nothing is happening at the back door.  There is something terribly wrong with a ministry that has been given the glorious Gospel, people, giftedness, a location, a building, an ample talented staff, freedom, opportunities, and money coming in the front door, while nothing — or little-to-nothing — is coming out on the other side!

Presence – Floor: The “pastoral study” is not a place where those in the ministry are able to hide out.  It is a place of sermonic preparation, not isolation.   “Floor foreman” meant that you were on the mill’s floor, out and about, among the workers and the machinery of the factory.

Preachers who . . . .

  • are “the last to arrive and the first to leave” – “care deeply
  • don’t know the names, nor the names of people or their children
  • avoid “getting their hands dirty”
  • don’t thoroughly enjoy people and therefore miserably fail at hospitality
  • think that they don’t have to give their time in the same ways as others do
  • exit as soon as it is socially acceptable to slip out / excuse not attending
  • only have time for a small circle of “important” church friends
  • don’t take the time value the time to physically work shoulder-to-shoulder

. . . . are “Ivory Tower Speakers,” who should not be given the responsibility and privilege of preaching to God’s people.

last to arrive first to leave care

Awareness – Foreman: I detect a tendency in ministry today to compartmentalize ministry — “I preach-teach.”   In “silk-city,” it was unthinkable and unacceptable that the “foreman” did not know what was happening on the “floor.”  His job was “to know!”  And he knew that it was his job “to know” the people and the operations taking place on the floor.

The “echo chamber” resounds among pastors. Too many repeat the same plaintive excuses, all which exonerate shepherds from a genuine awareness of the sheep. The Lord has already defined the word “pastor”, and it speaks of and demands awareness. If you leave out “awareness,” you will have to come up with your own word — suggestions include: church employee, hired hand, mercenary, day worker, hired gun . . . .

I would repeatedly say to the fellow pastors of Faith Baptist Church . . . .

If you are not at church early — to roam around, shake hands, and talk to God’s people before a service, you will lose a significant opportunity. During the week, God’s people are in the world, making a living! Don’t minimize or neglect this opportunity of contact with them. In fact, there will be those who arrive early because they know you will be there and want to interact and connect with you as a pastor!

Ministry leaders or pastors who are generally unaware of what is happening in the lives of God’s people and/or in the various ministries of the church should not be entrusted with a flock.

I knew that some may struggle with these words, so I brought a witness with me . . .

Acts 20:32-35And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

1 Peter 5:2 – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Ezekiel 34:2-10 – Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

The word “pastor” has already been defined by the Lord,
and it speaks of and demands awareness.
If you leave out “awareness,”
you will have to come up with your own word.

John 10:2-15 – But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.


1. Those who teach adult and children’s Bible classes have the same demands of preparation, and work a “40-hour” week in the secular world.  Pastors have been given the freedom from secular work.  That means that you have 40 more hours than they have to prepare — just a perspective on the privilege you have been given by “the church.”

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

“And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:”

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed”

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deeddo all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

3 thoughts on “Pastors Who Walk The Factory Floor

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