10 Things I'd Do Differently if I Weren't a Pastor Today

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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As someone who has also been

As someone who has also been on both sides of the pulpit, all I could do was nod my head. Excellent article. Already forwarded it to everyone I know.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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hobbyhorse

as i mentioned on another thread recently, this is propaganda for the church industry. of course the guy who needs people involved to feel good about himself wants more people involved encouraging him. it's me-centric ministry and a faulty understanding of the true purpose of the church. it's western thinking ceo modeled church as business. it's pastor need oriented. this philosophy has underminded the power of the church as an inclusive body. 

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Ditto

Ditto

Pastor Mike Harding

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The other shoe

Of course being in someone else's shoes gives one an appreciation for that situation or position. For the most part, I see nothing wrong with advocating for the behaviors on the list - some of which are clearly based on Biblical principles (don't gossip, pray, be supportive, serve . . .). But I think we can only be in other people's shoes to a small degree, because we have our own shoes to deal with, and we need to be careful about guilt-trippin' folks into pitying or doing more for us because "If they only knew how hard my life is..." Everyone experiences struggles based on what God has called them to do. 

Also, if the church has unBiblical or just unfair expectations of the pastor, they need teaching on Scripturally healthy relationship boundaries.

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Excellent.  I'd add "Though

Excellent.  I'd add "Though not being a pastor by vocation, I would strive to achieve the theological depth that a pastor ought to have in order to be able to love God and serve Him better"

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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dmicah wrote:

dmicah wrote:

as i mentioned on another thread recently, this is propaganda for the church industry. of course the guy who needs people involved to feel good about himself wants more people involved encouraging him. it's me-centric ministry and a faulty understanding of the true purpose of the church. it's western thinking ceo modeled church as business. it's pastor need oriented. this philosophy has underminded the power of the church as an inclusive body. 

I suppose you could read it that way, but that's not how I read it. I grew up in secular business, entered vocational ministry in a Christian school, became a pastor, and now am back in the "pew" as a secular wage-earner. Everything he said resonated with me - both from the pastoral side and the membership side. Which item on the list would you suggest is wrong or even out of balance? It seems you are looking past the article trying to divine the intent of the heart and reading a malicious thought process there.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Church as industry

I think, regarding Micah's comment and Chip's response, is that (really per my first comment) whether it's "church industry" or "Biblical church" really depends on whether the congregation is trained, willing, are encouraged to be good Bereans.  There are pastors who welcome feedback, and those who do not--the former are those who follow in the lines of Christ and Paul, the latter are the church industrialists.

(knowing as well that of course not every bit of feedback is right, well intentioned, etc..)

So do you love your pastor enough to be a good Berean and hold him accountable for what he preaches?  Argue fairly, argue from real authority (not just some thin book you get from CBD), but are you willing to love your pastor enough to be a good Berean?  After all, getting a timely rebuke (if needed) from a member can spare a pastor from a lifetime of poor instruction and a far greater rebuke from the Lord, no?

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Naive at Best, Reckless at Worst

dmicah wrote:

as i mentioned on another thread recently, this is propaganda for the church industry. of course the guy who needs people involved to feel good about himself wants more people involved encouraging him. it's me-centric ministry and a faulty understanding of the true purpose of the church. it's western thinking ceo modeled church as business. it's pastor need oriented. this philosophy has underminded the power of the church as an inclusive body. 

I'm going to go further than Chip, I have no idea where this thought came from.  This comment sounds like it could be from someone who has not had much exposure to life in a pastor's home and/or is not in the ministry as a Sr. pastor.  It is naive at best, reckless at worst.

Pastors are people to and just like everyone else they can be me-centric.  Of course!  But to default to saying this guy needs people to make him feel good is careless.

I grew up in a pastor's home as a PK and several in my extended family are/were senior pastors.  I never heard them sit around complaining & having a pity party.  But I know ministry can weigh heavy on their hearts as they can often minister to a family over and over and over again only to have that family not follow through.  How would you feel if minutes before you are going to preach on a Sunday morning an angry church member walks up and starts to unload on you-and have that happen multiple times?  What would you think after your child was severely injured in an accident at home a deacon accused you of intentionally harming your child?

Pastors & their families are not above justifiable criticism, just like anyone else.  But they are not punching bags either.  Unfortunately many people see them as less of the former and more of the latter.

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Attrition rates

Paul encourages unity and unselfishness in the church so that in part their leaders can lead the church with joy (Phil 1:27--2:4). President Dan Akins of SE seminary said that 80% of his seminary grads leave the ministry within the first ten years of vocational ministry.  Leaders at Southern report that 95% drop out before age 65. Here are men who did 96 credits of grad work at 450 dollars a credit hour and then walk away within a decade.  No industry I know of has this kind of attrition rate. Edmondson's article should be taken seriously not cynically.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Groaning Pastors

I have been a pastor for 35 years through times both good and bad.  I have also had many pastor friends; I know what is going on in my neck of the woods, so I will say this without apology:  Not every situation is alike.  I have known churches that treat pastors like hired hands and send 'em through the meat grinder.  I know of other churches that treat their pastors like human beings, not functionaries.

Overall, though, I must agree that the article quoted shows more concern for mutual edification than some other posts.  Pastors are gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).  It is really about obeying Hebrews 13:17 

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Nasty people with nasty attitudes make we leaders groan, to say the least.  Based on this verse, church people are SUPPOSED to consider the impact of their words and actions on their pastors, among other leaders.  The way some people act, this verse may as well be nixed from the Bible.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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I don't know how the stats

I don't know how the stats hold up today, but I'm told that engineering graduates tend to spend only about 7 years in their trade.  Now granted, the pay tends to be better, and many/most do so with "just" a BS, but it does illustrate that there are other trades that have short retention.  I also remember (and this is to be sure > 20 year old recollection here) that social work has a mean time to quitting of about two years.  So there are other trades that tend to wear people out quickly.

That said, I think there is a real question of whether what's being dropped is "corporate ministry" or "Biblical ministry".  Now I can understand wearing out in Biblical ministry if one is among "Thessalonians" instead of "Bereans", and we ought to take that very seriously.  Far too many of us are "Thessalonians", applying our own biases and failing to apply the Scripture, after all.

On the flip side, there is an error in ministry of making the whole enterprise too corporate.  This can occur when:

1.  The pastor adopts a "my way or the highway" attitude in all areas, not just theologically significant areas. 

2.  He surrounds himself with loyal staff who will intercept all feedback before it gets to him.

3.  He pursues growth in numbers without growth in depth in faith.  

4.  His interaction with members only occurs when he needs them to do something.

It's most obvious when you see it in mega-churches, where boards of elders and deacons are replaced with hired help and boards of "other mega-church pastors", but one of the worst cases I've seen actually was with a church with average attendance below 40.  If it doesn't make sense to you, that's wonderful.  

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subtle as a serpent

Mike Harding wrote:

Paul encourages unity and unselfishness in the church so that in part their leaders can lead the church with joy (Phil 1:27--2:4). President Dan Akins of SE seminary said that 80% of his seminary grads leave the ministry within the first ten years of vocational ministry.  Leaders at Southern report that 95% drop out before age 65. Here are men who did 96 credits of grad work at 450 dollars a credit hour and then walk away within a decade.  No industry I know of has this kind of attrition rate. Edmondson's article should be taken seriously not cynically.

Edmonson's article should be taken as it is: 'man centered' ministry. Pastors take too much upon themselves when in truth it is Jesus who is building His church. Our eyes should be focused on Christ not the undershepherd. It is Christ who is with the believer always not the undershepherd.

It is fallen human nature to always focus on the visible, in this case the visible local church (as if this is all that God is doing in redemption and sustaining creation).

dmicah has it mostly correct: this is "church industry." Harding even uses the word "industry." If its "industry" its carnal and folks maybe are just 'playing church'. It is a house built on sand that is sure to fall. This is the age of the New Covenant where every believer's prayers enter within the veil. Christ is our High Priest without the undershepherd possibly getting in the way. Paul's pattern seemed to be bi-vocation and church building projects are unheard of in scripture (I am not theoretically against single vocation or church buildings per se, in fact, synagogues were purpose-built for assembly). However, the personal empire-building and mega facilities all appeal to the flesh (carnal) and don't really conform to the pattern of going out as missionaries and then teaching faithful men to go out and do the same. It is a subtle distinction but it needs to be made.

All this leads to a false 'Christian culture' and an over-institutionalization of Christian schools, but I digress.

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Why is it

that if someone suggests you support the pastor of the church you are presumably a member of, that you attend worship and do service at the church you are presumably a member of, that you are somehow "man centered"?

Why do so many at SI assume every pastor is some closet Jack Hyles looking to build his own little kingdom?

Is having more than one service a week, a "nice" building, and a full-time pastor really a "church industry" that is unbiblical and needs to be eliminated?

I highly suspect some people are overreacting to some bad things they experienced and are applying it to everyone else.

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While not as cynical as

While not as cynical as dmicah, I do see a guy for whom the shoe is on the other foot. Member-elder (or member-pastor) is a relationship. Each has duties, good responses, etc. So yeah, now that he's on the other side of that relationship, he acknowledges that there were things he didn't even think about that he should have been doing as a lay-person for the benefit of himself, his church, and his pastor.

And later, if he is again a lay-person, maybe he'll be reminded of what his wishes pastors were like and he can profess that he would be perfect if he were in that role. That's harsh. But I think a better article would be: 10 Things I Do Differently As a Pastor Because I Wasn't a Pastor For a Long Time.

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That is a question I'd like

That is a question I'd like to see answered.  Many (it seems to me) take the position if a church is not led by a group of elders it is either a clone of FBC Hammond or well on the road to becoming one.

Mark_Smith wrote:

SNIP

Why do so many at SI assume every pastor is some closet Jack Hyles looking to build his own little kingdom?

SNIP

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Good questions by Mark, Dan, and Rob

First, there is nothing wrong, IMO, with a church having a vocational pastor, a good facility, or more than one service a week.  The early church did after all meet at first in the Temple (a nice building by any stretch of the imagination), had eleven vocational pastors, and met daily.  We would have to reject the book of Acts to come to that conclusion.  

Nor is it being said that any church without an active board of elders (or even Presbyterian polity) will automatically become a clone of FBC Hammond, though I would posit that having multiple men apt to teach ought to limit the power of a charismatic pastor.  No guarantee, though, as the elders (other pastors) simply watched through the disgusting innuendo of Schaap's "polishing the shaft" sermon, while it was the deacons who removed him when his criminal acts were revealed.  

Rather, it's simply being noted that when a charismatic leader installs corporate structures in the church instead of Biblical structures, we're simply walking away from what God intended.  I'd add to my previous list that if a pastor allows the church he serves to get so large that corporate structures are required, he's probably failed to raise up leaders who are capable of leading the right kind of church split--the kind that will end up with two vital churches, two boards of elders, two boards of deacons, and such instead of one where they have a massive mortgage and need to hire off duty officers to manage traffic.

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wrong as usual

Mark_Smith wrote:

that if someone suggests you support the pastor of the church you are presumably a member of, that you attend worship and do service at the church you are presumably a member of, that you are somehow "man centered"?

Why do so many at SI assume every pastor is some closet Jack Hyles looking to build his own little kingdom?

Is having more than one service a week, a "nice" building, and a full-time pastor really a "church industry" that is unbiblical and needs to be eliminated?

I highly suspect some people are overreacting to some bad things they experienced and are applying it to everyone else.

 

Since I made the "man centered" comment I'll take this as addressed to me.

I am not reacting because of previous bad experiences rather my desire is to think conceptually as to why we do the things we do as Christian communities. Everyone has had bad experiences. The bible tells us to forgive and move on. Some moving on may involve a separation also (at least in heart). I look to fix things so that injustice isn't continued to others. I admit that possibly a hurtful experience was an impetus to studying the issues but I am not vindictive at all personally, I will leave that to God as the bible instructs.

This is not a Hyles phenomenon but true of many divergent groups. Its institutionalism which the New Covenant abolished and a temptation to assume too much responsibility which may or may not result in 'over control'.

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I am confused but maybe that

I am confused but maybe that is why I am not active on SI in the forums. What about his list was unbiblical or wrong? Attending church, serving, praying, loving, looking on the needs of others, valuing leaders God has given, not gossiping but talking to those with whom one has a problem. I guess since I don't know the author, I just assumed he was saying that he has matured in his love for others and was encouraging us to consider an other's centered approach. I guess you could assume this is man-centered, but I fail to see how that is in the spirit of "believing all things." But maybe I am just too naive and thought that these were helpful things to serve one another with love. Oh well. 

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What is the cutoff point? How large is "so large?"

Bert Perry wrote:

I'd add to my previous list that if a pastor allows the church he serves to get so large that corporate structures are required, he's probably failed to raise up leaders who are capable of leading the right kind of church split--the kind that will end up with two vital churches, two boards of elders, two boards of deacons, and such instead of one where they have a massive mortgage and need to hire off duty officers to manage traffic.

Was Spurgeon in error when he preached to his crowds at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle (seating capacity about 5,500; and often hundreds more standing)?:

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Larry Nelson wrote:

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

I'd add to my previous list that if a pastor allows the church he serves to get so large that corporate structures are required, he's probably failed to raise up leaders who are capable of leading the right kind of church split--the kind that will end up with two vital churches, two boards of elders, two boards of deacons, and such instead of one where they have a massive mortgage and need to hire off duty officers to manage traffic.

Was Spurgeon in error when he preached to his crowds at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle (seating capacity about 5,500; and often hundreds more standing)?:

Well, how did the Metropolitan Tabernacle do after Spurgeon died?  I seem to remember that membership and attendance dropped precipitously, to the point where the church's own website notes that they were only filling a few pews.  So more or less, Spurgeon did make an error in creating a church structure that only Charles Haddon Spurgeon could make work.  Great preacher, great man of God, but he let the "capital investment" get out of hand.  Men with great gifts often need to be reminded that they need to apply their gifts to create a structure that a man of lesser gifts can use.

Another local example was Pastor Clearwaters at Fourth--all of his successors have really faced the legacy of a system there (WCTS-FM, Camp Clearwaters, Central Seminary, the school, and some might even argue Pillsbury in Owatonna) that it took a man of Clearwaters' abilities and energies to work.  If you look around, there are any number of men out there who have created a church structure that is extremely likely to collapse when the head pastor retires or dies.  I would include most "mega-churches" in this category.  You simply can't depend on a man with the requisite abilities to come in and keep it running.

Not a popular theme in fundagelicalism today, where too many view success simply in terms of numbers, but take a look around.  Lots of men out there built bricks and mortar when they should have been building men.  How many disciples did Jesus have, after all?

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@ Bert:

 

Interesting points.  Being a product of Fourth myself, I could probably write at length about their ups & downs over the last 40 years.

I am reminded of Acts 2:41. The Church at Jerusalem numbered in the thousands at that point in time.  Where is it today?  Is it a bad thing necessarily that churches have life spans or life cycles?

 

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Jerusalem

Larry, Jerusalem is an interesting thought.  It's a church that never owned its own building (at least in the Acts 2-10 era), had huge membership, and then was chased out of Jerusalem, right?  

Personally, I wonder if per Matthew 28, the early church knew that their situation in Jerusalem was temporary, and whether therefore the sale of homes and lands in Acts was in part people knowing that they were going to be giving up that land or homes, and therefore they simply chose to get some good out of it.   It's not as if they'd never seen unpopular minorities chased out of town, after all, and it's interesting as well that the kind of communal living they practiced is not replicated anywhere else in the New Testament that I can think of.  If there is something to this, it puts Ananias and Sapphira in a somewhat different light.

Whether there is, or is not, something to my thoughts about the sale of lands, however, it is worth noting that the apostles did not build an edifice, but rather spent most of their time training men for their mission to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  So where is that early church today?  Well, in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, no?

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Good Stuff Bert

 

Local churches can come & go, but the CHURCH endures.....and is on the move/in expansion mode.

Where is Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle today?  Why, is it possible that your church, my church, or any number of other churches are its great, great, great, great grandchildren.......in the same manner that every church in existence today are descendants of the church at Jerusalem?

-----

ADDED: I know the Met Tabernacle is still in London today (in a newer building?) BTW.  I've seen it.

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Alex o...I don't know what to say?

I'm just a guy at a small church in flyover country trying to help people grow in Christ. I'm not building a kingdom and I'm not building brick and mortar rather than men. 

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Agreed that the Metropolitan

Agreed that the Metropolitan Tabernacle survives--a former pastor of mine introduced some of the hymnody coming out of there.  And agreed wholeheartedly that there are believers all over the world who can trace a portion of their place in Christ to the work of the Met and its pastors.  I'd like to visit there if I ever get to London.

So yes, a narrow but I think significant point; we might learn at some point that some of our heroes did the cause of Christ some damage by building brick & mortar, or corporate structures, when we ought to be sitting down and building people.

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Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

So yes, a narrow but I think significant point; we might learn at some point that some of our heroes did the cause of Christ some damage by building brick & mortar, or corporate structures, when we ought to be sitting down and building people.

But isn't it sometimes useful to have some sort of "structure" in place to assist in the building up of people? I graduated from Fourth Baptist Christian School, listened to WCTS, and graduated from Pillsbury College. Those structures played an important role in my spiritual development. Is it okay to have those structures in place as long as they don't become "corporate"? Or does a church automatically start getting the "corporate" designation once they start adding a radio station and a day school and a seminary? You tied the term "corporate structure" with "brick and mortar," so are you saying that when a church adds larger facilities to accommodate it's programs, it is then becoming "corporate," or is it the programs themselves that make the church "corporate' even if larger facilities are not built?

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Kevin Miller wrote:

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

So yes, a narrow but I think significant point; we might learn at some point that some of our heroes did the cause of Christ some damage by building brick & mortar, or corporate structures, when we ought to be sitting down and building people.

 

But isn't it sometimes useful to have some sort of "structure" in place to assist in the building up of people? I graduated from Fourth Baptist Christian School, listened to WCTS, and graduated from Pillsbury College. Those structures played an important role in my spiritual development. Is it okay to have those structures in place as long as they don't become "corporate"? Or does a church automatically start getting the "corporate" designation once they start adding a radio station and a day school and a seminary? You tied the term "corporate structure" with "brick and mortar," so are you saying that when a church adds larger facilities to accommodate it's programs, it is then becoming "corporate," or is it the programs themselves that make the church "corporate' even if larger facilities are not built?

 

Kevin, absolutely structures are critical in reaching and edifying people, and my family has also benefited from a lot of Dr. Clearwaters' innovations.  Nothing against "bricks and mortar" per se, but rather that a certain level of capital investment seems to correlate with the inability of the church to minister absent a leader or extraordinary ability.  And so when that leader retires or dies, the church is in a lot of trouble.

A couple of rules of thumb might be helpful.  If a pastor finds he's spending an inordinate amount of time managing the institution instead of ministering to congregants and reaching the lost, he's more or less changed jobs from pastor to executive.  Some degree of managing the institution, sure, but that's not the central role--and if we choose our pastors as executives instead of as pastors, we should not be surprised when our pastors don't shepherd well.  It's simply the wrong skill set.

Along the same lines, we might suggest that if a pastor of a church of any size can not address most long-term congregants by name, or only visits them when he "needs" something done, he's more or less changed jobs from pastor to manager.  The worst example I've seen of this, by the way, is from a church with average Sunday morning attendance of 30.  So it's not just about big churches; it's about the mindset of the pastor, and that mindset often finds its expression in bricks & mortar.