Korean Megachurches Debate If Pastors’ Kids Can Inherit Pulpits

"Myungsung, the world’s largest Presbyterian church, awaits denominational court ruling on pastoral succession." - Christianity Today

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Mr. Ed's picture

I was run out of a Baptist church that tried unsuccessfully to pass the pulpit from father to son when I pointed out the error and breaking of the by-laws of that church.  I finally had enough when the deacons and pastor sent a letter telling me to confess my sins or be excommunicated.  I just told them to drop me from the rolls and did not regret it.  Too often our churches are run like a family business and the membership is merely customers or clients.

Bert Perry's picture

It does illustrate the hazards of any "inbred" leadership structure, in particular that derived from a single family.  I can see cases where it would be good if a son followed the father in the pastorate, but if that decision is made by the father instead of the church as a whole....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Most on SI (I think) would oppose the idea of pastoral succession in a church as some type of a birthright. 

And yet I know some folks who formerly thought it unimaginable that anyone without the name "Jones" would or should ever be the president of BJU.  There, presidential succession was treated as a given for four generations, spanning about 90 years. 

Jay's picture

My (now) wife and I decided before I even left Seminary that I never wanted my sons on staff or in a leadership role at any church I may have ended up pastoring at.  I just think it is the safest and best policy.  

Putting yourself or your sons in that kind of position would seem to violate the biblical command to avoid any appearance of evil. 

Just my $0.02.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

So, I currently pastor the church that my father was the previous pastor of for 24 years.

We need to be extremely careful with generalities here. As a Baptist, I believe every church is autonomous, and, therefore, unique. While hereditary succession may not work in one church, it can work well in another. The key is to examine the particular situation of each individual church.

Also, as a Baptist, I am a congregationalist. This means that church leaders are held in check by the congregation. If a church is looking at a family member of the current pastor to come on in a pastoral role, then the congregation needs to be the one that affirms that, not solely the pastor. I think this requires, to a certain degree, a consideration of other men through the "pulpit committee" process. No qualified person, regardless of their relationship to the current pastor or lack thereof, should be "appointed" as pastor. It must be affirmed, strongly affirmed, by the congregation.

When I candidated at the church I currently pastor, I went through the same process any other candidate would go through, providing doctrinal statements and sermons, several interviews, Q&A sessions with the congregation, and, finally, a congregational vote. The process was thorough and I was not the only candidate considered by the committee. No one can rightly accuse my father of handing the pastorate to me. In fact, he was careful to not be involved at all in the process.

The article mentions two things that I found to be very true. First, even as the son of the outgoing pastor, I struggled with the same transitional issues that any new pastor would face. As the article states: "'The downsides of transition are the same, whether it’s a family member or not.'" In my naivety, I thought that I was beating the curve on this because I grew up in this church and was familiar with the people. In reality, the struggles of the transition were likely comparable to any transition. I don't think that they were any better and may have been even a little more difficult because I was the former pastor's son.

Second, while the transition had its typical struggles, I also believe that, not just as the son of the pastor, but, more generally, the fact that I grew up spiritually among these people and knew them gives me serves to aid my ministry among them. The article ends with a statement I can attest to: "'Likewise today, succession sometimes works well for a family member who grows up in a church, embraces its vision, possesses the gifts, receives mentoring, and creates an environment where non-family members can thrive.'"

So, to wrap up my thoughts, I think it really needs to be evaluated on a church by church basis. If a church has a member of the current pastor's family that is looking to come on in a pastoral role and that person is qualified, called, and gifted, should that church allow nothing more that their last name to exclude them? I would say no.

And, Jay, let me just say that it can be done in a way that avoids the appearance of evil, especially if the church's bylaws are followed and the congregation given final say. As someone who put himself in that kind of position, by God's grace, I do not think I, my father, or the church violated the command to avoid every appearance of evil.

Phil Golden

Mr. Ed's picture

That sounds like the way it should be done.  It was not done that way at the church I was a member of.  The pulpit committee visited the membership to get feedback at which time I told the ones who visited my house that if they did not look elsewhere they were making a big mistake.  They assured me they were looking.  Finally the announcement was made that the son would candidate on a certain date.  On that Sunday the father conducted the service and the son preached.  That evening the father preached from John 1:1-12  primarily verse 6 telling us that we needed to vote for his son as pastor.  The son did not receive the required percentage to be called.  Even tho the father had publicly announced his retirement/resignation, the deacons then asked him to stay on in other words they picked the next pastor.  The pastor covered it up by saying he did not formally resign since he did not put it in writing.  I objected to what was going on and was forced to leave the church because I spoke out.

Pastor Rob V's picture

Your dad was wise to not be in such a role as to push you onto the congregation. As I thought about your story I can see why it might be harder to preach in a church where you grew up. If a member has to be admonished for a reason they could say, "I changed your diaper. Who do you think you are?" As with all churches we have challenges. All we can do is be faithful to the Word and love our people.

Don't be a great pastor, just be a pastor and let history judge for itself.