Beware of Your Fictional Church

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Lee's picture

I have often wondered if the success image and seeking to be known/recognized the writer generally describes here in his fantasy church scenario are not the desires peculiarly characteristic of children (i.e., "youthful lusts") that Paul warns the relatively rookie pastor Timothy to "flee" from because of their potentially devastating effects on the minister and his ministry.

Lee

TylerR's picture

Editor

I don't want to go too far off topic here, but I think there are two reasons why a young Pastor would have rose-tinted glasses about taking a Pastorate:

  1. He's young and niave
  2. His local church didn't prepare him for the harsh reality of real ministry

You can't do a whole lot about the first, but the local church can and should prepare men better about what they'll be facing in the ministry. I think some churches de-emphasize the mentorship role the Pastor should have with the young men in his congregation who feel called to preach, and simply encourage them to apply to Seminary. The rose-tinted glasses need to come off, and these men need to be made to understand the reality of what they want to jump into. 

  • You must be gifted and called by God, or else you'll find out real quick this isn't a "nice" job in the traditional sense
  • You'll have little money
  • You'll be gossiped about
  • People will hate you for no reason at all
  • People will hate your wife for no reason at all
  • People will lie to you
  • People will make it their life's ambition to make your own life miserable
  • People will hate any and everything you do
  • You need to already have, or be able to develop, a thick skin very, very quickly

This is just some of it. There are obviously blessings in the ministry, but perhaps Pastors should take some time to spell out the harsh reality of the Pastorate for their young men before encouraging them to apply to Seminary. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Tetreau's picture

Tyler.....outstanding warning. Like you say, tremendous blessings await those headed into ministry. However, what also is true are the challenges you mention.

There is a cause!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

TylerR's picture

Editor

During our church business meeting this afternoon, a member demanded to know why I didn't get a church vote before buying a commentary on Kindle for $23.98. 

There's nothing quite like a Baptist church business meeting to make your naive hopes and dreams come crashing down to earth . . . ! Then, after that pathetic episode (during which the same member objected to me buying condolence flowers for a non-member whose beloved dog died), we voted to take on a missionary and increase our monthly support for a current missionary. 

Even so, Lord - come quickly. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Andrew K's picture

I'd have taken you to task too. Next time put it on a Wishlist and wait for it to drop to $.99. Wink

Steve Picray's picture

Yes to everything Tyler said.  I was a pastor for 2.5 years, and in those two years my family and I lived in a virtual fishbowl where every personal decision we made was scrutinized by the people of the church. 

Having graduated from a Baptist school, I expected to become the pastor of a Baptist church. But it was difficult finding a church to begin with.  One church wanted to look at our credit report as a part of the initial questionnaire (before we had even met the church).   Another church was interested in me candidating, but one of the deacons questioned my call to the ministry for reasons he didn't feel like sharing.  Other churches just took a pass.  The church where I was a member as a teenager (attended right after I was saved and then later baptized) asked me if I would be interested in candidating, but I felt that was a "no prophet is without honor except in his own country" situation, so I declined. 

One church wanted me to be the pastor but I declined because it was a church where there were church members living in sin (currently). The former pastor had died in office, and his widow and grown son were still members of the church.  His son had left his wife and was now living with and sleeping with another member of the church.  There were about 50 people in the church but they only had one deacon because he was the only one biblically eligible for the office.  I remember telling that deacon, "This would be my first church.  I'm going to make mistakes.  You can't afford mistakes here. You need a man with experience.  This church is on life support, and I'm not the man for the job." I believe this church has since closed. 

Then I got a phone call to do pulpit supply in an E. Free Church.  Not having much experience wit the EFCA, I was not clear on their positions.  I said, "You realize I'm a Baptist, don't you?"  They did.  Their last two pastors had been Baptists.  They got my name from the Baptist college.  I ended up candidating and becoming the pastor of that small church, where I served for 2.5 years.  Frequently I heard criticisms from certain members that I was "trying to turn the church into a Baptist church" (something I never stated, nor even attempted).  It all came to a head when the deacons asked me to look at the constitution and see if it needed updating.  RED FLAG!  Rookie mistake here.  I read it over and said it sounded fine, except it didn't say anything about people needing to be baptized to join the church, something I believed to be biblical.  The deacons reaction:   "It doesn't say that?  Well we need to change it then!"   Suffice it to say the church body didn't feel the same way.    During the fateful meeting, one member (who hadn't been at church for almost a year) asked me "Do you have to get baptized to go to heaven?"  I said no, of course not, to which he replied, "Well Pastor, you're making it harder to get into this church than it is to get into heaven."     The church eventually tabled the motion for the change, something my wife and I voted against since we believed it was the right thing to do.  I got counsel from several godly men, and since the people were unwilling to follow my lead, which was based on sound biblical doctrine, I decided to get out of the way.   After I resigned a few weeks later I understand their next pastor was a Baptist as well.  I have since moved on, but in talking to other men in the ministry, I believe I got off light.  I pray for my current pastor frequently.  

Men just entering the ministry need to be told: sometimes you as the pastor are the most unappreciated and criticized person in the church.  Get used to dealing with that.  Love your people, but remember that we are to love as Christ loves, and Christ loves His enemies.  Sometimes the people in your church will act like your enemies. Even the saved ones.  Love them, lead them, don't give up on them, but get your strength from God, not from the praise of men.  

Larry's picture

Moderator

During our church business meeting this afternoon, a member demanded to know why I didn't get a church vote before buying a commentary on Kindle for $23.98. 

How and why would this even come up at a business meeting? How would they know that this amount was spent on something that specific? Wasn't it approved in an annual budget?

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

It came up because of poor leadership on my part. It's being fixed. The point is that prospective Pastors need to have a realistic idea of what they're getting into. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

Andrew K wrote:

I'd have taken you to task too. Next time put it on a Wishlist and wait for it to drop to $.99. Wink

I would have told you to spend a bit more and buy it on Logos instead... I have exactly one commentary on Kindle (Gundry's Commentary on Mark), and I've rarely ever used it.

Ron Bean's picture

The four hour deacon meeting debating whether the pastor's vacation week was 5 days or 7 days.

The criticism of the Christmas Cantata because it contained a line about angels singing and "the Bible doesn't say the angels sang!"

Internal conflicts over changes in the order of service.

Accusing the pastor of "cheating" because he paid for his housing and health insurance with pre-tax dollars, proving that he was "greedy after filthy lucre".

Accusing the pastor of sin because he attended a relative's wedding/funeral in a liberal church.

Accusing the pastor of being "heartless" because he wasn't at the hospital to pray with a relative of a church family (said relative didn't attend church) while they had day surgery. (Pastor didn't know about it.)

Accusing the pastor of being a hyper-Calvinist because he prayed for God to save people.

And finally, accepting a call to a church, buying a home in the community (using a letter from the church stating your salary for the bank loan), moving to the community and discovering that the church is so far in debt they can't pay you.

 

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

T Howard's picture

First, I think the things written by Tyler, Steve, and Ron are a sad commentary on many of our churches ... and on many of our pastors.

Steve Picray wrote:

The church where I was a member as a teenager (attended right after I was saved and then later baptized) asked me if I would be interested in candidating, but I felt that was a "no prophet is without honor except in his own country" situation, so I declined.

It's unfortunate that you felt this way. The mission of a healthy church is to reproduce, which includes identifying, training, affirming, and installing new leaders. In the NT, it wasn't normal for a church to look outside of its own congregation for its pastors / elders (thus 1 Tim 3, Tit 1:5). If your home church is healthy, it would be a great place to get started in ministry and learn the ropes alongside people who know you, love you, and who are committed to your success.

I'm doing this now in my current church. I'm serving as an elder even as I finish up my MDiv this Spring. I'm surrounded by a plurality of godly pastors/elders who love me and desire my growth and development. Our congregation is gracious and affirming, and many have encouraged me in my pursuit of future bi-vocational ministry as a church planter.When you cut yourself off from people who know you, love you, and affirm you, and who have a vested interest in the success of your ministry, I think you do yourself a great disservice.

That being said, if your home church is dysfunctional, it may be best to go elsewhere.