Five Reasons to Pastor an Old Church, Even With All Its Problems

"Sure enough, church planting has seemed to be all the rage for the last twenty years. But I want to take just a moment to offer five reasons that aspiring and existing pastors should consider before deciding to plant." - 9 Marks

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Bert Perry's picture

Our church has just received a new pastor, and one of the saddest things I ever heard came from the pastor's wife; that hearing people talk about theological matters was a breath of fresh air for her.  So the benefit of pastoring an established church can be that one can help breathe life into that church; the danger is that the church is just plain happy in its deadness.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Yes, church planting is needed. However, you won't have a church without problems because you planted the church. (Trust me.) Problem number one is that you are there!

As I am nearing the age when another man will have to take over the church I planted, I know the needs of the precious flock of God that exists here. They will need a pastor who loves them. Every one of these points is true.

Young men should simply be open to the Lord's leading and walk through the doors that are open. They need to be committed to the ministry as they find it, not as they could wish it to be.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

M. Osborne's picture

 They need to be committed to the ministry as they find it, not as they could wish it to be.

Don, the older I get, the more profound that truth grows, about ministry and about loving people in general. You cannot love in the abstract; you can only love concrete people with concrete particulars. And as much as you think you can pick whom you'll pursue to love, God has a habit of saying, "Actually, love this person."

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

T Howard's picture

Twice I've witnessed the collision that happens when a young pastor comes into an old church.

  • Lots of change usually without wisdom and good change leadership.
  • Usually the first thing to change is the church logo, website, core values, and other aesthetics to "modernize" the look of the church.
  • Usually the second thing to change is the music and worship service.
  • Along with these first two changes, many of the long-timers / old-timers either leave or raise a significant ruckus.
  • This leads next to sermons on obedience, gossip, and following Matthew 18.
  • This leads to resentment and people feeling unheard and unloved.
  • If the snowball of change --> discontent continues, this leads to hurt feelings, groups leaving or threatening to leave the church, and usually a short pastoral tenure (< 5 years).

I think most young guys come into an old church and feel they are coming to either rescue or resuscitate it. Therefore, they are quick to implement changes and slow to love people. In reality, what they really need is to be slow to implement changes and quick to love people.

JBL's picture

This will never happen for a variety of reasons, but I've often wondered how much heartache would be saved if churches considering a new, single pastor would form two sub-committees in addition to the main search committee comprising of the top 25% of givers and top 25% of servants.

Once the main search committee vets and clears the candidate, the two sub-committees would then make their own separate lists of things, that if changed over the next five years, would lead to instant regret that the candidate was hired.

And the next question would then be - "Do you still want the job?"

John B. Lee

Mark_Smith's picture

I applied to several local churches over the years that have had pastoral vacancies. I never have gotten to an in-person interview. All of them have sent a form with questions. They always ask 2 things: do you have debt and does your wife work. I answer yes to both. That kills it. Having debt is considered not being a good household manager, and my wife (who has a PhD) working is just too much....

Bert Perry's picture

You'd obviously need to take a look at what specific issues are in play and how the church is currently addressing them, but I've seen a fair number of churches with longtime pastors, and there are simply times when a lot of them do need those hot button issues addressed.  This is especially the case when we're talking about issues that are part of what I'd call "cultural fundamentalism."  

So in a way, the new pastor can choose to ignore the issues that will bring heartbreak, but at the cost of further deepening an un-Biblical worldview among the flock.  We might therefore wonder whether the kind of list John Lee proposes ought properly to serve as a blueprint for inaction, or a blueprint for action.  From my experience around small, dying churches, I'm leaning strongly towards "blueprint for action", at least as a general rule.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.