We Need More Pastors, Where Are They?

"We have not been producing enough young leaders to fill the gap and I think I know some of the reasons why." - Proclaim & Defend

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Jay's picture

A new generation of committed church leaders must rise up and not only carry on the work already established but also pioneer new mission fields. We have not been producing enough young leaders to fill the gap and I think I know some of the reasons why.

I do too.  Most of them have been chased off as insufficiently fundamental enough.  I said this when the YF survey was released, when Danny Sweatt attacked Calvinists at the Wilds retreat, and when the "convergent" issue was released (among others).

Some of it is money, some of it is time, but some of it was that you ate/chased off your young.  Go re-read Mark Ward's article on the KJV debate again.

"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

T Howard's picture

Quote:
However, this is not how God recruits His servants. 1 Timothy 3:1 says that if someone desires to be in the ministry, he desires something good. God calls people to ministry in different ways... Our best and brightest must be challenged with the idea of dedicating their talents to serving God full-time should God call them.

If your definition of being a pastor is only full-time pastoral ministry, that may explain why there's a lack of "pastors." 1 Timothy 3:1 isn't referring to just a desire for full-time pastoral ministry but to eldership in general. If you exclude men who are called to be bi-vocational elders, then your pool of qualified pastoral candidates is vastly smaller.

Quote:
At the other end of the spectrum, the ideal of ministry preparation sets unrealistic universal expectations. A typical seminary education includes an undergrad degree plus an additional three years of grad school... We need to lower our educational expectations, lower the cost of education, or find a way to help those preparing to pay for it.

I don't think the answer is to lower the educational expectations. We already have too many "pastors" who can't properly exegete Scripture, who can't preach expositionally, who can't make a cogent argument from Scripture, and who think just because they have Logos or Accordance they know how to use the biblical languages. These are not the "pastors" you want in your church.

As we have already discussed ad nauseam here at SI, an undergrad Bible or pastoral ministry degree is insufficient to pastor a church. Better the man interested in pastoral ministry get a marketable undergrad degree, get a f/t job, serve at a church, receive mentorship from his pastor / elders, then go to seminary (or -- gasp! -- earn his seminary degree on-line concurrently).

Quote:
Often, these churches cannot even pay a full-time salary.

I believe there are also several reasons men don't go into f/t pastoral ministry. Being grossly underpaid by their church while their church members enjoy regular vacations, owning late-model cars, an employer-sponsored 401K, employer-subsidized health/dental/vision/life insurance, and while being treated like crap by the church are two major reasons.

Bert Perry's picture

If the various camps of fundamentalism want to find out why there are not very many young pastors, take a look at activities for youth and the relative preponderance of brown/red/blonde/black hair vs. gray/white hair.  I would guess that if you took a look at the relative proportion of the young people we have who are willing to go into the ministry, it's not that dismal.  The question is where are the young people, and why haven't we connected with them.

And not that I really need to say this again, but I would dare suggest that one of the big reasons the FBFI isn't seeing a lot of young people is that they've confused 1950s church culture with Biblical imperatives, and young people who get out are saying "say what?" on their way out the door.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

...they've confused 1950s church culture with Biblical imperatives...

^^^^^^THIS^^^^^^

T Howard's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

...they've confused 1950s church culture with Biblical imperatives...

 

 

^^^^^^THIS^^^^^^

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

Larry Nelson's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

...they've confused 1950s church culture with Biblical imperatives...

 

 

^^^^^^THIS^^^^^^

 

 

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

many (sadly) interpret that verse.  Church culture was finally perfected in the 1950s, much like the Bible to others was finally perfected in 1611.  (And there is often a great deal of overlap between the two groups.)

TylerR's picture

Editor

As long as churches and prospective pastors continue to embrace the paradigm of "full-time Christian service" and the solo, full-time model, they will continue to be frustrated. America is not a Christian nation. It is a pagan nation. It needs a missions mindset, which means bi-vocational is the future. Some pastors and churches haven't come to grips with this reality. 

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?

Bert Perry's picture

Thanks, Larry, and hopefully I haven't ginned up too much of a firestorm here. 

But regarding Proverbs 22:28, we need to remember that the ancient landmark was a surveying marker, and what's being said is more or less that a man shouldn't steal his neighbor's land.  A lot of interpretations I've seen of that verse are basically that you can't change the drapes on your house or try a new suit in a different cut because the Bible says not to steal your neighbor's land.  And to that, I am confused.

I should also note that if FBFI members think certain aspects of what I'd call cultural fundamentalism truly do believe that they are Biblical, I heartily invite them to step up to the plate and make the case.  Obviously I haven't been convinced yet, but that door is yet open on my part.

And finally, it's not just the FBFI that doubles down on "the current culture" and estranges itself from ministry, of course.  Lots of churches do, and rightly or wrongly, that's the inspiration for Francis Chan's book Letters to the Church.   In it, he challenges us to read the Gospels and epistles and ask ourselves a very serious question; does the church I attend today resemble what I'm reading at all?  

My answers may differ from Chan's, and yours from mine, but it strikes me that if we put in a good faith effort to process things like the ancients, we just might end up reforming our churches (Semper Reformanda, no?) to be nigh unto irresistible to young believers.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Brandon Crawford's picture

Where are they? They are preparing for ministry at Southern, Trinity, and Master's, and afterwards are moving into the SBC, or TGC, or Acts 29, or a combination of them. There are more young men earning theological degrees right now than perhaps ever before. They just aren't landing in places like the FBFI.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You may well be right. However, I understand MBU (and perhaps BJU?) enrollment is growing. I believe they are the only regionally accredited fundamentalist universities. BBC&S might be. 

If there isn't a drop in MA and MDiv enrollment, then they just may not he going to fundamentalist churches for ministry. I suspect many younger fundamentalists are more catholic, and less strictly tribal. I know I am. 

My son is going to MBU for undergrad. I don't trust many of the usual evangelical suspects to provide an educated pushback against the woke foolishness that is overtaking our culture. 

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?

Don Johnson's picture

Brandon Crawford wrote:

Where are they? They are preparing for ministry at Southern, Trinity, and Master's, and afterwards are moving into the SBC, or TGC, or Acts 29, or a combination of them. There are more young men earning theological degrees right now than perhaps ever before. They just aren't landing in places like the FBFI.

No,they aren't. If you read evangelicals, they are seeing the same trends.

Don't let your bigotries cloud your reason.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

How many of the FBFI membership is under 50, Don?  Kevin Schaal is asking the question. 

Dr. Kevin Bauder commented on it here:

During the day, however, when only the FBFI members were in attendance, the number was more like a couple of hundred. Of these, fewer than a dozen appeared to be under forty years of age.

If this year’s meeting is any indication, the FBFI is dwindling. In one way, that is not surprising. The younger pastors have been trained to value preaching that directly reflects the text of Scripture. They also tend to lean toward some version of Calvinism. By featuring pulpit allegories and by attacking mainstream Calvinists, the FBFI is more likely to drive young leaders toward conservative evangelicalism than it is to attract them to its own valuable positions. It would do well to cease featuring non-expositional treatments of the Word of God, and it would do well to adopt a more welcoming stance toward mainstream Calvinist fundamentalists.

Someone else noted it in FrontLine:

One of the reasons we produced the “Convergence” issue was to provide a voice for growing frustrations in my generation, stymied in its efforts to reach across that “yawning generational gap” that Mark spoke of in his letter. It was a rebuke of an unethical pastoral theology observed in some, but it was not intended as an indictment of an entire generation.

Nevertheless, the “Convergence” issue was understandably troubling to Mark’s generation of fundamentalists. Similarly, this issue could be troubling to my generation. Already, I have received an appeal to cancel any plans to allow Mark to edit an issue of FrontLine and even to shut down his regular column...

--a change in author takes place here--

...I hope older generations of fundamentalists will be glad to see in this issue that you have successfully passed your values on to at least thirteen of the young people God put under your influence. You won’t be able to read what we write without feeling the authenticity of our gratitude to you.

And you’re going to have to believe in the authenticity of that gratitude if any fundamentalist institutions are going to be left for me to pass on to my own children, at least in anything like the form in which they stood when I entered Bob Jones two decades ago. A complicated generational transition is upon us, and unless fundamentalism’s Baby Boomers believe that its Gen-Xers and Millennials are acting in good faith to serve our shared values, we won’t be able to work together to restabilize and promote those values. Pillsbury, Calvary, Northland, and Clearwater are gone—and their deaths didn’t send floods of students to other fundamentalist institutions. Who’s next to die?

The FBFI? Though this magazine reaches a much larger number, we have just 444 US members and 33 international members. I counted. And precisely 26 of these members are what I’d call “young.” That’s 5%. No one my age has ever once said to me, “Hey, wanna go to the FBFI annual fellowship this year?”

Here's a third person:

But for all its good, fundamentalism is shrinking. Many guys my age have been hurt by the wrong kinds of fundamentalism and have looked elsewhere for a people and a place. This is unfortunate since fundamentalism’s big idea is biblically sound. The errors of the worst kinds of fundamentalists have driven away a large swath of the thirty-somethings. Some of these will realize later in life that their new peoples and places have ugly scars of their own. No place is perfect. For now, they will not call themselves fundamentalists.

And neither will I.

But our reasons will be different. For while they reject the label based on the wrong kinds of fundamentalism, I reject it based on the right. You see, I cannot take the label fundamentalist for myself – not because I do not want it – but because I have not earned it.

You may not like the facts, but don't insult the members of this board by calling facts you don't like "bigotry".

"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

Bert Perry's picture

Southern reported record enrollment in 2017-18, and the Southern Baptist-affiliated seminaries as a whole recorded only 2.4% reduction in enrollment.  Here's a sample of evangelical seminary enrollment by year, ending in 2017.  

In comparison....Northland, Clearwater, Pillsbury.....and of course BJU is also running about half the size it was 20 years back, no?  Yes, evangelicalism is facing headwinds, but they are nowhere near as bad off as their fundamental competitors.  My pastor is on the board of Faith, and he mentioned from the pulpit that despite some excellent inheritance gifts, the school will be out of money within a decade unless enrollment rebounds.  The question is not what's happening, but why.  

I would submit to you, Don, that a major reason a lot of people are going to conservative evangelicalism is because they're simply not on board with the cultural fundamentalism endorsed by groups like the FBFI.  Maybe it's time for a good look in the mirror to determine whether these positions are Biblical or not, and if they are, whether the arguments FBFI has made for them need to be changed.  What is obvious is that the "convergents" aren't buying the arguments as they're currently given. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert, Don and the FBFI have put themselves in a corner. If they continue down their current path, they will continue their decline and inevitable extinction. If they take your advice and renounce their 1950s cultural fundamentalism, they will be accused of capitulating to the "convergents," be the subject of numerous fundamentalist laments and charges of liberalism, and lose their current membership. At the same time, the younger generation will not view their change as credible after all the lambasting they received at the hands of the FBFI. This will result in an even faster decline and extinction event.

So, the safer, longer route is to keep circling the wagons, to lament how the convergents are destroying fundamentalism, and to bemoan the lack of young preachers.  It's a slow, long death march.

Brandon Crawford's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Don't let your bigotries cloud your reason.

 

Thank you, Don, for giving the SI readership such a shining example of the kind of rhetoric they can expect from the FBFI. 

And just for the record, I'm a young independent Baptist pastor who finds no joy in the collapse of so many of our independent Baptist institutions, and I am working hard in my state association right now to promote new planting and revitalization efforts. I'm not a bigoted outsider. I'm a committed insider.

Don Johnson's picture

However, if you read the evangelicals at all, you will find that they're noticing the increasing average age of pastors. This is a problem across the board in Christendom. If you want to make it out that it is PURELY a fundamentalist problem, you are welcome to do so, but it is a biased opinion. It is a problem all over.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Brandon wrote:

I am working hard in my state association right now to promote new planting and revitalization efforts. I'm not a bigoted outsider. I'm a committed insider.

Same here. The GARBC ruleth ...

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?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've been on pulpit committees and searched for a pastoral position myself. We just hired another elder. I don't see a supply problem, myself. However, I do see pastors looking for the old "full-time, solo guy" model and not being realistic about what churches can afford.

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?

TylerR's picture

Editor

My quick thoughts:

If you can do anything other than the ministry, you should.

This is good advice. Disagree that it's a bad thing to say. 

You have to have a seminary education to go into ministry

You do. So, I disagree here, too.

We have not been producing enough young leaders to fill the gap and I think I know some of the reasons why.

If the article is speaking from an FBFI point of view, I believe that orbit has its own problems with younger men - some of which were mentioned (above). Outside the FBFI, I'm not so sure there is a systemic problem. The GARBC draws from a larger pool; their seminaries aren't incubators. They draw from evangelical seminaries. 

There are different kinds of fundamentalisms, each with different problems. 

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?

Don Johnson's picture

A lot of people were talking about this in 2017, after this Barna study came out. There are a lot of articles that commented on this, search under "aging pastors"

Here is a blog by a woman adjunct professor at TEDS, sounds like she's been a pastor before (!). She comments on the same Barna study in addition to two others.

That is to support my point that it isn't exclusively a fundamentalist problem.

As for seminary, if you can, you should do it. It isn't a requirement. It provides tools you probably won't get any other way, but I believe it is over-emphasized. (I hold an MDiv degree and am thankful for it.)

And the old saw about "If you can do anything other than the ministry, you should." is just that, an old saw. I don't believe it. I think a lot of men who should have considered the ministry took this line as a guide and went on to something else.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

I spoke to Dr. Bruce McAllister about this issue just a few days ago.  Bruce worked for BJU 42 years and was in charge of the Ministerial Class and Church Relations for many of those years.  He is very informed.  He said there are about 1300 BJU grads currently pastoring churches.  The majority of them are over 50.  I'm 62 myself and have been pastoring for 41 years, six as a youth pastor and 35 as senior pastor at FBC Troy.  The ministerial class at BJU is a fraction of what it was when I attended there.  Bruce identified about 500 potential replacements.  Bottom line is that Bruce is quite concerned.  Our church has seen dozens of men called and trained for the pastorate.  Many are senior pastors right now, and a good number of them are in the 20, 30, or 40 year age group.  They are fundamental Baptist pastors, but they don't have a great deal of interest (or angst) in the FBFI.  Our new president in the FBFI is a very balanced guy.  He is not a KJVO advocate nor a Calvinist basher.  I think the FBFI has improved over the years, but its reputation has not fundamentally changed.  I invited Mark Ward to be a speaker at the national meeting held at our church.  I thought it was very important to have him come and speak.  He hit the KJVO issue very hard, but I have not heard much from Mark since then.  I like Mark and appreciate his new book a great deal. My son is 30 and has planted a church in England.  He candidated at a Baptist church last Sunday in New England.  We will know at the end of this week if he will be the senior pastor there.  My son's best friend, Mike, who is a member of our church, just took an assistant pastorate two months ago.  Another school staff member at our Christian school and church just took an assistant pastorate about a month ago, and a current church member recently became the assistant pastor of a neighboring church this summer.  All these men are in their late twenties or thirties.  We have several men from our church or school at BJU studying for the ministry right now and 3 or 4 men studying at DBTS in the M.Div. program.

Pastoring requires many skills.  I am sure they could find work in the secular realm if they had to.  Pastors need an M.Div. or more today. They need to learn the biblical languages and solid biblical and systematic theology.  Lowering the educational requirements will not help us in the long run.  That education not only informs the mind and heart, but builds character as well. BJU is offering a very generous scholarship for Bible majors.  Also, you can take two majors at the same time now.  This will help.

Pastor Mike Harding

TylerR's picture

Editor

Appreciate it. I do wonder about the enrollment numbers in pastoral programs. You mentioned BJU already. I wonder, too, about MBU and other places. They are growing, but is the pastoral program growing ... or is it the other majors? 

It seems likely that a position of stricter tribalism may limit your candidate pool, going forward. 

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?

Mike Harding's picture

Tyler,

I really love and appreciate MBU and Faith Baptist College among others.  I have staff from both of those fine schools.  Faith is growing and MBU is holding its own.  Appreciate your ministry in the NW as a bi-vocational pastor.  My son-in-law is involved as a pastor of a church restoration project--Gibralter Bible Baptist Church.  My other son-in-law, Mark Mayer, is a surgeon who has just enrolled in seminary in order to prepare for the ministry.  He will be bi-vocational.  He wants to start a church in NW South Dakota.  As I said before, my son, Luke, just finished a successful church-plant in England.  Really appreciate and understand what you are doing personally in the ministry.  Keep it up.  Also, I loved your article on the social justice/gospel.  I am working on an article regarding this topic for Frontline.  Very helpful.  Thank you.

 

MH

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Bert Perry's picture

Tom Howard, I can't say as I disagree with you, but your comment from 9pm yesterday is one of the most depressing things I've read lately.  :^)  I might also add that I've been in both companies and churches where the modus operandi was that the band played on while the ship sank, and of course the leadership was absolutely surprised to see the rats scurrying out.

Tyler also brings up a couple of points from the FBFI writer, and the one that really hits me is the notion that churches can skip training/seminary for pastoral candidates.  Now we can quibble about how this training ought to occur--I am a big fan of suggesting pastors ought to do some of this training as part of the ordinary disciple making process--but Mike Harding also gets it right when he says that a pastor needs seminary level training, Biblical languages, and the like.

This is especially the case when we consider that teens are in what Dorothy Sayers would call the "pert" stage, and many/most of them tend to be really unimpressed with Bible college "this is how it works" answers.  Being able to sit down and walk through the evidence is a huge deal.  Being willing to do so is even bigger.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Brandon Crawford's picture

You must read a post carefully to rely intelligently, Don. The article was about the shortage of young leaders among independent Baptists. I commented that many of the young men raised in our churches and interested in ministry end up getting their seminary degrees outside of our immediate circles, and then, naturally, move into the ecclesiastical orbits connected to those schools. That's it. 

Anyway, I've got real ministry responsibilities to get back to now. But you keep fighting the good fight online!

Jay's picture

Tyler also brings up a couple of points from the FBFI writer, and the one that really hits me is the notion that churches can skip training/seminary for pastoral candidates.  Now we can quibble about how this training ought to occur--I am a big fan of suggesting pastors ought to do some of this training as part of the ordinary disciple making process--but Mike Harding also gets it right when he says that a pastor needs seminary level training, Biblical languages, and the like.

I'm almost ready to argue that seminary education (as in the formal send Billy to Baptist College for four / six / eight years of BA - MA - MDiv) is going to be unworkable in the future.  Sure, places like BJU will always have a niche because they do other majors and degrees that supplement the school of religion/seminary, but I am not at all optimistic that this method of training men for ministry will be possible or sustainable 10 years from now.  Whether it's overt hostility to religion/Christians, the insane cost, the need to travel from home to the campus, or whatever...I just don't see it.

I'm not sure what the solution is - there are some churches I know of that I'd be ok with pastors discipling new pastors, and some that I'd rather set fire to than allow it to happen (Hammond) - but we need to start coming up with answers because it's a problem.

Anyone know how the church trained pastors in the former Soviet Union, or in places like China / North Korea?  I think that's where our future is headed. 

As for the whole numbers of applicants/students being down across the board - of course it's down.  Who wants to be a pastor when they can make good money elsewhere, from a secular point of view?  Who wants to stand athwart the world yelling repent or perish?  Isn't Biblical pastoring the same as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 1:18-29? 

"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

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

Anyone know how the church trained pastors in the former Soviet Union, or in places like China / North Korea?  I think that's where our future is headed. 

I agree with that pessimistic view.

Perhaps to stave it off, you might have to vote Trump??? (heh, heh)

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

This guy right here looks better every day.

"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

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Jay wrote:

 

Anyone know how the church trained pastors in the former Soviet Union, or in places like China / North Korea?  I think that's where our future is headed. 

 

 

I agree with that pessimistic view.

Perhaps to stave it off, you might have to vote Trump??? (heh, heh)

Don, sorry to let you know this, but writing in Trump is probably not going to get rid of Justin Trudeau.  Just sayin'.  :^)  (Prime Minister Modi plans to retaliate )

Seriously, regarding Jay's question about how pastoral training was done in the old Warsaw Pact countries, and how it is done in the house churches of China and elsewhere,  if you cannot do classrooms and moving to your seminary, that means that training will be done in a more apprenticeship mold, 1:1 or 1:few, in such a way that tracing people will be harder.  In other words, don't just preach at people, make disciples.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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