October 21, 2020

Swimming against a Tide: Pastoral Ministry

The Table

Swimming against a Tide
Ways I’ve changed in my evangelical faith
Pastoral Ministry

This week I want to push back against some articles written by others — not because I have a chip on my shoulder or animus toward any particular writers, but simply to try and express some of the ways I have changed paths in my own journey of faith.

• • •

I knew that my leadership role was to let Jesus Christ lead the churches.

• David Hansen
The Art of Pastoring

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. For fifteen years he led a church and denominational consulting group. Recently, on his blog, Rainer wrote a post called, “Ten Signs a Pastor Is Becoming a Chaplain.”

Having been both, I thought I might respond to it today.

I have written often about my distaste for the American evangelical approach to pastoral ministry. Since I was awakened as a Christian in my late teens, my adult journey has coincided with the “Church Growth” movement. Among some of the other problems I see in this movement (see for example, here), the role of pastor in American evangelical churches has become transformed. The minister, particularly the “senior minister” must now be a “rancher” not a “shepherd,” a “visionary,” not just one who faithfully dispenses the word and sacraments, a “CEO” with organizational “leadership” skills, not simply a spiritual guide or servant.

Thom Rainer’s article, in my opinion, is just another way of stating these and other church growth assumptions. For Rainer, a minister must be a “leader” not just a “chaplain.” As a chaplain myself, I find his use of the word condescending. As though all a “chaplain” does is live at the beck and call of the “needy.”

Well, you decide for yourself. Here are Rainer’s ten signs a pastor is becoming a chaplain:

One. The pastor is not equipping others. Church members expect the pastor to do most of the ministry, and the pastor fulfills those unbiblical expectations.

Two. Pastoral care of members is increasing. As a consequence, the pastor has less time to lead the congregation to reach beyond its walls.

Three. The pastor does not take time to connect with non-members and non-Christians. Simply stated, there is no outwardly focused Great Commission leadership.

Four. The pastor deals with members’ complaints at an increasing rate. Once members get accustomed to the pastor being their on-call chaplain, they are likely to become irritated and frustrated when the pastor is not omnipresent and omniscient for their every need.

Five. The pastor worries more about the next phone call, conversation, or email. Such is the tendency of the pastor-chaplain who knows there will always be complaints about needs not getting met.

Six. The pastor experiences greater family interference time. Many pastor-chaplains are fearful of protecting family time lest they not be highly responsive to church members. Some of these pastors have lost their families as a consequence.

Seven. The pastor is reticent to take vacation time or days off. Pastor-chaplains would rather have no time off than worry about what they may miss while they are away from the church.

Eight. The pastor is reticent to take new initiatives. There are two reasons for this response. First, the pastor-chaplain does not want to upset the members with change. Second, the pastor-chaplain does not have time for new ideas because of the time demands of members.

Nine. The pastor has no vision for the future. The pastor-chaplain is too busy taking care of current member demands. Little time is available for visionary thinking and leadership.

Ten. The pastor has lost the joy of ministry. Of course, this unfortunate development should be expected. There is no joy in dealing with unreasonable expectations and constant streams of criticisms, or with a ministry that has no evangelistic fruit.

Gosh, all of a sudden I hate my job.

I’ve got news for Thom Rainer. I can answer every one of his points.

  • Chaplains like me serve on teams, play a specific role, and participate in equipping others. It’s an excellent model for church leadership.
  • Chaplains, like people in any other ministry, have to set boundaries on how much they can handle and share the load with others.
  • Chaplains take initiative to reach out to people and do not just respond to complaints.
  • Chaplains do not sit by the phone worrying about complaints.
  • Chaplains are just like everyone else in having to protect family time. Does Rainer seriously think “leaders” don’t struggle with balancing family and ministry? Give me a break.
  • Chaplains take vacations like other people, and we do it knowing that others will fill in for us while we’re gone. It’s usually the CEOs who can’t relax because the whole shebang is on their shoulders.
  • Chaplain initiate new ideas with people all the time.
  • Chaplains seek God for new “visions” of how to help people better.
  • Losing joy has nothing to do with what job you’re doing, but with your own life and how you are living it.

If you ask me, we need more pastor/chaplains in evangelicalism, not fewer. I visit people all the time whose pastors have forgotten them in their illness or old age, whose large churches have no effective pastoral care systems in place, whose staff members think it’s someone else’s job to visit people in the hospital, whose ministers — plain and simple — don’t have time for people. They are too busy preparing that next visionary message or micromanaging the other staff or programs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat myself here: if you have the word “pastor” in your title, your main job is being with people and caring for people, in one way or another. If you see your job as “building the church,” you’re a businessperson, not a pastor. (Not that there’s no place for that, but that’s the subject of another post.)

In my view, the main difference between the “leader” I see in many evangelical churches and the “pastor/chaplain” is that leaders get focused on the business, while chaplains focus on people.

Now, I will admit that there is a danger that pastor/chaplains will become imbalanced and not give attention to the organizational aspects of ministry. But if a minister is not gifted or interested in that side of things, why can’t that be led by other people with the appropriate gifts and experience? Eugene Peterson famously told his board that he did not get into ministry to “run a church.” And they said, “Okay, then don’t. We will.” He had earned their trust that he was there to fulfill his ministry with the gifts God had given him. And this earned him their partnership.

David Hansen, who is quoted at the outset of this post, wrote one of the best books available on pastoral ministry, called The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. In his chapter on leadership, he writes:

Looking back objectively at twenty years of church work, from youth work to pastoral ministry, I see that some of my best work has been my leadership. But I don’t know what I’ve done, and I don’t really know how to be a leader. I often begin a day by saying to myself, “Today I need to prepare a sermon,” or “Today I need to go off and pray,” but I never start any day saying, “Today I need to be a leader.” I wouldn’t know what to do if I were trying to be a leader. The best I can figure is that leadership is something I do while I am doing everything else. (p. 149f)

And, in my humble opinion, some of the best “everything else” stuff a pastor can do involves fulfilling the work of a chaplain in his congregation.


  1. One of the things I am grateful for at my current (smaller) church is that my pastor actually knows I exist. I am pretty sure that if/when Something Awful Happens he will be there to minister to my family. At my previous (very large now multi-campus church) that wasn’t true. There wasn’t anything wrong with the lead pastor there – it is just impossible with that huge of a flock to minister to individuals by pastors. (To their credit, they appear to recognize this and offer much training in pastoral care and strongly encourage small groups as a way of having a church family that knows you and notices if something is wrong.)

    Thank you to all the people who provide pastoral care – it is a gift to the congregation that is invaluable.

    • There’s an older couple in our choir now who joined our Lutheran congregation a couple years ago. They had both been Lutheran originally, but for reasons I don’t know became involved in one of the local evangelical megas a decade or more ago. I asked the husband why they had returned to Lutheranism. He told me that, as they got older and older, he and his wife more and more disliked the idea that they were essentially strangers to the senior pastor and pastoral staff at the mega. They want to be buried by someone who knows them, he said, not a stranger to whom they were just faces in a crowd.

  2. I’m part of a men’s fellowship group that is, coincidentally, reading Thom Rainer’s book “I Will.” I must say, I’m unimpressed. While on one hand he says that worship and service shouldn’t be seen as legalistic, he on the other hand suggests that a true Christian will worship and serve because it’s what we’re supposed to do. And we’ll do it with JOY…hip-hip-hooray!

    It’s a bit too heavy-handed for my tastes; others in the group seem to agree.

    • Where did the “it has to be JOYFUL® or it doesn’t count” idea come from? I’ve heard it regarding worship, prayer, and doing your taxes… but why?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Where did the “it has to be JOYFUL® or it doesn’t count” idea come from?

        North Korea, where the population units constantly Dance JOYFULLY With Great Enthusiasm before Comrade Dear Leader.

      • Maybe it doesn’t count unless it’s “JOYFUL!”

        I’ve heard it said that if you get excited during football games on Sunday but are reserved during the worship of God in church then somethings wrong. I don’t see how the two are comparable.

        • Just like you wouldn’t compare a football game to visiting a much-beloved relative.

          Of course, complaints like these are themselves quite ancient… even St. Chrysostom expressed concern that his parishioners were more knowledgeable about the chariot races than the Bible.

          • I wonder if he complained that his parishioners were more knowledgable about farming and growing crops and keeping their family alive than the Bible.

            More bullshit.

          • To be fair, his parishioners at the time were the upper class of Constantinople, as he was that city’s archbishop, so they more than likely wouldn’t have known anything at all about farming or growing, nor have had to worry about keeping their families alive compared to the average Greek of the time. Moreover, they would have had the means to commission a copy to be made, and the literacy to read it.

            I just tried to find the exact quote from Schaff’s Fathers, but to no avail.

          • To be fair to the parishioners, however, he was a man known for his austerity and probably let that slip through more than he should have. This is all not to mention his infamous opinions on the Jews, of course.

        • The football illustration is one Rainer actually uses in “I Will.” Gee, Thom, thanks for making me feel guilty about enjoying football…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Do you have to laugh like a hyena on Nitrous?

          • At least dance before the Lord like David. If you’re not willing to do that, well you better check your priorities.

        • Not comparable in the slightest. At a sports game, there’s fun, enthusiasm, healthy competition, and a clear winner and loser (in real sports, futbol…j/k).

          Then there’s church, where there is no fun, no enthusiasm, and certainly no winners, just a bunch of wretched wholly depraved losers.

      • I was just told yesterday by a WELS that good works done in any way other than to the Lord for joy is “evil”, and no longer good. Insert fragments and zip codes to justify.

        All I can do is say no. I’m done playing the arguing, proving, debating game.

        • Man, I thought the L in WELS was supposed to stand for “Lutheran!”

          • Richard Hershberger says

            They are the Lutherans way over there, bunkers and the entrenchments, and the pamphlets explaining that they are the real Lutherans. In fairness, there are other encampments even further off, with their own (smaller) trenches and bunkers and pamphlets. Those guys make WELS look like Birkenstock-wearing hippies.

        • Thank God I got the exact opposite advice in my seminary training – “trust Christ’s righteousness to cover your mixed motives, and do good anyways.”

    • Burro [Mule] says

      I tell people “I don’t love the Lord enough to do [or stop doing] that”, and that at my age the way I am now is pretty much the way I’ll be when I have to give accounts to Him.

  3. br. thomas says

    In my ministry, I do feel more drawn toward the “chaplain” role instead of that as an outreach or or marketing-type leader. But, I suspect that the underlying issue here is not to choose either/or, but maybe a bit of both/and.

    This feels like a polarity that needs to be managed, rather than a problem to be solved. I suspect that a pastor probably needs to be concerned about taking care of the flock, while at the same time being attentive to those still wandering and searching. In business-language, which is more important: sales or customer service? I assume both is the correct answer. In church-language, I guess it would be trying to find a healthy balance between in-reach & outreach – overemphasizing one or the other is unhealthy.

    But, I would agree that most evangelical church leaders seem to err on the side of focusing on the numbers: bodies, buildings, & $.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I suspect that the underlying issue here is not to choose either/o

      My recommendation is not to make someone perform a balancing act. A pastor should be a pastor, and the business-manager/CEO/board should do their job. Extremely rare is the person with all the above skills and knowledge; smaller churches cannot just count on getting such a candidate. Everybody do their thing, and respect each other. The most genuine pastor without accountability to a board or team will run amok, he/she will crater themselves – I’ve seen this. And what is the point of a board or business-manager if they aren’t supporting someone or something, ensuring they can continue tomorrow with the lights on.

      Asking someone to balance these things is asking too much. It sounds good, it rarely works. So there will be tedious meetings, occasionally people will yell at each other, and its all good.

      > err on the side of focusing on the numbers: bodies, buildings, & $.

      I am ever more convinces this is an upside down look at the problem of Corporatist Evangelicalism. It is not an excessive focus on buildings, body count, etc… It is an absence of a belief in Community [or I’d prefer Neighborliness, “Community” is a term that feels worn out, too bloated with abstractions]. If you actually believe – as I think Mr. Rainer’s bullet points reveal – that everyone should be self-sufficient self-actualizing and take care of their own @&*$*@ business – then you do not believe in Community. If your ethic is one of the sufficiency of the individual then this form of Evangelicalism *DOES* make perfect sense, it is coherent. Mr. Rainer is wrong, but he is wrong long before making this criticism of chaplains, and a whole lot of red-blooded Americans agree with him.

      I mean:”””Once members get accustomed to the pastor being their on-call chaplain…””” Seriously? This is the Needy-Sheeple-and-the-Strong-Man [gotta make them all into Strong Men] view of humanity, just wrapped up in Christianeee. It is grossly disrespectful of the parishioners. I remember this kind of talk. If I overheard a pastor saying something like that today…. everyone else would probably flee from the room.

      • I spent about 12 years in a non-denom church that had been planted in the 1990s. (I came in around year 5 and ended up in a leadership role on the administrative council.) As Adam notes, “the most genuine pastor without accountability to a board or team will run amok, he/she will crater themselves.”

        Our founding pastor never made the turn from planter to senior pastor, although he thought he did. His main problem turned out to be that he did not want the church leaders to hold him accountable. We danced around this for a few years, not quite sure that this was, in fact, the issue. He was a good guy, after all. But when he made an obvious series of missteps, and we tried to come alongside him, he did not feel he had to listen. It was his church, after all. Seeing the writing on the wall (that the leaders wanted him to come into accountability), he left within a few months.

        I’m pretty sure to this day (several churches later for him) he still does not get it and believes “his” church was ungratefully trying to stick him with a raw deal, which was being held accountable.

      • amen

  4. flatrocker says

    “The priest who seldom goes out of himself misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, lose heart and become in a sense collectors of antiquities or novelties — instead of being shepherds living with ‘the smell of the sheep.’ This is what I am asking you — be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” – Pope Francis

    • ” … be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”

      Now that sounds like something Jesus might have said to the temple priests. Good quote from the Tall Hatted One.

  5. He lost me with point 2: “Pastoral care of members is increasing.” Because God forbid that a pastor should have to provide pastoral care to the unwashed masses that dirty up his pristine auditorium every week.

    • Absolutely this: And I considered telling him so in the comments, but there were so many professional chaplains in queue (sp?), that I didn’t bother. GREAT job jumping in, Chaplain army !!!

      At least Rainer HAS a comments sections and responded to the chaplains horde.

  6. Here in Michigan this past year we had two state representatives, a man and a woman, strong Tea Party members, each married to others, who were on the verge of being outed as conducting a private and presumably intimate tea party of their own every Thursday in a local rented hotel room. The man was recorded plotting an outlandish scheme to foil the disclosure and keep his job, and in the process was heard to refer to his job as “managing the herd”. Why does this come to mind?

    In the olden days when all ministers and pastors had become priests, if you were landed and could afford it, you could build your own private chapel on your land and hire your own private priest to officiate, this being a chaplain. That’s not too far away from what we are doing here at iMonk, other than the pay being worse than meager. I’m thinking that our modern concept of “chaplain” is probably more along the line of counselor, which is how Rainer seems to view it, pejoratively I might add. That’s got to be really offensive to chaplains worldwide.

    However this gets worked out, it seems to me to go back to the institution of “deacons” or workers, so that the original pastors weren’t spending their time waiting on tables. I still like to think about a much loved pastor from the past in Oregon who quietly and privately made it his business to clean the toilets in the church as a means of keeping balance, something which I suspect Mr. Rainer would find cringeworthy.

  7. Richard Hershberger says

    My father was a chaplain in the US Navy for 27 years. I find Rainer’s use of the word very weird: so weird that my reaction is not to take offense, but to tilt my head and squint and go “huh?”. Is this usage a general thing within Evangelicalism, or is it an idiosyncrasy of Rainer’s?

    • Thank God for your dad.

      A local evangelical pastor/chaplain started a certification class to train lay people to be chaplains. So the term “chaplain” is a very good thing in at least some parts of evangelicalism. I think hings like “Stephen Ministry” is considered a very good thing within evangelicalism. I just think we’re confused about the role of a pastor.

  8. Thanks for this, CM. As a bi-vocational pastor, pastoral care is a continual struggle. Do I go visit the hospital/nursing home/sick person after work, or do I go home and care for my family? One of my goals is to equip church members with the tools they need to provide pastoral care to the congregation, even when I’m not available to do so. The life and care of the congregation shouldn’t depend on the reliability or even the diligence of a flawed individual like me…I’m hoping to make them an entity that can provide the love and care that Christian community calls for, even if myself, or the next guy, isn’t that strong in the area of pastoral care.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I’m hoping to make them an entity that can provide the love and care that
      > Christian community calls for, even if myself or the next guy, isn’t that strong in the area of pastoral care.

      This sounds like Leadership to me.

      But see how when you set it up there is a recognition of the dignity and necessity of all roles! There is no concept of ‘mere’ activity beneath the pastor [or insert any privileged role here].

      The Leader leads, he sees that it can all go forward, but it isn’t about himself/herself, it is about a purpose.

      If the roof leaks you *need* a roof guy, it is not *beneath* the CEO to fix the roof, it is that CEO’s do not fix roofs. Mr. Rainer’s points indicate an [unspoken] belief in a value hierarchy, value is determined by role; I believe he would not *honestly* agree with previous statement. This makes the church really much more like a [for-profit] corporation than an community.

  9. I agree. I too think David Hansen’s book is one of the best for what a pastor ought to be. Evangelicals (Americans anyway) have bought into the ‘church growth’ idea hook, line, and sinker, without any reflection at all (perhaps because it is so natural in our materialistic/individualistic culture). The pastor’s job as CEO is to build the corporation, which involves marketing to outsiders, providing the right amount of ‘member services’ (aka ‘ministries’) to insiders (for customer retention), and a weekly pep rally with entertainment and a good motivational ‘talk’. I just don’t find that kind of model anywhere in the Bible. What I find is much more the ‘chaplain’ model that CM describes. The metaphor of ‘shepherd’ is what Jesus himself used – and warned against following a model that ‘lords’ it over people and uses them to further the mission of the corporation.

    I looked at Rainer’s post and was disappointed, but mostly with the comments. There were a lot of responses criticizing his use of the term ‘chaplain’ but not one (as of when I read it) that questioned the basis of his post – not one that questioned the idea that a pastor is SUPPOSED to be a CEO (and not a chaplain/pastor [shepherd]).

    • Once your focus as a church is promoting your brand & bringing in new customers, you become yet another voice screaming for market share in an already bloated market environment. And you continually need to add/shift staff to get the most bang for your buck. If the church down the road lures people in with iPad giveaways, then you have to give MacBook Airs to top that. Where does it end? If you treat congregants like consumers, don’t be surprised when they leave for a place that gives them a better deal. And don’t be surprised when they get needy on you, wanting to see how many extras they can milk out of you before they hit the salvation clearance sale down the road. None of this builds a community.

  10. “Little time is available for visionary thinking and leadership.”

    “Visionary leadership” is one of the dumbest ideas we’ve ever put forth in the church.

    Mr. Rainer may need to look up what the word “pastor” actually means.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Little time is available for visionary thinking and leadership.”

      “I SEE Things…”
      — Mark “Bee Jay” Driscoll

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Any time “vision” comes up in a meeting I try to slip out the back and do something useful with my time.

    • Burro [Mule] says

      200 mg of chlorpromazine would help with those visions.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    For Rainer, a minister must be a “leader” not just a “chaplain.”

    Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and other spiritual abuse/corruption watchblogs are full of the results of such Christian Fuehrerprinzip.

    • I often think about the Pope’s favorite title: ‘the servant of the servants of God’ . . . and how that corresponds with what sort of people are the ‘greatest’ in the paradox of the Kingdom of God . . . ‘the least shall be first’ . . .

      maybe Rainer needs to put his concept of ‘the gospel’ aside and return to the four Holy Gospels of the sacred Scriptures and there reconnect with the Good Shepherd in spirit ? He has forgotten too much and opted for a ‘lesser god’, it seems

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > not just a “chaplain.”

      See the subtle denigration here – “just a chaplain”. Does he mean it as “not only a chaplain” [then why not say that?] or is there a subordination of the role of Chaplain to Leader implied?

      I disagree with him there, and there is nothing subtle about the implications of this hierarchical valuation of roles vs. the alternative.

  12. >Ten. The pastor has lost the joy of ministry. Of course,
    >this unfortunate development should be expected. There
    >is no joy in dealing with unreasonable expectations and
    >constant streams of criticisms, or with a ministry that has
    >no evangelistic fruit.

    Ugh :(. I get really sad reading reading things like this. “Joy” is such a terrible weight to expect of someone.

    At least in my experience, joy doesn’t come from routine things like a job – happiness comes from routine, contentment comes from routine, but joy? Joy is fleeting, momentary, and it finds part of its definition in the “newness” of joyful experiences, or joyous discoveries. Joy in a wish granted is temporary; after the moment fades, what you’re left with is either hollowness or contentment.

    When “Joy” is expected, all you’re doing is setting someone up for failure. I’ve had conversations that went like this –
    “How’s the new job?”
    “Oh, it’s great. I’m really happy!”
    “You may be happy, but are you joyful?”

    How does a person respond to that, other than by feeling vaguely guilty? What is the intention here? It’s just tiring.

    • I agree completely, kerokline. I had a post on the topic a few years ago: https://internetmonk.com/archive/consider-it-all-joy

      • Good article, Damaris.

        • +1

          This is a good explanation of true joy. Thanks Damaris. I think perhaps what evangelicals think of as joy is simply their A Type extroverted CEO/pastors personality. So that is the bar that is set for “joy”. We need more chaplains as pastors. And we need to be equipping lay people to be chaplains, particularly more B type, introverted, glass-half-empty types who are more in tune with the reality of the daily slog of life….but have of the hope of Jesus in it.

      • I remember that article!

        I’ve always found that passage from James infuriating and profound. “Consider it all joy”. In the moment, it sounds like exactly the thing you would never do, right? “How can I consider my failures and struggles joyful?”. And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, I find myself saying things exactly that. “I am where I am today not in spite of but because of the times I failed, and I am glad to be where I am.”

      • Damaris, your article truly blessed me today. Thank you for sharing it. Linda

    • I mention Rainer’s book “I Will” in an earlier post, but in it he has a section titled “From Begrudging Participation to Joyous Commitment.” I mentioned to the group that’s studying the book that a statement like that is too loaded with guilt and shame.

      I think my issue with Rainer, at least with the book I’m reading and what CM brings up here, is that it’s too simple and doesn’t dive in deep enough to consider all the factors involved. His premise in “I Will” is that church attendance has dropped because everyone goes in with “I Want” (this from church) rather than “I Will” (do for my church aka serve). My comment to the group was that this over-simplifies and ignores how much church demands/expects/lays guilt trips on its members “to serve”, which leads to begrudging participation.

      Joyful participation only comes when we understand God to the fullest, not from more programs and guilt trips. And even then, we shouldn’t expect 100% joy 24/7.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But if you don’t keep the pewpeons guilt-tripped, how are they going to “TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”

        Furtick Mansions, Calvary Temple Car Collections, and Creflo Dollar private jets are EXPEN$IVE.

      • But evangelical churches have been the biggest promoters of ‘I want!” You want a rock band & light show? You got it! You want the worship leader to wear jeans? You got it! You want the kids to have their own separate service so you can enjoy the adult service? You got it! You want services on Mon, Tues, Wed., Sat., & 5 times on Sunday so you can work it into your already busy life? You got it! You want a coffee bar & bookstore right there in the building? Yep, you can have that, too!

        • That’s a really good point, Suzanne. In a sense, they’ve helped create the monster of “I want” and are now wondering what happened…

  13. Rainer took a beating in the comment section of his original post. It is clear from his responses that he regrets using the “chaplain metaphor.” He first admitted that the metaphor is imperfect and further down the thread sort of apologized, saying that he never meant to minimize anyone’s role in ministry.

    He mentioned a follow-up post in the comments which I can’t find, but he did come back to the issue on his podcast. He posted the list of 10 things again but with a new title; 10 Signs You’re Leading in Maintenance Mode.

    • Well, sort of….. a beating for using the wrong metaphor, for not fleshing out his main points with the right word pictures. But the elephant is still break dancing in the room: what would be so wrong, so un-Jesus like if the leader spent LESS time vision casting , LESS time doing what is currently the rage in pastoring and….umm…spent more time pastoring: taking care of individual souls in the context of their joys and sorrows ?? Got to know more of their flock, not just staff and board members… I could go on.

      Pinched for time, but MY beef with Rainer is NOT his choice of metaphor or word picture: we fundamentally disagree on what a pastor is and does. A curt “sorry bout that Chaplain thing” does not bridge this. +

    • this is from the excerpt section of that link:

      •Pastoral care should be done throughout the congregation…..

      I have a lot of work to do at work today, but I’ll observe this: IF you mean “including the leaders, and in fact emphasized by word (at a minimum) and deed by those leaders….” then I’d agree. In the churches that I’ve been with, the leader used this truth as an excuse, cuz….well….. he was SO busy “equipping the saints for the work of service….” and this is code for he was so busy teaching and preaching (his faves) that he had no appetite or time for pastoral work. That was cool with him, he didn’t see it as his calling or duty anyway. Yukkkk.

      • Let’s keep some things in mind about the source. Rainer pastored churches in 4 different states over a period of 12 years but that was over 20 years ago. He is currently the president of Lifeway Resources. I am an SBC pastor but let’s make one thing crystal clear: Lifeway exists for one purpose and that is to sell you stuff. Check out the cost of using Lifeway’s VBS curriculum sometime. Rainer has published nearly 30 books since 1989, the vast majority of them published by Broadman Holman. His career, and by extension his blog and podcast, are predicated upon his ability to push Lifeway merchandise.

  14. In the five-fold paradigm, sounds like Rainer is dismissing/devaluing the “pastoral” gifts in favor of (maybe) the “apostolic”. Not a healthy approach!

    • And yet, what did Christ say to the Apostle Peter? “Feed my lambs.” No matter where you go, you can’t get away from it!

      • There’s a convenient out, or course: in Rainer’s paradigm, FOOD= the Word of God, the food that does not perish, and we’re right back to pastor as teacher/direction giver/vision caster/administrator, blah, blah, blah….. anything BUT pastoral care. There is so much dissimilarity between his model of leadership and what many (I’m in this mob….) have come to understand is Jesus-ish, that we are largely talking past each other.

        The fundamental flaws of his article go FAR beyond an unfortunate choice of metaphor. He gave us the church leader as CEO/teacher model (which is not surprising) , and then offered reasons why no one should expect something else. Count me unconvinced, and unconverted to that point of view.

        I prefer leaders who smell like sheep.

        • –> “I prefer leaders who smell like sheep.”


          Our church had a lead pastor several years ago whose “big thing” was beginning an Upward soccer program. This program was VERY volunteer intensive, requiring lots of time and effort from many people. Do you know how often I saw our lead pastor at the games or helping? Almost zero. I couldn’t stand it.

          • The mind boggles at the idea of children playing soccer in zero gravity. I almost don’t want to find out what Upward actually is, now.

  15. There are so many side bars to a post like this, one of which is discipleship and what that looks like. I appreciate and NEED carefully done teaching and preaching, and can tell the difference between shoddy teaching and pulpit work well done….BUT: I’m much more prone to listen to anything from the mouth of someone who shows up on “service day”, or Christmas in October, or food pantry day, and goes shoulder to shoulder with the common folks and who does NOT foist ALL pastoral care onto a team or committee in order to tend to his/her carefully crafted sermons.

    This is not an either/or, it’s a “both/and”, as desparately as we need the WORD, we need the WORD incarnate, and not disembodied from real life. We need to see, touch, hear, smell, and tasted what the WORD looks like, especially from our leaders. That’s what leaders do.

    • –> ” I’m much more prone to listen to anything from the mouth of someone who shows up on “service day”, or Christmas in October, or food pantry day, and goes shoulder to shoulder with the common folks and who does NOT foist ALL pastoral care onto a team or committee in order to tend to his/her carefully crafted sermons.”

      During one of our pastor regimes several years ago, the lead pastor was rarely seen at things while our children’s pastor was at EVERYTHING. I used to joke with the children’s pastor that he was at church more often than Jesus. I became good friends with him, while always distant (and I must admit, a bit critical) with our senior pastor.

  16. Rainer’s ten things sound like something from any number of business management/leadership books, with a bit of Christianese language thrown in the mix.

    No thank you.

    As I once heard Dallas Willard say, “we don’t need more conferences on leadership, we need conferences on followership.”

    • “I am leading; y’all need to be better followers!”

      • Pastor A to Pastor B: How are you and your church doing?
        Pastor B: My church and I would be doing pretty good if it weren’t for the people.

    • Christiane says

      the logic is off for all these ‘leadership conferences’ IF they are wanting to style themselves as Christian ‘leaders’ . . . all the male hubris and arrogance fails to hold respect when it crashes up against the simplicity of sacred Scripture:

      ‘ . . . and a little child shall lead them’

      • I have long scratched my head at the use of the word “leader” to describe someone in church authority. it doesn’t compute. They are pastors, teachers, administrators. They may even have a titular office as such. But they are not “leaders” in the modern sense. They are people who have grown in grace to the point that their influence on less mature sheep is needed. They do not “lead” people, they “shepherd” people. And they themselves are followers.

    • –> “…followership.”

      Interesting term and concept. I like it!

    • Exactly, great Dallas Willard quote. The modern, vogue notion of “Leaderism” really has nothing to do with authority in the church.

  17. I would recommend folks use the link to Rainer’s site and read some of the comments to his post. They started out complimentary enough but soon the chaplains started coming out in droves. Rainer stepped in it up to his knees.

    • Yeah, but what he’ll fess up to is: I was not careful enough with my choice of words in expressing what I was trying to say…… Boo: I say he wrote with ample clarity, the contrast of chaplaincy with his style of leadership is clear enough, I have no complaint with HOW he made his points, I just thing his way of leading and what Jesus gave us are at odds most of the time. And I see Thom’s view’s as the majority view on what we are to expect out of leaders (sadly) but maybe that is starting to turn a bit.

      Maybe the Chaplain Army will lead the rest of us to something better. Wearing CUBS gear, perhaps, all the way to a Midwest Fall Playoff. Even sheep need to eat a brat or two , and chillax…….

      • I’d vote for that!

        My own belief is that if the Church had fewer Leaders and Leadership Conferences and Visions, and more caring for actual other Christians and non-Christians, we would soon have all the leaders and visions we would ever need,

  18. I’m thinking, after reading both the “Chaplaincy” post and the “Maintenance mode” post: there is a lot of speculation on Thom’s part that a focus on pastoral care will lead to a self-absorbed and inward focused church. I’m not going to list the examples of this, read the posts and tell me if that’s a fair statement on mine. I just don’t get the animus towards pastoral care, here, except that it’s damned inconvenient, time intensive, and does NOT always equate with butts in the pews/chairs as a result….i.e.: NOT church “growth” (numerically) friendly, necessarily.

    Add to that the comments along the lines of “those crybabies…” and “those whiners…” for those who found fault with Thom’s take on this. Needless whining and complaining…… hmmmm: what kind of church is the goal ?? What are we winning people TOWARD ?? Granted, I did NOT hear Thom himself call any of his detractors a “whiner” or “complainer”.

  19. OldProphet says

    Obviously I’m in a unique position to comment here. CM, this post probably is about 60% of the reason why I have walked away from my Evangelica tradition. Basically I have tired of a pastorcentric model where Sunday morning service is basically his only focus. Except for outside meetings. I’m trading the pulpit model for God’s table model! It’s been a long time coming.

    • OP, aside from what you find up front and center in a church being telling, I also find a useful distinction in whether or not the pastor’s name is outside on the church sign. Little things mean a lot but there is no perfect church. Spirit trumps the details.

  20. OldProphet says

    Well spoken Charles. There might be a perfect church somewhere in the cosmos but it wouldn’t be perfect if I went there! So, why ruin a good thing for someone else? LOL. Amontillado for everyone!

  21. Bill Worley says

    I found IM quite by accident, and now I’ve found myself grazing here for a couple hours. I suppose that is to say that I am new in these parts and, quite frankly, more than a bit intimidated by the level of the discourse here. All that being said, I wanted to express my thoughts on this particular discussion.

    I was ordained by my home Baptist church here in NC about 3 years ago. I have no true pastoral experience, being limited to this point to my role as worship leader, sunday school teacher, and the occasional supply preacher in our community. Please forgive any ignorance that comes through in my words.

    I have no idea really what the difference is between a pastor and a chaplain. It seems to me that both represent a person who has been called by God to spiritually and physically serve a body of believers, encouraging them in their faith and helping them to grow in their relationship with God.

    Most of my christian life has been spent in relatively small churches, and my current church body is about 60 in number. Our pastor is bivocational, works a full time job during the week, and ministers in every way he can to the body around that schedule. He visits our sick, he leads us in congregational worship, he prays over our members and our community, and he does his best to hear and discern God’s desire for our body.

    I think large churches have obvious strengths and benefits in terms of resources – both financial and human. But I find it disheartening to think a church could grow so large that the pastor would not even know some of the members. It also has always seemed to me that a church body should be a geographically driven thing – that the people in the body should live in the community, and that the body should minister to it’s community. And it seems a comprise to what we profess we believe that there could be a huge, well tended body that continues to grow in both number and ministry, and nearby be a small, struggling body that is in danger of closing it’s doors.

    Something is wrong with the church when labels and divisions are what identify us. Perhaps if we had more pastor/chaplains and fewer CEO’s, we would see the church become the life changing force in our communities that it seems we should be.

    Thanks for indulging a new comer.