May 24, 2019

Randy Thompson: If it seems like your pastor is crazy…

Losing Paradise, He Qi

Note from CM: Randy Thompson is one of our faithful readers and commenters. Randy and his wife Jill have served churches in New England for over twenty years and are now running a retreat in New Hampshire called Forest Haven where they minister to other ministers. Today’s post will help you understand why they feel this is such a need in the church today.

* * *

If It Seems Like Your Pastor Is Crazy…
by Randy Thompson

If it seems like your pastor might be crazy, it may well be that the poor soul really is.

Consider:

Todd Rhoades’ website reports that “70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they started.” 80% report that ministry has had a negative impact on their families, and 50% say they would leave the ministry if they could.

Barnabas Ministries reports that at least 19,000 congregations experience serious conflict every year, 98% of which are interpersonal in nature, and 85% of which are over issues of control.

Pastor Bob seems paranoid?

He may need to be: In a 2009 survey of 2000 pastors, Focus on the Family found that 24% of those surveyed went through a forced termination. (What’s the deal with these private elders meetings, and what really did happen when Pastor Bob left his last church, anyway?)

Pastor Linda seems frustrated and angry?

She may have good reason to be: Citing a Barna study, Barnabas Ministries reports that churches expect their pastor to be competent in 16 different areas, which is way beyond anyone’s capabilities, unless you’re Superman or Gandalf the Wizard. (It’s too bad that Pastor Linda is such a good preacher, so involved in the community, and so good with the kids. She’s a lousy administrator, doesn’t spend enough time calling on people and having nice pastoral chats, and doesn’t communicate the church’s cleaning needs to the janitorial service. So, the Shadow Search Committee secretly forms, aka the Board of Deacons’ Assault Force Delta.)

Pastor Dave seems grumpy and withdrawn?

He may be clinically depressed. 50% of pastors, more or less, deal with depression and burn-out. Depending on whom you believe, between 61% and 70% of pastors say they have no close friends. (And, if he tells the Board of Elders about feeling depressed, Pastor Dave may have even more reason to be depressed, and burned-out, too, because, well, being depressed isn’t “spiritual.” Hmmm. Maybe that’s why he’s so good at funerals.)

Second year in a row the church didn’t grow?

It’s time to “encourage” Pastor Ellen to update her profile, even though the church hasn’t grown for the past twenty years and the past ten pastors).

Pastor Bill seems to be spending a lot of time comforting the recently divorced church organist?

Don’t be overly surprised: 33% of clergy report crossing appropriate sexual boundaries and 20% report having extramarital affairs. (You really don’t need further comment here, do you?)

Sleeping Elijah, He Qi

Lest I be accused of being negative and cynical, both of which I am very capable of being, consider the “10 Reasons Pastors Quit” post I found a couple weeks ago on Todd Rhoades’ website, a “Top Ten” list that’s a far cry from David Letterman. The list:

  • Discouragement
  • Failure
  • Loneliness
  • Moral Failure
  • Financial Pressure
  • Anger
  • Burnout (90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week)
  • Physical Health
  • Marriage/Family Problems (80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families)
  • Too Busy/Driven

Yikes! What happened to the idealistic seminarians who marched bravely off to the ministry with visions of “Acts” in their minds as real as the sugar plums dancing in the heads of children waiting for St. Nick? Why do 1500 minister leave the ministry every month? With such glorious visions of the Kingdom coming, why does ministry end for so many as a Bataan death march of the soul?

I’d like to suggest some reasons.

For starters, what churches say they want and what they actually want are often two very different things, and the pastor is caught in the middle. Most search committees will tell pastoral candidates that their church wants to grow numerically and spiritually. In the interview process, the church’s governing board will say “Amen” to what the search committee has told the candidates. Excited by the opportunity of being a change-maker, the new pastor begins a new ministry, eager to make changes. Unfortunately, “change” is an abstract idea for the church, and not a practical, real-life thing. Everybody loves “change” but not when it means that the order of service, church by-laws, and the church’s lack of outreach must actually be different from what they are now. Good old First Church (founded in 1756), where the average age of the membership is 63, tells the new pastor, “we want to attract young people.” The new pastor, especially if he is young, takes them seriously, and introduces contemporary music. The howls of protest begin the first Sunday morning the congregation sees someone stand up with a guitar. Out of nowhere, the church’s concern becomes its “heritage,” even though the church has been stagnant, aging, and shrinking for a decade. The truth is, they like it that way, but won’t admit it.

Or then there’s the matter of antagonists in the church. Churches, because they’re supposed to be about loving your neighbor, put up with behavior that would get you kicked out of most other institutions. There are many unhappy, bitter and mean-spirited people in churches, which too often give them free reign to vent their unhappiness, with the pastor on the receiving end of it. Easy to offend, these folks can make a pastor’s life hell, and I’m not overstating the case. In a small church, two or three of these folks can make life so difficult for a pastor that they move on to another church, or leave the ministry altogether. Because the rest of the people in the church are heavily invested in being “nice,” they try to be as nice to the antagonist as they are to the pastor, which leaves the pastor under perennial attack. If you think this problem is overstated, consider the many books and articles that address this issue, such as “Clergy Killers,” “Antagonists in the Church,” and “When Sheep Attack.”

And don’t think it’s just the pastor on the receiving end of these attacks. The spouse, usually the wife, has to watch her husband get pounded and come home with the life sucked out of him, and she begins to wonder why on earth they’re wasting their life in the ministry. And then there’s the pastor’s kids. . . They too can become a source of conflict and attack. The church’s religious police can be just as zealous as those in Saudi Arabia when it comes to music they don’t like, movies they don’t approve of, and clothes they consider immodest. (Imagine, if you will, how your daughter’s tattoo would be viewed in many fundamentalist churches?)

Moses Striking the Rock, He Qi

Also, imagine what it’s like to be the pastor of a church of 300 members, which is another way of saying you have 300 bosses. I personally know one former pastor, now in nursing home administration, who told me he could no longer take having so many bosses with so many conflicting priorities, hobby-horse issues, and agendas, all of which are presented as “God’s will” for the church. He’s now happier out of the ministry than he was in it.

Or imagine what it’s like to be the sole pastor of this church, and be expected regularly to preach sermons so clever and powerful that even the middle-schoolers listen, to offer counsel so wise it impresses God, to skillfully plan and lead mission trips to exotic locales, to write blogs read by thousands and quoted in the local papers, to nit-pick a budget down to the penny, to know when it’s time to reconfigure the endowment portfolio, to read cultural trends as well as the market research people at Pepsi-Cola, and to stay current with the denominational publications, theological developments, politics and what’s on the current best seller list so that no one else in the church has to. Oh yes, and you need to be compassionate, a good listener, and be willing to drop everything whenever anyone stops by to see you. (Don’t expect anyone to inquire about the health of your relationship with God.)

The problem is, churches want their pastors to be Superman or Wonder Woman, and typically pastors aren’t. The ones who are super heroes pastor mega-churches and write books. They become the standard for what it is to be a successful pastor. The little-guy pastors can’t help but see themselves as failures in comparison. They read John Maxwell’s books on leadership, and discover they’re not John Maxwell. They read about the big, successful churches where, apparently, life is beautiful all the time and where everyone is happy, but then have to go to a leadership meeting dominated by their antagonist(s).

Sadly, many pastors feel they have to act like they’re super heroes, and their ministry becomes a role they play. Even more sadly, congregations rather like this. The pastor pretends to be everything they want him to be, and the congregation pretends that is true. The church wants a role model, and the last thing they want is for their pastor to be a real person. In this world, the ideal pastor is like Rev. Lovejoy on “The Simpsons,” who has mastered ecclesiastical vocal inflections to perfection. He knows just when to raise his voice, and just when to lower it—presumably for the greatest spiritual effect. (A real life example: I had a friend, years ago, a Baptist pastor, who was a perfectly normal person in real life, a good guy, in fact. But, when he got up in front of his congregation, he turned into some odd church creature, oozing earnestness, compassion, and just the right vocal inflections to make you think he saw too many Hollywood movies like “Elmer Gantry.”)

The temptation for the church is to make their pastor into something he or she isn’t, and the temptation for the pastor is to play that role to keep everyone happy. Unfortunately, reality regularly exposes this little conspiracy for the unreality it is, and everybody ends up frustrated and (very) unhappy. When that happens, it isn’t the church that gets fired and is forced to move away, it’s the pastor.

So, if you’ve ever had a pastor you thought was a jerk, don’t blame him, at least not entirely. You may well have been part of the conspiracy.

* * *

If there are pastors who read this and are in need of healing, rest, and time away from ministry, a terrific resource for finding help is the CareGivers Forum (click the “Directory” page).

Also, check out Forest Haven, our Christian retreat that provides a rural, quiet place of healing hospitality and spiritual refreshment for Christian ministers and missionaries, and their spouses, who need time away from their responsibilities to draw closer to God. (See also our Facebook page).

Comments

  1. Thank you, Randy, for giving us the “short list” of pastoral expectations. 😉

    I come from a Reformed background and the expectations I’ve heard are simply unbelievable. And hyper-legalistic Reformed Baptists are from another galaxy with their expectations. If we could all simply “get it” that pastors/elders should do not much more than shepherd and care for the souls of the flock (a tall order just there) the church would be a pretty good place to be.

    Note to church people: Keep your pastors out of committee meetings, church building programs, budget/finances, tithes/offerings, nursery, kitchen, mission trips, and talking to the air conditioning repair dude. Please. I’m serious.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I come from a Reformed background and the expectations I’ve heard are simply unbelievable. And hyper-legalistic Reformed Baptists are from another galaxy with their expectations.

      And it’s no wonder Hyper-Legalistic Reformed Baptist pastors often are Autocratic to the point of Third World Dictators. It’s the only way to stay on top in a snakepit like that.

      And since it’s a church situation, everything gets ramped up to Cosmic Importance. Like the recent classic IMonk on Seminarian-dominated church boards, even deciding on square or round tables becomes WWJD God-level Importance and the anathemas and “DIE, HERETIC!”s start flying.

  2. I must say that soon after retirement after 35 years as a pastor, I told my wife that I felt like that I had my soul back again. Not that I didn’t while serving, but even more now, I look forward to worship and Sunday School every Sunday at our new church, and I do all that I can to support and lead cheers for our pastors. I pray for all pastors for the very reasons that you cite.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My regular writing partner is a burned-out pastor who has to constantly navigate the minefield detailed in the main posting. None of his three sons wants ANYTHING to do with “ministry”, not after seeing what it did to their dad.

  3. It’s a tough job being a pastor.

    I would say that a better description for them (instead of shepherds) would be sheep dogs.

    Constantly having to nip at the feet of the sheep and keep them from wandering off in their own directions. All the while battling their own urges to head for the hills and ‘greener pastures’.

    Keep up the good work at Forest Haven.

  4. Hmmmmm…..

    > Todd Rhoades’ website reports that “70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now

    I’m not a pastor, and I have a lower self-image than I did when I started my ‘career’.

    > Don’t expect anyone to inquire about the health of your relationship with God

    That isn’t their job.

    > ” 80% report that ministry has had a negative impact on their families,

    How many professionals of any stripe would say their career has had a negative impact on their families? I’d wager the number is around 80%/

    > and 50% say they would leave the ministry if they could.

    How many professionals of any stripe would just ship from their ‘chosen’ path if they had a real opportunity to do so?

    > Barnabas Ministries reports that at least 19,000 congregations experience serious
    > conflict every year, 98% of which are interpersonal in nature,

    No shock there.

    > and 85% of which are over issues of control.

    ??? What else would a conflict be about?

    >what churches say they want and what they actually want are often two very different things

    Like dating. And employers. As a contractor I can tell you about organizations and what they want vs. what they say they want.

    I’ve had much better relations with older pastors, frequently who had a first career; a bit of salty experience helps to add perspective. It tempers the urge to feel conspired against.

    > churches expect their pastor to be competent in 16 different areas

    Apply for a job in any technical field.

    > Second year in a row the church / [INSERT HERE] didn’t grow?

    Welcome to America.

    I’m aware being a pastor is a diabolically difficult job. But I don’t really read anything here that isn’t just-common-to-man. Pastors need to take care of themselves, everyone needs to take care of themselves. Nobody needs to be ashamed of taking care of themselves. I’d say most pastors I’ve met would be more successful and happy with just a touch more “jerk” in them. It is easier to lead, when you lead, rather than trying to herd [which is a job for dogs].

    >if you’ve ever had a pastor you thought was a jerk, don’t blame him

    I have, most of the time not for long. His job sucks; let’s not pretend it isn’t a job, with all the principles of organizational behavior at work. Most of that just is dreary ordinary stuff.

    > You may well have been part of the conspiracy.

    Pastors need to be very careful how much of a conspiracy exists in their own mind.

    • Adam, I don’t think it’s so much a conspiracy in their own minds as it is: (1) unrealistic expectations, (2) lack of good personal, emotional, and relational preparation for what the church is actually like.

      A layperson put it in good perspective for me once when he said a pastor in a smaller church in America like the one where I was serving needs to see himself/herself like an owner-operator of a small business. My father-in-law was just such a person, and I made the connection immediately. This is your life. 24/7. And, from a human standpoint, if you don’t make it work, it won’t.

      The other aspect, however, that you shouldn’t downplay, Adam, is the complex relational context of the congregation. And this is where much of the weariness and depression comes from. Now that I am a chaplain working for a business organization, I can’t tell you how much relief I feel from being free of having to work among my “family” all the time. That’s a tangled web, for sure, and not an easy one to negotiate.

      • Clay Knick says

        Spot on, Mike.

      • > Adam, I don’t think it’s so much a conspiracy in their own minds as it is: (1) unrealistic expectations,
        > (2) lack of good personal, emotional, and relational preparation for what the church is actually like.

        Yes, I understand (2). Which was part of my point. Do seminaries [seriously, I don’t know] really not emphasize organizational behavior, conflict resolution, time management? At least in my experience it *seems* like they do not [ in conversation I feel those topics are treated as “too secular”, ‘this is a church not a business’ – but it is a human organization, it is called *organizational* behavior, not “commercial” behavior ].

        I wasn’t implying that the conspiracy starts in their own minds but I’ve met too many pastors who clearly have developed a world-view at least tinged with conspiratorial tones. Which only serves to make them more isolated and unapproachable – and, to be honest, seem a little crazy. They become edgy where they interpret disagreement AS attack, thus every conversation is a potential attack.

        I guess we’ll just disagree – I’ve no doubt more emphasis on the organizational side of the organization that is the church could help a great deal. Starting with pastors acting like, expecting to be treated like, and being treated like the important and trained *professionals* that they are. There is no shame in that being a minister is a profession. More formal forms of accountability could go a long way towards ending the “private eldars meetings”, they would be to the pastors benefit, not to police him. The whisperings about what the pastors does with his “office hours” that I’ve heard are crazy – just make what you did during office hours clear to everyone. Being more systematic would go a long ways to squelching the constant nattering that infects so many churches; maybe before that nattering grows up to be something uglier.

        > I was serving needs to see himself/herself like an owner-operator of a small business. My father-in-law
        > was just such a person, and I made the connection immediately. This is your life. 24/7. And, from a
        > human standpoint, if you don’t make it work, it won’t.

        Pretty much. Most self-employed or small-business owners bail out as well.

        > The other aspect, however, that you shouldn’t downplay, Adam, is the complex relational context of the
        > congregation. And this is where much of the weariness and depression comes from. Now that I am a
        > chaplain working for a business organization, I can’t tell you how much relief I feel from being free of
        > having to work among my “family” all the time. That’s a tangled web, for sure, and not an easy one to
        > negotiate.

        Not an easy one to negotiate – especially if many of the tools and methods to help negotiate it are summarily discarded as “secular”. I’ve watched a couple pastors and their families melt-down – it may have started in the church, and the tangle of relationships (many unhealthy, and the refusal to see any church relationship as unhealthy) but in the end it was them. They were isolated by their own world view of how things had-to-work. Simple advice like getting more sleep or going jogging were viewed as incapable of penetrating their “spiritual” malaise (but sitting in their study nursing an ulcer with worry [otherwise referred to as “prayer”] – helpful).

        • “Starting with pastors acting like, expecting to be treated like, and being treated like the important and trained *professionals* that they are. There is no shame in that being a minister is a profession.”

          How do you weep with someone professionally? How do you pray professionally? How do you visit the sick professionally? How do you professionally prepare a sermon (hopefully) full of truth knowing that our spiritual Enemy want you to fail? How do you tell the pastor who is deeply discouraged every single Monday morning that he just needs to be more professional?

          • > How do you weep with someone professionally?

            I think pastors do that all the time. And Catholic priests do it all the time. They are weeping because of their own grief and sorrow. You are weeping for their grief and sorrow. And while you are weeping you are also listening – to them, perhaps to discover what they need (or if they are in any danger themselves). This is different then what they themselves are doing. That isn’t disingenuous, it is the role.

            > How do you pray professionally?

            You’ve studied prayer. You know about prayer. You do it artfully and with as much composure as you can muster. You guard yourself against vendetta-prayer or gossip-prayer (both of which I think are pretty common). You dodge what you know might be explosive expressions. Many pastors do this very professionally.

            > How do you professionally prepare a sermon (hopefully) full of truth knowing that
            > our spiritual Enemy want you to fail?

            You went to seminary to study how to do that. If not, what is the point of seminary?

            Your definition of “professional” is extremely narrow. Aside from these things are all the other things a pastor does, especially in a small church, are mundane and tedious – there is also volunteers and making program selections, and on and on. Many problems I’ve seen grow up out of or begin with very ad-hoc and inconsistent management of these things. Then someone feels slighted, and on it goes. Then in those intense situations these little things can explode. A strategy of conflict resolution is never focused on the axe-grinder of the group, so he/she just grinds on. etc…

            > that he just needs to be more professional?

            I strongly object to your use of the word “just”. Where did I use the word “just”? This use of the word “just” is a form of dismissal. I stated that I think these things would be very helpful, I proposed no silver-bullet just-do-this.

            And the response, I guess, is normal. These things can’t help. They aren’t “spiritual”.

          • Adam.

            On the whole, I don’t disagree with you. You are totally right that improved accountability for everyone involved in the church is a good thing. Structure, consistency, and accountability for all church leadership are needed. Certainly, some pastors need to be less obsessive and worried about how everyone will perceive them. Some of us put in way too many hours, don’t exercise, and eat poorly, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

            Perhaps my definition of professional is narrow. If by it you mean dignified, respectful, accountable, disciplined, etc, I completely agree. If by “professional” you mean that being a pastor is no different that running a business, and this is very much how you sound, then I heartily disagree. There is a spiritual dimension to pastoring that can’t be quantified and defies reason. If you have reduced the pastorate to training, education, tools, and methods (all your words) while ignoring the spiritual then I disagree. And yes, I learned that in seminary.

            You are correct, you didn’t use the word “just”. I read your comments as a dismissal of the struggles that pastors face as being no different than any other professions, and I used the word “just” to express what I read you to be saying. If you go back to what you originally posted, you came across very much as dismissing these struggles as normal while being seemingly unaware of the spiritual and relational aspects of ministry that make these problems particularly lethal in the lives of ministers and their families. So yes, I feel you are being dismissive, and this is why I’ve given a little pushback. If I have misread you, I apologize.

            Let me clarify those questions I asked: I was trying to talk about the deep and private spiritual battles – the real work of pastoring. I think you understood me to be talking about the public expression of those actions (weeping, prayer, preaching, etc). In that light, I agree with your responses completely, but perhaps we are talking passed each other a little.

            The weeping I speak of is the sort done in private in response to the hurt you see in others. This is the hurt, disappointment and disillusionment that wears a pastor down, and hardens the heart.

            The real work of prayer, beyond the public activity, is done in private, and one can’t “professionally” pour out his heart to God. This is what I was getting at.

            There are nagging feelings of failure that bounce around in many (most?) pastor’s heads while prepping and preaching sermons. Many pastors are utterly drained after preaching. I’ve read somewhere that Spurgeon — the Prince of Preachers — would sometimes stay in bed for 3 days after preaching so great was his exhaustion. This doesn’t make any sense because we’re talking about a 30 minute lecture that any “professional” can handle, but it is a reality to delivering the Word. It takes a toll on many ministers. No amount of professionalism in preparation or delivery will change that. Preparing and preaching sermons is a spiritual battle.

            So again, there is certainly an outward level of structure, accountability, and professionalism with which I whole heartedly agree. You are right, and we need to do a better job. My concern here is that you’ve devalued the aspects of the pastorate and related stresses that are not quantifiable in your professional paradigm. If I’ve misunderstood you, again, I apologize.

            Peace.

    • Adam,

      I want to second what Chaplain Mike said about relational aspect of ministry. I had a job in business before I was a pastor, and I understand pressure, deadlines, and expectations. However, no one cried when I made a mistake, or told me how I had personally hurt them if I didn’t meet an expectation.

      I’ll give you an example from last week.On Thursday I spent time at a nursing home leading a worship service for the residents. About half the room slept while I spoke and tried to lead them in the 1 millionth round of “In the Garden”. This is totally thankless task I do because I believe the Holy Spirit can still speak to a mind that is nearly gone. Thursday night I received a message from a congregant reminding me of a difficult time she had in her job two years ago. She told me that she was disappointed in me for not caring enough about her pain during this time. Two years have passed, and she decides to shoot at me now? Friday, which is supposed to be my day off, I took half the day to drive to visit an elderly man in a rehab center recovering from a stroke he had earlier in the week. No one will notice that I put my wife and three children to the side again so that I could minister to someone else in pain. Of course, he’d be sure to tell me how I hurt him if I didn’t show up.

      During one particularly bad week, both elderly parents of one of our congregants died when they left their car running in their garage and accidentally killed themselves with carbon monoxide as it filled their living room. Both were found dead sitting in their recliners with the TV on. The next day, one of our men had an epileptic seizure. I called to check in on him, but did not go to visit him. In my mind, a double death trumped a seizure and I spent my time with the family of the deceased. The epileptic and his family left the church in part because I didn’t care about him.

      None of this is at all similar to my years in business. Not even close.

      You seem to spend most of your comment telling pastors to suck it up and quit whining. This is exactly why pastors don’t talk about these stresses, which leads to more problems for them and their families down the road.

    • “I’ve had much better relations with older pastors, frequently who had a first career; a bit of salty experience helps to add perspective.”

      This is my opinion as well. I was on pastoral staff in two different churches my first 8 or so years out of college. My youth and ignorance ruined me and hurt many of the people I was supposed to be ministering to. If I would have spent 20 years or so experiencing life and raising my family prior to this I believe my ministerial career would have turned out entirely different.

  5. > Or then there’s the matter of antagonists in the church. Churches, because they’re
    > supposed to be about loving your neighbor, put up with behavior that would get you
    > kicked out of most other institutions. There are many unhappy, bitter and
    > mean-spirited people in churches, which too often give them free reign to vent their
    > unhappiness, with the pastor on the receiving end of it. Easy to offend, these folks
    > can make a pastor’s life hell,

    Absolutely, yes! Thuggery excused by “love”.

    Much like rudeness and callousness excused by “free speech”; discussed here recently in other articles.

    If there is no one in a church with either the authority or willingness to call someone to the carpet (privately, at least at first) then the institution is hopeless broken. How to manage this is *hard*, and most institutions of all kinds do it poorly, or just fail. [you always have the people who will run to the thugs defense in the name of “love”, “free speech”, etc…]

    I feel potent sympathy for pastors pursued by antagonists.

    Personally I believe the flat power structures I’ve met in most of Protestantism possibly just can’t deal with this *reality*. Back in my protestant days there was always “write a letter to the bishop” because maybe he would choose to interseed and provide the pastor with some clout. Why doesn’t the pastor have any clout of this own?! We believe in his intentions and sincerity enough to PAY THAT GUY! Argh.

    Do most churches have any formal means for dealing with this?

  6. Don’t forget that those polling numbers are likely reported low. Many pastors would not admit to the things polled about (conflict, depression), so the polling numbers would have to be low.

  7. cermak_rd says

    Reminds me a bit of the Vicar of Dibley.

    • The Vicar of Dibley is brilliant! I reset my computer’s region just to watch the DVD set. I think many churches have that “no no no no no, sure that would be great” guy and his “yes, yes, yes, yes, no, not at all, what a silly thought!” wife.

  8. This is a giant Amen! Isn’t it just like us humans to demand more of our pastors (earthly shepherds) than we demand of ourselves. Truth IS stranger than fiction. Thank you! And thanks for the update on a brother not known but loved through prayer and encouragement. (Eagle)

  9. Sunday was the final day for our pastor. Because of a close friendship with another staff member, I was aware of the internal conflict with the lay leadership, but I can’t shake the feeling that it was a Coup d’état initiated by a powerful few. The whole thing sickened me, but my feelings are nothing compared to a man that must now look for work to support his family because someone didn’t dig what he had to say from the pulpit or didn’t like the attendance figures of a church whose local demographics have changed significantly over the past 20 years while the leadership of the church is still WASP to the core.

    • We vote in our church leadership. Sounds like something you guys might want to visit.

      But even so, with women and people of differing backgrounds and races on our church council, people are still people, and all are sinners. It’s still not a cake walk. But what is?

      • Same here Steve, but when someone is muscled into resigning, voting becomes irrelevant, and the pastor chose not to call for a vote of confidence in this instance.

        • I’m very sorry to hear about your (church’s) situation. I’ll pray for your pastor, the new pastor, and your congregation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And there are ways to muscle a vote, My Dear Wormwood. Church Gossip is especially useful in such situations.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    So, the Shadow Search Committee secretly forms, aka the Board of Deacons’ Assault Force Delta.)

    As in “Pastor arrives at church office one morning to find his replacement sitting at what yesterday was his desk?”

    It’s time to “encourage” Pastor Ellen to update her profile, even though the church hasn’t grown for the past twenty years and the past ten pastors).

    As in Shadow Search Committee strikes again? (And pastor comes in to find new pastor sitting at what used to be his desk?)

    The temptation for the church is to make their pastor into something he or she isn’t, and the temptation for the pastor is to play that role to keep everyone happy. Unfortunately, reality regularly exposes this little conspiracy for the unreality it is, and everybody ends up frustrated and (very) unhappy. When that happens, it isn’t the church that gets fired and is forced to move away, it’s the pastor.

    This has been happening to my writing partner for at least ten years without letup.

  11. How much of these expectations are actually coming from the pastors themselves? People who enter into ministry thinking they can be superman or wonder woman?

    Think about, when people say they are going into the pastorate or ministry, they often share that “I have been ‘called’ into the ministry.” Yes, there can be a kind of humility in that statement, as if they are saying, “I want to serve others.” There also can be conceit. In other words, because they have received “the call” and God has purposed their ministry, they can somehow do it all.

    In contrast, I find it refreshing to have a pastor who is honest and authentic, and who’s able to express need and be vulnerable. Someone who knows that its not just about him/her. Such a honest and humble pastor does so much more for me than those ivory tower types. (This is why I give certain pastor/authors a wide birth. Unless they have experienced real personal struggle, they are just talking out their ear, and sharing from their seminary notes)The humble pastor shows me I don’t have to be super to serve God. Just as God can use him/her, God can use me.

    • Randy Thompson says

      When you start out in the ministry, you don’t know what you don’t know. That was certainly true of me. As you come to know what you don’t know, and you all too quickly come to the limits of your life experience, you find yourself growing in humility, sometimes painfully. I’m grateful for that pain, although I hope any further lessons in humility don’t require it.

      Here’s a title for a book I wish Andrew Murray had written: “With Christ in the School of Pain.” If such a book existed, it should be required reading in seminaries.

  12. I’ve been trying to find the words to respond to this all day, and I’m not sure what I can say beyond thank you for discussing this issue — but I want to tell a little of my story:

    I watched my dad get run out of a church when I was 14 (more than 15 years ago). My dad was certainly no perfect pastor, but based on the history of the church with super-pastor expectations and a group of “founding members” who saw it as there prerogative to control the church (hello, closed elder board meetings), it was inevitable that my dad eventually found himself on the wrong side of power brokers, so to speak. They called for his resignation and, although the issue of his resignation came to a congregational vote and the majority voted for him to stay, the founding members decided to vote with their pocketbooks and withhold their giving until the church was forced to choose between keeping the lights on an paying my dad — at which point he admitted defeat and left not only the church but also the ministry.

    This has had a profound and reverberating effect on my family. My oldest brother and I, who watched and understood what was happening, have both had long and difficult paths back to the church. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I can bring myself to attend church meetings, despite the fact that in my church they are town hall-style meetings with no congregational voting. My parents’ marriage is still significantly strained because of this, and both of my parents (obviously more affected than me) are still coping with other effects of being run out of a church.

    I write this not to garner sympathy but as an example of many and far-reaching casualties when superhuman expectations and very human power struggles erupt in the church.

    • I certainly have a lot of empathy with this comment. My dad is a pastor as well. He was never run out of the church, but I know there a few times through the years when some people tried to do it. They just couldn’t get enough people with them. Actually my dad is pretty rare when it comes to what happens to churches – he’s been at the same church for over 30 years now. But my family certainly bears many scars from ministry. The thing about sheep is that they tend to bite (and kick, scratch, gossip, etc.)

      Through the years, I seem to go through cycles of being completely cynical about the church and somewhat distant, and other times being deeply involved. I think the thing that keeps me from going too far off the cynical end is the fact that I happen to know some very humble and down-to-earth people in the ministry. They aren’t looking to “enlarge their tents” or “grow their ministry” – they just love people. I have also, unfortunately, met people who seem to be in the ministry for all the wrong reasons. Such is life, I suppose.

      The thing I’ll say is this. I think that once a person is full-time pastor, they and their family’s life is forever changed. It’s hard to explain. You’ll always look at everything different. Even though I’m not in the ministry now, and I’m just a regular Christian, I can’t look at myself that way. I’ve seen the inside of the factory I suppose, and I know what goes on. It’s not that it’s all bad, even. It’s just that it’s a different perspective that I don’t people who grew up with “normal” parents can’t fully understand.

      • It is hard to explain, but everything really is different once you’ve been inside, so to speak.

        I’m grateful to have landed in a church where the pastoral staff genuinely love people and, although it’s hard to quantify exactly what I mean, the dynamic of the church as a whole seems healthy — no huge egos demanding special treatment, etc. I know that my dad’s church was particularly toxic for a number of reasons so I try not to get too cynical anymore, but it is hard sometimes. I know that the church is made up of broken, sinful people who have broken relationships, but the way that churches sometimes treat their pastors — and their pastors’ families — is shameful.

    • Randy Thompson says

      Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Truly a great article. I have found many if these principles in one form or another cross denominational lines and have impact no matter what your church polity. Having experienced it all in nearly 40 years of ministry, I have learned (perhaps) that man did not call me and man cannot uncall me. Any leader worth his/her salt will be betrayed and misunderstood because that is part of our training to live the cross life. The trick is to stay sweet in spite of it all. Pastoring is the toughest job on the planet, yet it is the most rewarding in my opinion. I encourage you that are pastors to take the time to make friends and never allow the ministry to cause you to be anything other than who you are. For my part, I would never serve any church that can. Arbitrarily fire me on a whim. Not worth the drama,mbut that is just me. Once again, great article.

  14. Matt Purdum says

    Once again, a great reason to abolish America’s corporate-church structure. Get rid of the whole thing. Groups of believers need to arise organically, meet in homes, and let the leadership arise naturally. By the 22nd century, that’s what Christianity needs to look like.In fact, the need is now.

    • Randy Thompson says

      Matt, I tried the anti-institutional approach to church when I was very young, in the 1970’s. I could write another article detailing the pathologies and craziness of house churches, non-institutional churches, and so on. My general point would be this: Where there is no structure, someone will come along and become the structure, and where there a church has “no human head,” the vacuum soon gets filled by a charismatic leader with power worthy of a renaissance pope. House churches also have a tendency to “re-invent the wheel,” which generally is learning the hard way, and often painfully. Been there, done that. No thank you.

      (That having been said, who knows what the future church will look like. I find it helpful to remember G.K. Chesterton’s “Cheat the Prophet” game. People listen attentively to visions of the future, and then go off and do something completely different.)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Where there is no structure, someone will come along and become the structure, and where there a church has “no human head,” the vacuum soon gets filled by a charismatic leader with power worthy of a renaissance pope.

        Or a Third World Dictator.

        And the size of the church (or other organization) doesn’t matter. According to an oral history I heard once, the most vicious dagger-and-poison power struggle in the oral history of SF litfandom happened back in the Thirties or Forties with an SF club in some city which never had more than five members (split into two factions constantly at each other’s throats).

  15. My father’s fundamentalist Baptist church is closing in on two years of search for a new pastor with no end in sight (and they have no denominational “search process” slowing them down). Their expectations are so high that none of the over 40 applicants has been able to match them. By church by-laws, they must have an 80% “yes” vote in a church that’s size is so small that one family’s dissatisfaction can seal the fate of the candidate. I feel bad for whomever finally gets it. Sigh.

  16. Thanks for this article. I’ve forwarded it to my pastor, our district superintendent and my fellow church board members.

  17. Randy,

    Great article and much needed! We do need to encourage these servants more and criticize them less. Unfortunately they are subjected to far more legalism (from us) than just about any other class of Christian.

    Also, you forgot one of the other challenges they face. If you are sure your pastor is a heretic you may be wrong. But unfortunately he can never get away from that slip of the tongue or that viewpoint he has since changed that is immortalized on his teaching CD in the church library or streamed out on the internet. When most of us make a mistake, it blows over and people forget. But not the pastor, he is forever held to every word he ever spoke or wrote.

  18. Bruce Hartung says

    At the risk (but taking it!) of being self-serving, I’d like to recommend HOLDING UP THE PROPHET’S HAND (Concordia Publishing House, 2011). Addressed to congregational lay leadership, the challenge is to moblilize congregational resources, policies, and attitudes toward more healthy communities and more intentional support of our church workers. For too long we have only encouraged our pastors and other church workers just to be more healthy, take time for themselves, do continuing education, exercise, have a spiritual director, etc. without looking at congregational attitudes and support for such things.

  19. Pastor Jim Wagner says

    A good article and I do not doubt that it is true of many pastors and congregations; nor do I doubt the many comments that have followed. I myself have known many colleagues over the last forty years who suffered various difficulties, sometimes because of difficult congregations, sometimes of their own making.

    Nevertheless I want to say emphatically that there are many of us who have served many good and solid congregations. Congregations are not all bad or overly demanding. I have served three wonderful congregations over the last forty years, and, while there have been a few bumps in the road, it has been a worthwhile journey. My family and myself have been loved and supported in ways beyond measure. Sometimes I have worked very hard — sometimes not nearly so hard — but my people seemed to understand the ebb and flow of ministry (actually, I think farmers understand this ebb and flow better than salaried or hourly folk). Sometimes my family suffered; but sometimes I had time for my family that others didn’t. I could take an early afternoon for a ballgame that many employees (and congregants) could not.

    This is not to take anything away from those who find ministry difficult. But I think it would be very unfair to leave the impression that all ministers are unhappy or that most congregations are overly demanding. This has not been my personal experience.

    • Jim
      It would be interesting to know if the people who came before you and after you share the same sentiments about the congregations you have served.

      One of my wife’s uncles is a pastor and never seems to have had many problems. But he is a personality type that seems to be able to recognize if a problem is not his, and so probably lets criticism bounce

  20. Seems most on this site see the issues from a Baptist/non-denominational/congregational point of view. Does the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Episcopal pastors/priests have similar problems?

    I am not sure about Lutheran yet. It seems that although ELCA and LCMS each have rostered lists of pastors, each church seems to be very congregationally led.

    • Trust me, it happens in Presbyterian churches as well. Been there done that, and have the knives sticking out of my back to prove it.

  21. I’ve seen the abuse run two directions: Churches abusing pastors and pastors exploiting members. Checks and balances need to go in both directions. However, when the chips are all on the table, I say err on the side of the Pastor. No lay person can be taken advantage of without their consent. They are free to leave and go to another church. No matter the polity structure, they can always vote with their feet. Pastors who become victims, however, can loose their income, their vocation, their friends, and their faith community all at the same time. The laity usually has some of these to fall back on when one goes, but Pastors do not. It is inexcusably selfish and narcissistic for people to run away their pastor with petty power games. Most people don’t treat their enemies that bad. This is also true generally for most church staff. Bad ministry experiences like this can take a long time to recover from. I’ve seen it from both sides: a bad pastor is much easier to bounce back from than a bad pastorate.

    • I tend to agree with a lot of what you say here, Miguel. I tend to give pastors a lot of grace, but I don’t know that I can fully agree with your last statement about it being easier to bounce back from a bad pastor than a bad pastorate. I guess in a sense, it’s probably true. The average church member probably will be able to move on pretty easily if they have a bad experience with a pastor. But I’ve also seen some pastors do some horrible things to people – specifically people on their staffs. I’ve seen people hurt so badly that they really never wanted to work at a church again.

      I guess that’s the problem when we start treating pastors like CEOs. We not only have unrealistic expectations of them, but we also give them a lot of power.

      • I’ve been that staff. I hear you loud and clear. I meant to include church staff with the pastors on this: They can get abused and give abuse, but either way, it’s their whole life on the line.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It is inexcusably selfish and narcissistic for people to run away their pastor with petty power games. Most people don’t treat their enemies that bad.

      I think this is due to being a CHURCH situation. God gets invoked, and everything — no matter how trivial, like the shape of tables — gets elevated to Cosmic Importance. The Entire Cosmos and Personal Salvation becomes at stake, and it becomes a matter of sheer survival.

  22. Great article. Just a few reflections, quite trivial in light of the reality you describe, but still important.

    I do resent this unquestioned acceptance of the idea that introduce guitar player with CCM = attracting young people. As a young person, I find the thoughtless embrace of this trendy cultural ghetto to be off-putting, pietistic, and ostracizing.

    Having a church of 300 members equal 300 bosses is one of the many negative direct result of congregational polity. It is of the devil. Who says every member gets to vote? That concept wasn’t even invented for at least 1500 years after the writing of scripture. Trusted, proven men (trained in the scriptures) who pour out their blood, sweat and tears for the mission of the church should get the final say, imo, not Joe Shmoe consumerist who think the church is responsible for meeting his “needs.”

    If most congregations got their super-hero pastor they’d run him out too because he spends too much time on the circuit and not enough time doing visitation. Popular pastors aren’t necessarily any better at their calling, they just have better PR.

    But Pastors who see themselves as failures sometimes have the wrong goals, imo. Word and Sacrament is the primary job description. Everything else can be done by somebody else. Plus, we should be more concerned about growing in faithfulness than in numbers.

    Randy, God bless you for the work you do. It is so badly needed. But as far as placing the blame, I insist that many of the causes are systemic in the cultural fabric of American evangelicalism. We need a serious theological overhaul in how we do church. Our entrepreneurial ecclesiology is trying to turn the kingdom of God on its head. Until we repent of our celebrity culture, we will be consigned to the fate described in “Little Miss Sunshine”: Life becomes one @#$% beauty pageant after another.

    • Randy Thompson says

      I love your phrase, “entrepreneurial ecclesiology,” and your reference to “Little Miss Sunshine,” a movie I love.

      I think, though, you may overstate your case about congregational polity being “of the devil.” I am more and more struck by the fact that when the Spirit of God is present, any polity works well. When the Spirit of God isn’t there, or not there much, they all work poorly (to say the least). I’d rather have a Spirit-filled bishop than be part of a congregational where the Gospel departed decades before. What makes a church work isn’t the polity, it’s God.

      My “guitar player” was more metaphor than anything else; I don’t blame you for being put off by CCM as a marketing tool. I very much appreciate advise N.T. Wright once gave about worship music: “If you’re picking music for worship, pick music from more than one century.” Amen to that.

      • I’m sticking to my guns about congregationalism, I’ve witnessed too much of the carnage it leaves behind. While I’d agree that all polities have the potential to do good and bad, nothing protects err like a million entities who have to answer to nobody. I believe the Holy Spirit is present in every believer, so consequently there is no polity where he is absent. But there are methods which protect things he would never endorse. Polity doesn’t make the church work, it just makes the church work together. Mutual submission is an expression of the love we are supposed to have for one another. People who value this place boundaries to protect it. Your average independent evangelical church would rather flaunt its individuality and innovation. There’s a reason Joel Osteen and Perry Noble don’t belong to structured denominations: It would cramp their style, which is more important to them then the cooperative mission of the church.

        Love the Wright quote. I will most likely use that, soon and often. I appreciate the metaphor, but I’ve had to live it too. Being force fed dogmatic chronological snobbery is not fun.

        • Stick to them. But man of us have seen all kinds of church structure lead to issues. And from what I’ve seen a flat congregational model is the one most likely to survive/correct/heal after a problem. All the other structures allow the few in power to cover up and hide for the “good of the” church/institution/whatever. IMNERHO.

          As to your earlier comment about congregational models only existing for the last 500 years or so, here I’m firmly convinced that the church (all Christian flavors) were following the secular way of doing things with kings, emperors and such.

  23. I think antagonist within a church community get away with their schitk because the church is not particularly relational. When everyone knows and interacts with each other then when a person or small klatch of persons began to intimidate and bully the whole community will be quite willing to deal with the offenders.

    We’ve lost the theological ramifications of “church” when it comes to church as “body”; What is done to one part of the body reflects on and is felt by the ENTIRE body.

    T

  24. This is so sad. We are all called to go out and make disciples in all the world…and bring to them back to what? Even if there is a chance a new believer could be exposed to this breaks my heart.

    But I appreciate the post. More prayer is needed, I see.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      This is so sad. We are all called to go out and make disciples in all the world…and bring them back to what?

      An MLM pyramid scheme selling Fire Insurance instead of Amway.

  25. A. Amos Love says

    Randy

    Is it possible the reason “Burnout,” “Depression,” is such a problem
    for **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader” is they have found themselves

    with a “Title” and “Position” NOT found in the Bible?

    How come – In the Bible – There is NOT one of His Disciples – “Called”
    To be a – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”

    Seems when you take the “Title” and “Position” Pastor/Reverend/Leader…
    That simingly innocent “Title” comes with something – “A Little Bit Extra.”
    Power – Profit – Prestige – Honor – Glory – Recognition – Reputation – etc…

    ALL those things Jesus spoke against.
    ALL those things that become “Idols” of the heart.
    ALL those things “Highly esteemed among men – But…
    ……. an abomination in the sight of God. Luke KJV 16:15

    In my experience – With Pastor/Leaders – And having been in Leadership, shows me…
    Titles become Idols ………….. (“Idols” of the heart – Ezek14:1-11 KJV)
    Pastors become Masters……. ( A No, No, in Mat 23:10 KJV)

    And these “Idols,” carried in the Pastors heart, are unseen to the natural eye, extremely difficult to lay down and walk away from. They become an addiction. And like any addiction – you never have enough – you always need more and more to satisfy the addiction. You think you’re in control, tell others you’re in control – but the addiction controls you. You’re in bondage to an addiction – and a lie – and you don’t know it.

    Power corrupts – and absolute power – corrupts absolutely.

    And in my experience with “Todays Corrupt Religious System.” This “power” corrupts ALL who attempt to wield this “power.” This “power” they think they have – to rule over others – to be obeyed – to be someone special – to be someone important – to be a leader – is leading them to – Burnout – depression – hopelessness – discouragement – failure – and their families are effected as well…

    This addiction to – Power – Profit – Prestige – is like other addictions – it destroys those who believe they can handle it. These addictions NOT only injures the Pastor/Reverend/Leader…

    They also injure the Pastors family.

    The statistics – for burned out pastors – say…
    http://pastoralcareinc.com/WhyPastoralCare/Statistics.php

    80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    70% of pastors constantly fight depression. (Does depression effect the Pastors family?)

    When you believe the lie you start to die…

    • With all due respect – this is a bunch of horse hockey. Maybe it is my Canadian perspective (we have no actual megachurches) – but what glory, power, prestige, reputation etc… is there really to be had in the run of the mill – 60 to 100 person member church?? I seek only to please God and hopefully be given the gifts and talents necessary to bring people closer to the mind and heart of God. I am a fourth generation pastor (my father, grandfather/grandmother, great-grandfather – and uncles, great uncles etc…). I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of church. The main posting hits the problem right on the head. I am Baptist – but really starting to doubt the congregational style of ministry. When you hear church members talk about keeping their staff on ‘short leashes’ and ministers showing up at boardmeetings only to find all of the members there with copies of their ‘job descriptions’ – it is crazy. I have had a pretty peaceful run at my church (6 years of peace with the occasional bump) and now can’t wait to get to 2013 and put this year behind me. One of the main problems is that most people in a congregation think they know what it takes to run a church. They don’t! This year I have had several people tell me that “I can’t know” what I am talking about – the reality is that I can know – it is my job to know certain things – and I spend many hours in prayer, scripture reading, and reading blogs such as this to keep handy. I am sorry if I am rambling but so much in this article hits home with such truth and the idea that the role of ‘pastor’ is not Biblical is so incredibly rediculous. Just read Paul’s epistles to see that he considered himself the ‘pastor’ of these churches. The only thing that has kept me sane is the fact that I just got through the Corinthians and once again realized that most of Paul’s churches treated him horribly. I know that we pastors aren’t perfect – but most of us don’t deserve the treatment given in many churches. I am not naive but what I don’t understand is how people can treat each other so terribly in what is suppose to be a place of worship. I don’t know – it makes me sad when all I want to do is serve God in the area that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he has called me to. Thanks for the article and all the readers pray that the people of God (pastors included) will soften their hearts and become what the church is suppose to be.
      PS. I don’t think we evangelicals have the corner on church conflict – but we are really good at it!

  26. The article made me smile a bit. It felt compassionate.

    The responses come as no surprise. Leave it to the over-thinking evangelical community to turn an article intended to breed some compassion into a den of debaters.

    Admitted, many pastors are whiners. We think we have it tough, but it’s just as tough in the marketplace, if not tougher. Expectations are unreasonably high everywhere.

    Still, church congregations aren’t very wise in the way they treat their pastors. They could learn to do better, and their lives, and the lives of their churches, and therefore the lives of people in their cities, would be the better for it.

    There is no fruit born in winning the argument that pastors, relatively speaking, don’t really have it so tough. But there is great fruit in heeding the text of Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    Adam Tauno Williams, you seem like a really smart guy. You put logical ideas together very well. But, if you move to Mesa AZ, I think I’d point you to a different church. I have real doubts as to whether or not you’d ever love me as your pastor.

    bh

  27. A. Amos Love says

    Hi Ricky

    That has got to be one fun sport to watch – Horse Hockey.
    How do you teach the horses how to skate? That has to be some tough training? 😉

    And – Yes – I can understand the rejection of what was said. I also rejected it – At first.

    I was ordained. I believed I was “called” to carry the “Title” Pastor. BUT…
    Then I searched the Bible – For Pastors – And what was required of them.
    I had a very rude awakening.

    Jesus warned us about the “Traditions of Men” that nullify “The Word of God.”

    Mark 7:13 KJV – Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    Don’t know if you ever did your own research about “Pastors” – in the Bible? BUT…

    If you decide to check out “Pastors” – Here are some questions you can ask…

    In the Bible…
    How many – of His Disciples – were “Called” – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”
    How many – of His Disciples – had the “Title” – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”
    How many – of His Disciples – were “Ordained” – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”
    How many – of His Disciples – were Hired, Or Fired as a – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”

    And – How many – of His Disciples – became…
    Paid – Professional – Pastors – in Pulpits – Preaching – to People – in Pews?

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

    Be Blessed in your search for “Truth.”

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • In the Bible…
      How many – of His Disciples – were “Called” – ”Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”

      Well since “Pastor” means “shepherd”, Peter certainly was called to Pastor the flock by none other than Jesus himself in John 21.

      And then Peter himself talks about shepherds (which is synonymous with “pastor”) in 1 Peter 5

      As for ordination, there are plenty of examples of laying on of hands to appoint leaders in the church.

      Paul was certainly paid for his ministry (1 & 2 Corinthians), though not always.

  28. A. Amos Love says

    Brendan

    Thanks for the response.

    I’m familiar with shepherd and pastor being the same Greek word – poimen.
    And poimen is recorded 18 times in the NT – once as pastors – Eph 4:11….

    And I’m familiar with John 21:15-17…
    where “Jesus saith unto him, (Peter) Feed my sheep.” Three times.
    And some versions say – “shepherd my sheep.” Instead of feed.
    But – Does one of His Disciples – need a “Title” in order to shepherd someone?

    AND – NOT one of His Disciples “Called” themselves – “Poimen.”
    AND – NOT one of His Dicipless “Called” another Disciple – “Poimen.”
    AND – NOT one of His Dicipless – had the “Title” – “Poimen.”

    But – Then again – I cudda missed it.
    Do you know of any verse where Peter is known as, or has the “Title” – Poimen Peter?

    And – How about Jesus – When He says – There is “ONE” – Shepherd – Jesus.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear MY voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  29. A. Amos Love says

    Brendan

    You write…
    “there are plenty of examples of laying on of hands to appoint leaders in the church.”

    This I’m NOT familiar with. 🙁

    Do you recommend any verses where someone layed hands to appoint “Leaders.”

    I can find verses where Jesus tells His Disciples – NOT to be called “Leaders,”
    For you have “ONE” “Leader” – the Christ.

    Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leaders?”
    For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ. Mat 23:10 NASB – And NONE did… 😉

    New American Standard Bible – Mat 23:10-12.
    Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    The Message – Mat 23:10-12 –
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Jesus instructed **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    None called themselves “Leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “Servant-Leader.” None.

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders”
    and someone calls them self a “leader” or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they a “Disciple of Christ?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? 😉

  30. I am a pastor of a small, Southern church. Historically out denomination adhered to the practice of using bi-vocational ministers for a number of reasons. One of them is due to the above-mentioned problem of having to find work if the congregation, or the Lord removed you from ministry. (Most of the ministers were farmers). That is how my church does it. I get a stipend, but I also have a full time job. The elders also have made it clear that they understand my position, and they want me to see to my family. They do a lot of the visitation, and other things that need to be done. I see myself more as the teaching elder, but everyone at the church calls me “pastor”. But I lean on the elders pretty much.

    They are older than I am, but not old (early to mid-40’s), and they are good men, which is such a gift from God. That’s all I can say. God has been gracious and merciful to me in so many ways.

  31. Hmm i hope you don’t get annoyed with this question, but how much does a site like yours earn?

  32. Ok so I am thinking about removing my blog from Tumbler and get it to a WordPress website. I believe this is a wordpress website right? If it is, may I ask where you got the theme? Thanks a bunch!

  33. Really good site thank you so much for your time in writing the posts for all of us to learn about.