That’s the number one weakness in the modern church today. Paid pastoral leadership is the reason the church is weak, inefficient and to a point…neutered.
Now remember, I made my living (is that what that was called?) from being a paid staff member for over 16 years. In the beginning, I felt that I was vital to the church’s development and growth. That without me, the church body couldn’t function. Over the years, that changed as I begin to read such books as Frank Tillipaugh’s “Unleashing the Church”. The goal of pastoral ministry became leading and training so that the people were equipped to do the work. That sounds like a good goal, however….
Are we that arrogant as pastors that we think if we didn’t exist that people wouldn’t figure out how to have church by themselves….without our leadership? Pastors, do we think that we need to create meetings, groups and activities to keep the church people “happy” and “connected”? Do we think that believers wouldn’t figure out a way to get together regularly, for sharing, communion, mutual encouragement and to share their faith stories? Do we not think that the life force of the believer, the Holy Spirit, might not be “set free” to work in and through Christ-followers to accomplish his work here on earth?
Think about it. Whenever you pay someone to do a task or job, what are you really doing? You are asking them to take responsibility for something you don’t want to do. Isn’t this the American way??
If I need my yard landscaped or manicured, I hire someone to do it for me. Problem solved. If I want my house cleaned from top to bottom, I could do it, but why when I can pay someone $60 to come in and really do it well…and then I no longer have to get on my hands and knees to clean that darn toilet grime.
Now move this analogy to the American church. Whenever there is a job to do, we look to the person we hired to take care of it for us. To quote an article I read recently, “The pastor, by his mere presence, causes an unhealthy dependence upon himself for ministry, direction and guidance.”
Even in today’s most modern of churches, those labeling themselves as “emerging”, the problem persists. Recently, one young local church (let’s call it ABC Church) that I followed from it’s infancy, had a tough decision to make. After about three years of existence, I heard that they were deciding whether to A) keep paying the pastor or B) keep paying for a place to meet each week. My question is…why do you need either? This isn’t an indictment, just a question.
Now ABC Church was going to be “cutting edge”. It’s leadership from day one said that they were going to create a community independent of the “old ways” of doing church. Yet in the end, they were faced with a dilemma that all churches face…paid staff and building space. Doesn’t sound very innovative to me.
At the beginning ABC Church said they were going to set up a church in a way that “no one else was doing”. I am sorry people…but that just doesn’t happen unless you choose some radical departures from the “old ways”.
So here’s a question. If all of the pastors in all of the churches resigned or were “let go”…what would happen? Or, to rewrite a line from the old John Lennon song….”Imagine there’s no pastors. It’s easy if you try!”
Would the church flourish or struggle? If you choose flourish then why do we have pastors? If you choose struggle, then how well are our pastors truly doing their jobs of “equipping, training and leading” their congregations?
Before all of my pastor friends send me hate mail, I don’t think it is all your fault. I think the church culture has caused you to function as CEO’s and not pastors. We need you to resign yourself as the CEO’s of your church or ministry. As fast as you can run away from treating the church as a business. Leave your church meetings, your planning sessions, your growth conferences, and go and interact with far from God people where they are – outside of your church. Stop bearing the burden of whether your church offering or attendance is what it should be – you just aren’t that important!
Start encouraging your congregations to stop coming to so many church meetings and ask them to get involved in the local community activities outside of the church. Asking them to do both is only burning them out. And asking them to make a choice is only making them feel guilty. Encourage them to immerse themselves in their “work culture” and to get to know their co-workers and become their friends…not so they can convert them…but because all people need friends.
Finally, please stop asking us to bring our “unchurched friends” to your church to fill the empty seats around us. Do you actually know how difficult it is to get someone who is seriously “far from God” to come to church? By asking us to do this, you imply that the only way we can truly make a difference in someone’s life is by getting them to the church building.
I have asked for all pastors to resign…and for some of you, that may be the radical change you need to actually get in touch with your own identity outside of the church system. But for others, it may just be that you need to “resign” yourself emotionally and become the change agent that will lead the church to the reformation we so desperately need.
To read more: “Will The Emerging Church Fully Emerge”