The Pastor Problem


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”

25 thoughts on “The Pastor Problem”

  1. (sorry, I wasn’t finished…hit the wrong button. Hey! We really are stupidchurchpeople!)Anyway, calling pastors to resign or go get jobs isn’t the answer (scripture makes a decent case for a paid clergy). As Lance said above, get pastors to BE PASTORS. My pastor spends his time as the facilities manager. I know other pastors who want to be thought of as the CEO of “their corporation.” We need a biblical model of leadership for the church. And leadership, as the name implies, requires a leader. This is certainly scriptural as well. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.” Zech 13.I agree that ministry must be performed by every believer. But leaders must lead, and pastors must be taught to be pastors. The ones who refuse should be executed.Peace, bros.

  2. <>“Shepherding a flock is a spiritual gift that comes naturally to those that possess it. Some have it and some don’t.”<>you know, i’ve been doing some thinking about this statement and have to say that i don’t know how much i agree with it. although i will agree that it seems ridiculous that a person can be “taught” to be a pastor, i also think that the notion of “spiritual gifts” is a load of shit. there are plenty of examples in the bible of people that you would never have guessed would someday become great spiritual leaders. whenever i hear christians use the term “spiritual gifts”, it has always been code word to either “i am somehow special and better than you” or “this is an area that you really suck in and i think should consider taking on something else.” in my experience, “spiritual gifts” is nothing more than a way for christian big wigs to control people within the church. the way i see it, a disciple means to be a life long learner and a life long learner will grow and ultimately become more than they are. in the end, i personally believe that Jesus called ALL that would follow him to be “Shepherds” and not just those with “spiritual gifts.”but hey, that’s just me, what do i know…eddiep.s. nothing personal steve, just the way i see it 🙂

  3. Pride comes in where God should have been…too many want a stage and want the adoration that belongs only to Jesus. They can’t die to themselves, let alone forsinners. Have been part of twochurch plantings without pastors only to see him arrive and remakeit into his image as if we were all just waiting for him to straighten us out. The laity are sometimes lead by God and when a man is so proud (narcisstic) thatonly He hears from God, the bodyhas little choice than to to usethe feet to take the pockets outthe door.

  4. I love you guys. I really do. And I hate religion. I hate the bondage that results when we canonize the traditions of man. I long to see the church become what Christ intended it to be…and I still don’t know exactly what that is. I just know that this ain’t it.But as much as I enjoy the idea of casting of the death that is the organizational church, I’d feel a whole lot better if you guys would use some scripture once in a while to support your ideas. I like Brian McClaren, too, but the Bible must be the primary source.

  5. Scott said:<>you seem bitter and resentful with a lot of criticism and not much of a solution besides “all pastors should resign”<>I don’t see this as bitterness at all, but rather frustration because those (i.e., “pastors) who should be able to see that they’re sailing the Titanic would rather rearrange the deck chairs than turn the ship around.But no, even though they are given privileges that most Christians would die for (time to study the Scriptures, pray, etc. and are paid to do it), and often do, “pastors” are more interested in protecting their ficticious positions than do what’s right and tell people the truth: that they (i.e., congregation) would be better off learning how to serve God on their own and with other believers than having everything done for them.Every other mammal on earth prepares their progeny to take life on by sometimes taking drastic measures, like kicking them out of a nest or shoving them into water. But “pastors” are the only ones who are selfish to the degree that they would rather keep their “young” ill-prepared for life in order to keep their positions. Sorry, but that’s not what being a parent (biological or spiritual) is about.So chill with the “bitterness” tags that always come out when someone’s position and/or livelihood is threatened and be big enough to examine what others (and the Bible) have to say without knee-jerking yourself to death.

  6. What if the rich young ruler was a pastor. And Jesus said to him, “give up your reputation and leadership position and come follow me” What would most pastors say. I suppose we don’t really know.I have been in some kind of church leadership for 20 years. I have probably never really been a follower, or at least I never felt like one. I have always been susspicious of that in myself. The people I have been led by,for the most part have had national ministries, and I have never met them. I have however worked with local leaders. I was a missionary with a parachurch organization for almost three years. I even pastored a chuch for a short time. We love the Idea of a hero, of someone supirior, someone who can show us the way. That’s what we wanted from our parents. Ultimately they all dissapoint us. We find all of them flawed. Maybe there is a divine purpose to that? I heard one of my heros pray; “Lord dissolusion us till all of our illusions are gone.” We learn in 1 Sam that when the people desired a King they ultimately were rejecting the Lord. I think that desire is in all of us. How interesting that God’s answer to that was King Saul. I think that we were all meant to have fathers. I hope that those fathers were meant to lead us to The Father. Not just what they taught us, but also in how they dissapointed us. All of them left some kind of void for God to fill. Even the good ones. I think every breakthrough in our relationship with God involves a cross of our own. I hate to suffer, but I have to recognize that it is probably a major tool God uses to empty us and bring us to himself. It sucks that trusting God is often our last resort. But that seems to be the way it is. So every death we die is a death of faith. By the way I know Scott S. That is how I found this site.

  7. LOL!! as you will note, i never referenced the idea of “spiritual gifts” as is stated in the bible but rather how christians tend to “bastardize” it in the church today. be honest now, does it really matter what the bible says if the very people who are supposed to live by it, don’t? you know, “christians” don’t carry the baggage of being hypocrites (and worse) for nothing…but like i said, what do i know… i barely believe in God anymore.have a good night,eddie

  8. <>Actually, please educate me as to where there is ANY scriptural reference to the office, title and role of the modern pastor.<>hey steve, that’s was pretty clever of you to choose your words so carefully. obviously, i’m not a proponent of the church as we know it but i do think there is an caes to be made for at least a “paid” spiritual leader….<>Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox,” and, “A worker deserves his pay.”<> – 1 timothy 5:18 (the message)also, pretty much all of 1 Corinthians 9 goes there as well, but my favorite verses in it are….<>“Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ.”<> and <>“Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!”<> — the messagethe day i see that in a spiritual leader is the day you just might find me back in church.eddie

  9. The condescension of the Scott’s post is exceeded only by its naivety.“The problem isn’t really the pastors so much as the philosophy of most pastors.”?????Philosophy constitutes belief. Belief drives deeds (belief without action is not belief). Deeds are the basis of judgement (Rom 2:6, Isa 59:18). In other words, what you do reveals what you believe and that is who you are.“…how about embracing the pastors and church leaders around you and enlightening them with the message that is so heavy on your heart.”You mean walk right up to the PASTOR and actually SPEAK to him??? You can do that??? Reeaaalllyyy????I’ve worked side by side with my pastor (and father-in-law)for several years and have gone to him on numerous occasions asking for scriptural support for some of our sacred cows. The first few times, I actually shared Scott’s pie-in-the-sky notion that once “enlightened,” he would come to his senses and everything woud be ok. As (the rest of you) can imagine, it didn’t go quite that well. The result was (and continues to be) a rationalized theology based more upon the canonization of tradition and the headship of the clergy than the words of Christ. And the venom with which my concerns were met…well, there was a lot of flesh operating that day (on both sides, I admit). Blaming the system doesn’t work, either. We all make choices based upon what we believe to be true. Just because “all the other pastors think this way” will not be enough.I’d say more, but I have to wax Pastor’s car before it rains.

  10. Hmm…Something that’s been bugging me.Why do people become ‘pastors’ in the first place when they don’t like ‘pastoring’…(dealing with people and their issues)?

  11. <>Or, to rewrite a line from the old Beatles song….”Imagine there’s no pastors. It’s easy if you try!”<>Dude! That’s Lennon on his own. Don’t drag the Beatles into this mess. BTW- I’m the volunteer Steve porked.

  12. Great Post! I’ve shared some of these thoughts on my Blog at various times in critique of the “emerging church”. Ez. 34 what was God’s solution for the shepherds that were “abusing” the flock? The shepherds were replaced by The Shepherd. If you haven’t yet, check out http://www.lifestream.orgScott,The problem with trying to “enlighten pastors” is that they are hooked into a system of doing church that will not allow them to change even if they wanted to. The denominational leaders measure success by the ABC’s (Attendance, Buildings, and Cash), their daily and future livelyhood is tied to the institution in the way of income and retirement, and and you point out, many have self-worth issues tied up in their role/job. I currently attend an institutional church with my eyes open to these issues. I have tried in various ways to share some of these issues with our pastor. But, when you are hooked into the Matrix you just can’t see the real issues….

  13. my pastor is a very nice man, but when he took the congregation to south america, and served them all kool-aid, i headed for the hills. i just don’t trust that type.

  14. the song IMAGINE is so funny… Lennon, a rich communist, dreaming of world peace, i.e., a world of commumism… hippies were idiots… they defended the ‘little guy’ while wanting a big government to rule over the world… little did they know that ‘world peace’ really mean’t ‘communist dictators powerful enough to silence anyone who complains’… they, the hippie songwriters, were shooting their own feet and didn’t even know it… and Lennon is burning in HELL and it’s sad because CRY BABY CRY was a great song, too good for Yoko and Michael Jackson to now own it… AMEN!

  15. seriously, steve, whats the deal? did you get fired for porking a volunteer or something? you seem bitter and resentful with a lot of criticism and not much of a solution besides “all pastors should resign”. was there no one during your tenure in full time ministry that you reached or connected with or cared about that actually had a difference made in their life because of your contribution? perhaps your perspective has been skewed by the incompetence that you discovered about yourself when you were in full time ministry. it is wildly generalizing for you to project onto others from a place of personal dissatisfaction.-scott

  16. Eddie –You did not just call the “notion of “spiritual gifts” a load of shit”? Tell me you didn’t?I am certain you just had a mild brain cramp. Possibly too much caffiene or other mind-altering substance has caused this conclusion. Something has to explain this irrational viewpoint.I am certain you know this, but indulge me. The idea of spiritual gifts is found in at least three places in the NT. In Romans 12, I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. In each place, the gifts are identified and when read in context of the whole passage are clearly explained as to how they are to be viewed. Yes, the modern church (and Stupid Church People) may in fact have the mindset that their gifts proclaim that, “i am somehow special and better than you” or “this is an area that you really suck in and i think should consider taking on something else.” But the Bible clearly admonishes against that sort of attitude. <>For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:3 <>Spiritual giftedness probably has been misused in the church to control and manipulate people. Aren’t church people famous for taking a biblical concept and bastardizing it for their own purposes? However, the gifts are real…the Holy Spirit gives the gifts…each believer possesses at least one gift and maybe several (but not all) and we are commanded to use our gifts to build up and strengthen the body of Christ.Now it is interesting to note that the only place in the entire Bible where you find the word “pastor” is in the list of gifts found in Ephesians 4:11-13.<>It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.<>The greek word used here is the word for “shepherds”. Note also that the word is plural and not singular. So the word “pastors” is a word-picture of the function that these people (more than one) are to perform within the church…not an office or title that they are to hold.I am not certain from my reading of these passages that your assertion <>“that Jesus called ALL that would follow him to be “Shepherds” and not just those with “spiritual gifts.”<> is correct. I think he has called us each to perform different gifts…being a shepherd may or may not be one of them. But my gifts are just as important to the Body as anyone elses…and Eddie your gifts are vital to the Body as well.I do find it interesting that in each place that the “spiritual gift” lists are found, they are followed by passages on “love” and “living as children of light”. I think it is obvious that there was concern that some gifts could be used to either “oppress” or “impress” and therefore damage the unity and strength of the Body.So if you will allow me to rip some passages out of context and consider this regarding spiritual gifts and our uses of them. Here is how we are to live and the attitudes we are to possess as we practice our gifts:<>If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13)Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12)Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4) <>Doesn’t sound like a load of shit to me.SteveP.S. And I don’t consider it personal…It is a badge of honor to have this dialogue with you.

  17. Well, Steve, I see that I have been the source of some irritation as well as a target for some of your fans. I am mostly humored by the responses and remarks of others but there are a couple that are so stupid I wont even dignify them with a response. Your essay, on the other hand, that was a wonderful response to my initial posting and I appreciate the honesty and self deprecation. I have to say though that I am surprised at how someone with the balls to host a website called StupidChurchPeople and openly criticize the American Christian Church would get so offended with my opening remark (except I have to wonder if you really are a rebellious and free as the name of your website suggests). One would think that the cofounder of StupidChurchPeople would be a bit more resilient.In any case, your response deserves some dialog and I will try and not make you cry this time. The suggestion that I need a definition of hyperbole is offensive but I will forgive you. However, your excuse for saying that all pastors should resign being that you were only trying to be drastic so as to make the point is bullshit. I think that you really do mean it and, honestly, you make a reasonable argument (so stand up and be who you are).It appears that the root of your dissatisfaction with the current institution is that you have seen abuses and misuses of power and relationships in the church and by church leaders. I have to agree that there are a lot of power hungry assholes in the ministry that are only trying to (for lack of better term) get their rocks off by forcing validation from the people that attend their church. It is sad but true. I, too, have many frustrations with the status quo of the American Christian Church. And I will go so far as to say that it is obviously a leadership issue. However, I offer a solution that is a direct counter to the preposterous notion that all pastors everywhere should resign… how about embracing the pastors and church leaders around you and enlightening them with the message that is so heavy on your heart. The problem isn’t really the pastors so much as the philosophy of most pastors. The idea that what validates them and their leadership is a title and a role. Manipulation and control come from a desperation to be validated (even if they have to force the validation).For churches and church leaders to be so misguided as to what constitutes “success” in their ministries is a travesty. But, at the same time, aren’t they just products of what the system has been producing for generations? The only gauge by which ministry should be measured is obedience. If God has truly assigned pastoral ministry in the typical American fashion to a handful of Christians then who are you to tell them to disobey God? And if God has told you, which it sounds like He has, that you should not be in full time ministry then you should walk in obedience. It is arrogant and demeaning to the life in God that others have for us to tell them that they should be like us as we endeavor to obey God. From my view, God is pretty good at getting what He wants and we should trust that He cares for the church and the Christians more than we do (alright, this is getting sappy now and I am making myself sick with the parenthetical comments).Now, Steve, I don’t mean to condescend (which means to speak down to somebody), but I think you should decide if you are going to be the kind of blog host that is easily offended by the manners and opinions and views of others or if you are going to sack up and take it just as well as you give it.-scott s

  18. Whoa! Just spent the last 1/2 hour reading through these comments! I’m so excited! I think Stupid Church People may have found their poster boy in Scott S! I mean, talk about meeting the criteria… (Scott, that would be “characterizing marks or traits” or better yet, “standards on which a decision is based”). Congrats!

  19. Well, I’ve got an idea.What about having pastors…who actually……ummm…..pastor.You know…pastoring…like offering spiritual guidance to individual people.‘Pastors’ go out of their way to avoid real contact with real people’.It’s kind of like a hospital chaplain would never visits patients in wards.That’s how churches are being run.‘Pastors’ organising adult games (the church ritual) and youth ‘pastors’ organising youth games (skating…movies…)Let the games end.And I know people smell..and burp and fart…but hey…maybe it could be worth trying. ‘Pastors’ actually pastoring individual people..and create a seperate arm of church that does the organisational stuff.Signed,LanceOne of Stupidchurchpeople’s growing army of gay fans.

  20. Trying to find and then build a NT church is like a blind man in a pitch dark room looking for a black cat that is not there. Every NT church had huge problems. In some cases some of the Elders were wolves, they had drunken gluttons who would not share at church potlucks and the communion table, they had women fighting, doctrinal errors and controversy etc. Go back to that? Why?

  21. Hey Steve,WOW! Man, I’ve been away for awhile, and when I return, all hell’s broken loose. I love it!As to my comment early in this thread about using scripture to support your ideas, I hope you didn’t misunderstand. I wasn’t accusing you of not using scripture. It’s just that, in the previous several arguments, I hadn’t seen any. I just got a little uncomfortable, y’know? It was not my intent to indict, only debate. I was just looking for the comfort of knowing we’re all playing by the same book (no pun intended…OK, yes it was).There were a couple responses to my comment about teaching pastors to be pastors, saying that, as a gift, it cannot be taught. I’d like to respond (ironically, without the support of scripture):I was born with a good deal of musical ability. I do not say this to boast. I say it to my shame, because, although I can play guitar and sing pretty well (pretty DARN well, in fact), I never exercised the discipline to develop the skills needed to leverage that gift into the excellence that stewardship requires (IMHO). I’ve listened to many a great band (BTW, thanks for the heads-up on Coldplay) and wondered what might have been had I been more diligent about developing the gift God gave me. By the same token, I think one of the reasons Pastors are ineffective is that they exist in an atmosphere where they can’t appear vulnerable or without an answer. I grew up in the A/G, and every pastor I have ever known is a Lone Ranger. No mentors, no accountability, no real training besides bible school, and when they get together at district events, the big question is “So, how many ya runnin’?” Pastors need to be taught to be pastors, to develop their gifts, to become beter communicators, to become better leaders, to learn (yes, learn) to discern the Lord’s direction for the flock. Otherwise they’re burying their talent in the ground (oooh! That was a scriptural reference! yeah!).There’s more to say, but I’m afraid I’ll start rambling.On a side note, Steve, thanks for SCP. I’m on a conflict-related break from public ministry right now, and you and Josh have made me feel a little less alone…you’re a big help. Thanks.Peace

  22. Dorsey,Appreciate your love for the show….and your always positive and constructive comments. I think it is funny that you call for me to use scripture to support my ideas and then you make a statement like, “scripture makes a decent case for a paid clergy” and then offer no scriptural support for it. Please enlighten me! Actually, please educate me as to where there is ANY scriptural reference to the office, title and role of the modern pastor. Good luck!I agree that we need a Biblical model of leadership for the church. We will discuss this further in a future blog, but I can guarantee you that the model of leadership we need does not include the current pastoral office. It also does not mean we need to “teach pastors to be pastors”. Shepherding a flock is a spiritual gift that comes naturally to those that possess it. Some have it and some don’t. I certainly don’t have that gift or I would still be doing it.Thanks for allowing me to respond…and I look forward to the continued dialogue. Adios for now!Steve

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