Over two decades ago (1987) Eugene Peterson wrote the following in the opening paragraphs to Working the Angles:
“American pastors are abandoning their post, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have been doing for twenty centuries.” (p. 1)
“A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted. Most of my colleagues who defined ministry for me, examined, ordained, and then installed me as a pastor in a congregation, a short while later walked off and left me, having, they said, more urgent things to do. The people I thought I would be working with disappeared when the work started. Being a pastor is difficult work; we want the companionship and counsel of allies. It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect to share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for their mills.” (pp. 1-2)
Peterson’s rebuke is strong! Sadly, it is accurate too. When we find a shepherding shepherd we must stop to admire (e.g. here) because so many pastors seem to have forgotten their calling.
It appears not much has changed. In 2010 Timothy G. Gombis wrote very similar words in his book The Drama of Ephesians (p. 120). Listen to this:
“Idolatrous values have also infected our contemporary notions about ministry. We envision strong and decisive leaders, people who will give us a measure of prestige in communities. We want our churches to grow, to expand beyond the capacities of our buildings so that we need to build bigger, shinier monuments to our success. Surely then God will be honored—look at our building! In the face of such expectations, pastors often feel inadequate and overwhelmed. They need something, perhaps the prestige of a professional degree. Enrollment in doctor of ministry programs in seminaries has never been higher, and there is no sign of slowing down. There is no doubt that many pastors embark on such programs to be equipped for ministry in contemporary contexts. But I wonder if the range of motivations in our contemporary climate has produced idolatry of professional prestige.” (p. 120)
For Gombis it is not things like a D.Min that are wrong in and of themselves. But it is the pastor after pastor who feels like s/he is not legitimate until s/he is “successful” like leaders in the world are “successful”. Gombis continues:
“Contemporary ministry has been hijacked and recast in the image of the professional, the executive, the decisive leader, the chairman of the board who oversees a large budget and plays golf and lunches with other influential and powerful people. Many of our churches are comforted by the presence of such pastors, since they become an image of power, stability, prestige and social honor that is familiar to us from our culture. But isn’t this a sign that our vision has become corrupted? We have let worldly values seep in and overpower our sense of being God’s people in the world. We have become so conformed to this world that when we begin to conceive of playing roles in the gospel drama of God’s triumph, we can only conceive of triumphalist performances.” (p. 120)
By “triumphalist performances” he means “the notion that God is magnified through human power, prestige, political influence and outward success”. (p. 119) This is not God’s way. God is glorified through weakness (remember the cross?) of his people. O that more pastors would heed to these words of these two wise men! O that more pastors would not gain their models of leadership from CEOs and CFOs, from billion dollar companies and successful entertainment ventures, but from the Christ who washed his disciples’ feet and the apostles who died for the gospel! Reclaim the pastorate! We, the church, need you to do it.
I am thrilled beyond words that Josh has allied himself with men in love the pastoral ministry in the mold of men like Eugene Peterson. Thanks, guys. It is a great relief to have a great cloud of pastoral witnesses surrounding him as he wards off the challenges of CEO pastoral models which are often held up as the ideal in the seminary classroom.
Thankfully Dr. John Johnson is one of the professors at Western Seminary that appreciates Eugene Peterson as well. I think the major area where he has departed from Peterson is regarding church size. Village Church is about sixteen hundred members. On another note, there has been a class offered every couple of years on pastoring smaller congregations and the nuances of a more intimate perish. Hopefully that class would provide insight into the ins-and-outs of pastoring a church rather than a crowd.
That being said, CEO models are prevalent in today’s Christian culture and I think most seminaries prepare people with the mindset of pastoring a larger church. For the many pastors who work with eighty to three hundred people this leaves them unprepared.
The job description of the CEO Pastor is not mimicked anywhere in the New Testament. Neither did NT elders/shepherds/overseers dominate leadership in functioning as later ministers did, and continue to do.
The only biblical model for shepherding is to facilitate functional growth among members of the body. To raise them up to provide more of that which… unfortunately… they feel the right to keep paying YOU to take care of.
A first class problem, imho. But who’s willing to pastor for free?
@Bill: It does seem that there is the equally dangerous risk of pastors taking everything upon their own shoulders. They are “ministry” and everyone else is “laity” and ministry gets paid to do ministry. Everyone else pays for the services for which they pay.
That being said, I don’t think I’d advocate pay-check free pastorates if there is finances to support the pastor and his/her family. I think it is a calling to a vocation that should allow the pastor to not have to work a job much like Paul indicates many church leaders did not do (though he seems to have chosen to skip this option at times just in case).
There’s a difference between pastoring and ‘pastorates’. But that aside…
I agree – in theory – that it’s absolutely better for a church to have full time ministry, and to pay such ministers, IF possible. But that can be one very big “if”, depending on the individual hearts that make up a particular congregation. In a typical situation, “if there is finances” then there *probably* is a congregation that “pays for the services for which they pay”.
But on Paul, you say, “at times”. Really? Who ever gave him money, even once, other than Philippi?
@Bill: I am willing to hear your distinction between pastoring and the pastorate, though it sounds like a splicing of terminology. As regards churches who can afford to pay a pastor it seems to me that my own experience has been that most churches whose pastors must work other jobs struggle. It is hard on the pastor and his/her family. For better or for worse, the unpaid pastor does much of what s/he would do if paid.
As regards how often Paul received funding, it seems rare, but I don’t think we can really speak to the breadth of his ministry either way. I am willing to admit that we may know of one occasion, but I don’t think that means we know enough to speak to it in general.
But you did speak of Paul’s fuding in general. You said, “at times”, as if he got paid “at times” also. We have three gifts from Philippi and years of non-assistance from Corinth, on record. But enough on that.
On paying “a pastor”, that’s the distinction. “The pastorate” assumes a singular, salaried position. You keep saying “the pastor”. For one thing, that’s unscriptural. Just btw. NT pastoring (a verb, at least in my terms) was a plural activity.
But yes, I’m sure churches with part-time ministers struggle in many ways. Likewise, a church with unpaid ministers might ask “Who does this fool think they are to exhort us?” And so forth.
As they say, ‘Pick your poison’.
@Bill: It is as simple as I am using “pastor” (the title) and “pastorate” (the office that said “pastor” holds for lack of a better term) interchangeably. I have in mind something like the overseer of 1 Tim. 3.1. That is not to say that I am advocating a singular pastor or a plurality of pastors. That is a different discussion altogether (though a good one!) from what I am emphasizing in this post. What I am aiming to say is that we have too many pastors who do not “shepherd” as much as they “manage”. Does that clarify things a bit?
@Bill – Where were you last week when I was talking about church size?!?! 🙂
I must get a copy of this book.
Thanks for this. As a pastor myself, I’m often distracted by the way our culture defines “success.” And as the above quotes point out, I sure not alone. Wow!
@Brian: I admit I went off on some tangents, but I do suspect the money and power (position) *inevitably* lead to “success” and “management” issues. Again, pick your poison. But NT overseers weren’t officialized or salaried. Not that we have to be just like the NT era…
@Mark: I was away. For communication’s sake, do you consider yourself a “CEO Pastor”? I’ve tended to use that term to describe structure, not function. But I’m starting to gather you guys use that term to describe preachers who delegate the traditional pastoral duties. The mega-church rock stars. To me, a small congregation’s elder board has a “CEO Pastor” if that pastor fulfills a unique role, even while describing himself as “one of the elders”. He’s in charge, but also not. Like a CEO.
But to both of you, yes, I see a huge difference between shepherding and managing. So to speak.
Pastor. Nothing more nothing less (Shepherd)
Right. Then I use the term differently. Fair enough, then. 🙂
I don’t think the NT “mandates” any particular model or church gvt. I do think that it’s clear that the “shepherd” is a clear “vocation” and “office,” and they are worth of their wages! Sure all of this has been abused and amused but it’s clear that the Pastor is a shepherd (whether that’s a group of elders etc.), and they should be supported (just as the Levites were).
I do think the CEO model is horrific, and has penetrated the walls of the Western church in really sad ways! Of course this just really illustrates how the secular has owned the sacred in ways that should be just the opposite in regards to the Christian’s engagement of this world.
You took my post…. lol! (not really but it is a good one!). 🙂
In the class on leadership I took two weekends ago at our district school of ministry, one of the points brought out in the textbook is that “pastor/shepherd” is the term used for the leader of a church because sheep are not driven like cattle, but led by someone who is going before them, showing the way.
@Brian: Amen to that!
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