unspoken-tension

I did not want to write this post. Indeed I have resisted for several months for fear I would do more harm than good.

But the conviction to write it is too great. I pray that God will use it for His glory, and that I will not be an impediment to His work.

Here is the simple thesis: There is a growing tension between some pastors and some laity in churches across America. It is not pervasive, but it’s growing. Frankly, I don’t even like the seemingly opposing labels of pastors and laity. I just don’t know how to describe the groups otherwise.

This tension is like the family secret that no one mentions explicitly, but many speak around it and near it. And this tension is growing.

Anecdotal Evidence

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear a layperson expressing some level of concern about pastors in his or her church. Likewise, and with similar frequency, pastors share with me their growing frustration with laypersons in the church.

How pervasive is this tension? I would be surprised if it includes as much as 25 percent of all churchgoers. But the number is high enough that the tension is often palpable. And I have little doubt that the tension is higher today than it was just a year ago.

I also have little doubt that this tension is one of the most effective tools used by Satan to distract from those things that are of Kingdom importance. It’s hard to be focused on the Great Commission when you are focused on a negative attribute of someone else in your church.

What Are The Pastors Saying?

Those pastors who are expressing displeasure with their laity are usually doing so in four major areas of concern:

  • The critics. A small number of laypersons are highly critical of pastors. They may be relatively few in number but their words sting.
  • The silent majority. For some pastors, it’s not the critics who bother them, but the rest of the congregation that’s unwilling to confront the critics with their divisive words and actions.
  • The apathetic. Some pastors are frustrated that so many church members are not giving and serving in the church. They are willing to sit on the sidelines and let a very small minority lead and give.
  • The self-serving members. Again, a number of pastors express frustration that some members are more concerned about the church meeting their own needs and preferences. They will fight for a preferred worship style, but not share the gospel one time in the course of a year.

Pastors, I get it. Every one of those concerns is legitimate. But do you know what? Ministry is messy. Ministry deals with imperfect people just like you. The reality is that these “problem” members are usually a small minority, but you may have a tendency to focus on their negativity rather than leading the church forward.

God called you to ministry to love even the unlovable unconditionally. You can’t develop a negative or bitter attitude toward anyone in your congregation and lead effectively. It’s time to put the frustration behind, and love them even as Christ loved you. And remember: Christ died on a cross for imperfect people like you and me.

What Are the Laypersons Saying?

Though it’s probably a relatively small minority, a growing number of laypersons are complaining about pastors. The complaints I hear usually come in one of five areas:

  • The autocratic and abusive pastor. “He steps on people for his own agenda. His overarching concern is getting his way at most any cost.”
  • The non-leading pastor. “Our church is in the doldrums because the pastor simply won’t lead. He either doesn’t have leadership skills, or he is fearful to use them.”
  • The change-agent pastor. “He has led and introduced change too rapidly. Our church just isn’t what it used to be.”
  • The non-pastoral care pastor. “He doesn’t visit us. He doesn’t care for us. He fails to take care of the members of the church.”
  • The bad preacher pastor. “His sermons are lacking. I’m just not getting fed by his messages.”

Layperson, you too have legitimate concerns. Indeed if you are in one of the few churches led by an autocratic and abusive pastor, it’s time to leave. But most of your other concerns are related to the pastor’s gift set. You want him to be an incredible leader, a perfect counselor, and a phenomenal preacher. You want him both omnipresent and omnicompetent.

You could say that the concerns expressed are connected to needs not getting met. Instead of coming to the church to serve, some laypersons are in the church to be served. They want a perfect pastor, but they are unwilling to pray for him and see the struggles he experiences daily. Very few people understand the demands on his life and time.

The Great Distraction

As long as Satan is able to pit pastor against parishioner, and vice versa, the focus will be on the feud rather than the Great Commission. In most cases, both sides are at fault. The antagonists are focused on themselves rather than the other person.

This tension is still at a relatively low level. But, because it is growing, I feel it is important to sound the alarm on this great distraction.

The solution is simple: In God’s power, focus on the needs and concerns of others rather than your own, whether you are a pastor or a layperson. Learn to be totally self-giving and sacrificial. Then, and only then, will this growing tension abate.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2: 3-5, HCSB).

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Comments

  1. Mike Willmouth says

    I agree with everything that you have posted – I have heard them all before and they seem to be a common theme in most churches. I know that all of these issues can be true, but I also know that some people will use these same things as excuses even when it isn’t true (these people really don’t care about the truth, they just care about what they want). I knew a pastor once who was working on his doctrinal thesis and he did a survey of pastors and churches asking them what they believed was the role of the pastor. The pastors who responded all answered, to equip the people to do the work of the ministry. The church members who responded all answered, the pastor was to do the work of the ministry. So right from the beginning you have the two groups trying to go in different directions. This just reaffirmed to me what I have experienced in my Christian walk over the years (I have been a member of 7 churches while I moved around in the military for 20 years, and have pastored multiple churches since then).

    I believe the root of the problem is the real lack of discipleship from day one of a believer’s new life in Jesus Christ (and I’m not talking about putting them into a class room either, but paired up with someone to teach and guide them for a period of time). We wonder why people act the way they do, but it shouldn’t surprise us when the spiritual nursery acts this way – they don’t know the bible, and they act like children who are self centered and selfish. We do a real good job of emphasizing the first part of the great commission about witnessing (even to the point of calling it the “main thing”), but we do a real poor job at the discipleship aspect which impacts the church fellowship/membership aspect too. Then we keep repeating this cycle which dumbs down the pastorate too over time. I have found that when you take the time to disciple new believers that it does at least two things; it closes the back exit door of the church, and it creates a more mature Christian who’s behavior is much more in line with the Scripture. There is another thing that it will do with some, it will create better future pastors.

    If anyone is interested in some good discipleship material for new believers (and old ones too, if they have never been discipled) that will create witnesses for Christ and put them on a good foundation to continue to grow on, I would recommend “The Call to Joy” and “The Call to Growth” by Billie Hanks Jr (http://www.ieaom.org/index.html).

  2. Ben Arbour says

    Thom, thanks for sharing these insightful remarks. Here’s another perspective. The complaints of the pastor towards the flock, in many instances, is a pretty obvious sign that he’s not leading well. If he were, these problems would be less significant (although imperfection would remain).
    The complaints of the flock towards the pastor indicate that we are working with the wrong model. You are right that no one can be an incredible leader, a perfect counselor, and a phenomenal preacher–that “package” or skill set is exceedingly rare. But were churches to follow a more biblical paradigm of church leadership, these problems would be less severe. A plurality of elders means more than one senior pastor leading the church, and different pastors can be gifted in different ways. The fact that most churches still have one and only one senior pastor is a big part of these problems. Said differently, many churches claim to be led by a plurality of elders, but they aren’t.
    God’s ways will always work better than whatever non-biblical inventions we create. As I see things, this is true just as much for ecclesiology and polity as it is for things that Southern Baptists have insisted that we be clear about (e.g., the truth of the Scriptures, the Gospel, salvation in Christ, etc.).

    • says

      I agree with the plurality of elders being a cure for leadership problems; my own church is gifted with men who discern the needs of our body and call them to serve appropriately. That does not mean there are not still people who disagree and cause trouble; it also doesn’t highlight all of the good reasons lay people are getting upset (e.g. lack of discipleship, too much concentration on ‘bribing’ the lost into church, too many political or moral sermons divorced from the Gospel, the lack of love and/or truth being modeled, etc.) There will always be problems in the church, and our me-istic attitudes only make them worse,

  3. says

    Thom, I see the same growing trends you have mentioned and agree with the solution. It’s almost always a matter of perspective. When all of us, pastors and laity, become willing to embrace the lyrics of the old spiritual, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me O’ Lord standing in the need of prayer . . .” maybe we can stop thinking “It’s him, it’s her, it’s you . . .” and just pray for one another.

  4. says

    Who is to decide which congregation and which pastor fit which diagnosis – and the make recommendations to both ? As a laity it’s important to me not to push everything that doesn’t work right off on Satan ; that , it is perfectly O.K. to look both ways before crossing the street – and that every thought that enter a pastor’s mind he should not consider Heaven sent ! Good Leadership and the willingness to be lead could fix a lot without either group crying to each other about it . Proper control needs to be established by both groups , and where necessary stacks of by-laws with escape clauses need to be thrown out . I’d create a two man SBC pastor team that would visit on invitation and perform these functions . This expense might cause us to forgive a mission or two in Africa , but , might very well be worth the effort . Thinking about it for a year or so doesn’t help . Plenty of room for improvement everywhere .

    • says

      Thom Rainer , While I greatly appreciate your letting me post my honest thoughts here and don’t wish to make you pay for that allowance , I would like to add that it appears you are not going to say anything in response including a mild thank you . A man in your leadership position helps create a greater gap among Baptist who share all sides of the confrontations we have today and who also have a good idea where your positions reside . Billy Graham would have replied . Again , thank you for letting me voice my opinion . Reasonable men can differ and resolutions can be made when they can talk to each other ..

    • Thom Rainer says

      Jack -

      I apologize that I did not respond satisfactorily to your comment. As I read your comment a second time, I am still trying to get clarity on what you are proposing and how I thus should respond. I confess that I am travel weary right now, and probably need some time off the road to think more clearly.

      Again, please accept my apologies. I don’t take for granted that people actually read my posts and comment on them.

      • says

        Thom Rainer , Thank you for this reply which is far more than I expected and if there was one previous to this I never saw it . On the By- Laws one explanation I can offer is that some churches allow any children who can walk or talk to have a full vote on removing a pastor or financing an addition all according to By-Laws and this allows voting power to cliques that oppose any changes like background checks which would uncover members or volunteers with arrest records . Thank you again for your reply .

  5. Dale Pugh says

    “How pervasive is this tension? I would be surprised if it includes as much as 25 percent of all churchgoers. But the number is high enough that the tension is often palpable.”
    Thom, I think you’re shooting low here. I would say, based on experiences around my area (I admit that it’s evidence based on my own observation–nothing scientific), that the percentage is quite a bit higher than 25%. Maybe I’m being too sensitive or cynical, but this is a much more prevalent problem than we might want to admit. I hear these things over and over again. It’s a definite concern.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Dale -

      You could be right. Like you, I don’t have the hard data on this matter. Maybe I’m just being hopeful.

    • Drew Dabbs says

      I totally agree with Dale. Seminary classes and practically every church leadership or pastoral ministry book I’ve ever read promote the “equipping of saints” model, but not to the exclusion of shepherding the sheep, of course. The unwritten, unspoken expectation, however, seems to be that the congregation pays the pastor to do most of the ministry. My suspicion is that this is a holdover from the churched culture years. Since most in society, particularly in the Bible Belt, attended church, practically all the ministry took place within the church. Not to discredit anyone, but, for many years, pastors unwittingly fed into and were fed by this paradigm. Now that we no longer have a churched culture, the same expectation still lingers that pastors can and should take care of everyone “in the church.” The problem is that, on any given Sunday, 75% or more of the population (even here in MS) is not in church. I’m not placing blame on anyone, but pastors simply cannot be expected to come running with a handkerchief every time a church member sneezes, while also being expected to evangelize and proselytize the lost and/or unchurched. That’s a gross overstatement, but it makes the point.

      Dr. Rainer, other than it being part of Satan’s great distraction, what are some of the contributing factors, in your opinion, that led us to this point?

      • Thom Rainer says

        Drew -

        You articulate well at least one major reason behind this unbiblical development. Regarding other reasons: give me some time to research it and think it through. Perhaps it can be a post in the near future.

  6. cb scott says

    Excellent post, Dr. Rainer.

    Kenneth Haugk addressed what I think to be a major factor in “some” churches today regarding the content of your post in his book entitled: Antagonists in the Church.

    Haugk defined antagonists as “individuals who on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed toward those in a leadership capacity.”

    I think that in our contemporary church culture, there is an increase of antagonistic behavior in the body. In some instances, this is true of those serving in the pastoral role as well. The increase of antagonistic conduct along with the rise in sociopathic behavior in North American culture in general, gives me a tendency to believe we are in one of those “difficult times” Paul called Timothy’s attention to in 2Timothy 3.

    However, such “difficult times” does also give rise for great opportunity for men of God to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of , knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

    Sorry for the sermon, Thom, but I too hear a lot of such testimonies from pastors and church members alike and have given much thought to such things.

    Hopefully, I shall see you in Houston and we can take the opportunity together to yell: ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

    I’m looking for a “three-peat” this season!

    • Thom Rainer says

      CB -

      Your comments never seem like sermons; they are pearls of wisdom for
      me. Thanks for the input friend.

      And regarding your football fanaticism: Your priorities and potential
      prognosis have my high favor.

  7. Steve Pryor says

    Great article, as always. The devil loves it when pastors and other leaders burn energy on criticizing each other, instead of spreading the word.

  8. says

    This is a well-written and useful message for all of us. I would estimate that any active and committed church member has faced these issues from both perspectives (pastor and laity concerns). I am going to recommend your blog to our Vision and Worship Committees. Thank you for being courageous enough to take the risk of writing this important message.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Katherine -

      Thank you for your encouraging words, and for being willing to make a positive difference.

  9. Denny Fusek says

    I have been a pastor and am now a layperson, so I see both sides.

    From a pastor’s point of view, I agree with Thom. Suck it up, pastors!!! Don’t let your feelings get hurt because someone is critical of you.

    As far as the criticisms of the pastors are concerned, I am not even interested in the first 4 on the list. If a pastor is abusive, I just dish it right back to him. 2-4 don’t concern me at all. As far as number 5 goes, Thom’s solution doesn;t work, in my opinion. I think over 90 percent of the pastors are bad preachers because they don’t use the Bible. Instead, they tell stories about their kids or their basketball games or (insert local sports anecdote here). Picking up and moving to another church doesn’t help, since this is epidemic in today’s churches.

  10. Neil says

    Dear Mr. Rainer,
    I want to commend you. You do a wonderful job of exposing the truth that the clegy/laity system is so opposed to scripture that all one needs do is read your articles. I am thoroughly convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter and every other disciple from the first century would have stinging words to say about this worldly system. This system not only proves repeatedly that it is contrary to scripture, this system all but represents an order of New Testament Pharisees. I say this because it is complete with titles, laws, regulations, formalities and other legalistic loopholes that not only destroy unity in the church, this system has also destroyed marriages, created passivity among the laity, resurrected false teachings and created super-ego vision casters. Thank you for being the constant voice that exposes the truth of the institutionalized church. I pray that you and all your self-ordained colleagues would humble yourselves and once again place the Lord Jesus Christ in His proper place. I also pray that you would let the Holy Spirit provide the necessary gifts of the local church instead of relying on man-made traditions and scholasticism.
    In Christ’s love,
    Neil

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thank you Neil. I do need to be reminded to keep myself humbled before God. And I do need the prayers of others. If you can find the time, I would covet your prayers as well. Thank you.

  11. Deborah says

    Thank you for bringing the topic to us. Another angle is the member/now former who walks away from a particular congregation without speaking to the Pastor or Elders or Laity. Yet they speak freely to those outside and a new church family about all the things they don’t like about the old church. I pray we consider loving one another above self.

  12. says

    Dr. Rainer, as a lifelong Southern Baptist, I heartily agree with you. However, I believe we lay-folk have two other objections you may have missed,

    1. Our pastors’ understanding (or lack thereof) of the world we live in. I am extremely pleased with the vastly improved quality of SBC seminary education (both in terms of orthodoxy and of academic rigor). But more than a few of our pastors know little or nothing of anything else. How are they supposed to counsel businessmen when they know nothing about economics and wealth creation? Oh, they’ll usually vote Republican, and they’ll usually scold excess when it seems called for, but could they exegete a passage about, say, Naboth and apply it correctly to an issue we actually face, like the government closing of a thousand auto dealerships (& consequent destruction of jobs in their churches) in early 2009? Could they tell us how to respond to the government’s mandate that we provide insurance that includes abortifacients, not from opinion but from Scripture? How to reconcile that response with the counsel to avoid litigation? How to deal personally with California’s new law that our grade school children must share bathrooms and locker rooms with the opposite gender?

    Too often we find platitudes and opinion, or even worse, silence and shrugs. Why would we listen? The other side’s leaders know what they believe, and why.

    2. Our pastors’ refusal to call us to something that matters. No mass movement in human history has been built on Precious Moments, on group therapy, or even on well-grounded but dry academic lectures. Authentic Christianity set this pattern: “take up your cross daily and follow me”, words He spoke before the disciples knew of His own cross. We frequently ask why women are more involved in church than men. I can answer that easily: too many churches call men to nothing. Men will join the Marines to slog through swamps and march across deserts for a greater cause; they will become firemen or astronauts or fighter jocks or any other dangerous thing — or even just hold down two or three jobs to make sure a child gets needed health care, or gets to go to college — because of that same drive, to achieve something that matters through great testing. Watch the movies that motivate us! They tell all you need to know.

    So why does the church so often treat us like that group therapy session? Why does not the church call us to the vastly greater needs it was established not just to serve but to conquer, from penetrating lostness to nourishing orphans to establishing hospitals and taking back education? And crucially, why do our pastors not call us to these things filled with His Spirit, passionately and with tears, and with practical teaching on how we can each BE the change?

    We have many pastors who do this: don’t get me wrong. But for all the dry lecturers, and for all the Precious Moments hand-holders, there’s a reason your men think they are better served by a Sunday golf outing, or by sleeping in. It’s you.

    We live in revolutionary times. The Internet levels the field between so-called laity and so-called clergy like nothing since the printing press. If our pastors cannot rise to meet these needs, this is going to be a needlessly grim century for Christ’s church.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Rod -

      That stings. But my guess is that your words sting because they contain much truth. I cannot disagree with you, but I can ask you to pray for pastors. Your analysis of the times in which we live is spot on. So we need to pray for those who have been called to lead in such times.

      • says

        Thank you very much, sir: it is certainly no criticism of you or of many other outstanding SBC leaders. And indeed, we not only pray for our pastors, we serve on the Board of Regents at Midwestern Seminary. We mean no disrespect to anyone: we just want to push back the curse, reach the lost, and serve the King.

  13. Andrew Brautigam says

    Thom – I have to admit, this article fried my bacon the first time I read it. And, after I’ve re-read it, it still disturbs me. In some ways, the article excuses pastors from the criticism of laypeople, and makes me feel guilty about the frustrations I’ve experienced as a churchgoer.

    The more I’ve thought about this article, though, the more I’ve realized the frustrations I think you’re refering to mostly come out of two things: frustrations from people that the culture has changed and isn’t going backwards anytime soon, and frustrations from people who don’t think that Sunday Morning is working as a tool to evangelize or disciple.

    I think it’s extremely important to explain the differences between the two. The first, in my opinion, is pretty much without value. The second, though, has to do with the purpose of the church, and the natural frustration of a person who is committed to the work of the church, carrying on a fruitful spiritual life outside of sunday morning, and who is giving, serving, and working.

    If a church member believes that a church is not committed to reaching people outside that church’s walls, or believes that a pastor’s issues (pride, mostly) are preventing him from meaningfully addressing the problems he is creating within the church structure, and those problems together are acting as a soul-consuming time vortex that weaken that person’s attempts to live an effective christian life, what does that church member do??

    This is a serious question. If a layperson is a member of a church that is floundering, and has serious leadership issues, what should that person do? How much of a layperson’s christian life should be sunday morning focused?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Andrew -

      Your frustration is emblematic of one of the major reasons I was reticent to write this post. Your perception is fair and your frustration is well founded in the sense that my article communicates to everyone to say nothing about even the most grievous problems. Of course, that is not my intent. I wish I could communicate to all to speak the truth, but to speak the truth with so much love that it unites rather than divides.

      Thanks for your honest feedback. Your words are a good reminder to me that I have much to improve myself.

  14. Scott Cassel says

    Dr. Rainer:
    Once again, this resonates with my experience. I hope it’s OK that I am an “interloper” as a United Methodist pastor! One word: when pastors “ignore” or “suck it up” with issues, they are often branded as uncaring or lacking in leadership. Maybe some informal (lay facilitated) discussion groups would help to clear the air from time to time.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks so much Scott. And you’re always welcome here. Though the Southern Baptists often drive the conversations, the readership and commenters are diverse and ecumenical. People like you make this blog a more richer place for heartfelt discussions.

  15. Mandy L says

    Writing both sides of the situation – nice. It’s good to have both perspectives, because that’s what good communication is all about. I don’t think abusive pastors are in a small number of churches, though. There are large Christian colleges turning our pastors and the colleges themselves (a few of them – not lumping all Christian colleges together, of course) are abusive and turn out pastors that are products representative of the system they learned from.
    I totally have found that the best pastors are lay pastors who have some regular type of work in addition to the church work they do. I wonder if maybe we thought of our pastors more as our peers instead of some kind of lords of the church (which they’re not) then maybe the expectations wouldn’t be so unrealistic, because they would be one of us – just the one designated with doing the most speaking because they want that task, maybe because of being the one who designates the most time to study to support that speaking. Doing the speaking doesn’t mean absolute authority either. In the early church, more people spoke, and were better studied, than the typical person today. Jesus getting up and speaking in the synagogue – he was a carpenter’s kid, but he got to speak. Imagnie that happening today. Most churches I’ve been to wouldn’t consider changing the program, and would even less likely let a kid get up and share what spiritual truths and Scriptures they’d been learning. So we have a lack of equity in the congregation when compared to the pastor, and there are sides because of it.

  16. Bryan Manary says

    I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned “Pastoral Relations Committee’s”. As a Pastor I have become convinced that these were the idea of Wormwood! By allowing anonymous complaining (from both sides!), they function in direct opposition to the Bible mandate to “leave your gift at the altar and go, be reconciled”. Every church I have pastored has been in deep trouble when I started, and every one had a culture of tolerating anonymous and behind-the-back complaining. While I agree about perspective, it is also about behavior.

  17. David Parks says

    Thom,
    First, let me say a word of thanks for your outstanding post. I believe you are spot on in your assessment. In my role, I deal with this type tension between some pastors and some lay people every day it seems. Like many, I am greatly concerned about the rising tide of forced terminations where pastors are concerned and the growing frustration of lay people. Thanks for shedding some light on a difficult area. Additionally, thank you for always responding in grace and humility to those who do not always respond to you in such a manner. I am encouraged by your article and more importantly by your demeanor and character. Thanks so much for your Christ-centered example.

  18. Hugh McCann says

    Thom,

    Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Or, as Spidey’s uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    There are many issues here, but the bottom line is that those in charge carry the burden to lead, do right, and set an example. {Phil 3:17, I Peter 5:3}

    Pastor-teachers are to feed the flock to equip them for works of service. {Eph. 4:11ff.}

    Also, it’s not merely that Satan puts pastors and parishioners at odds with each other, it’s that, as the New Testament repeatedly promises, there are many false teachers and false prophets in the church. Unless the leaders know the truth, and are willing to preach it unreservedly, and contend for the faith and against falsehood, the lay-folk will have little to get up for on Sundays.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

    • Neil says

      Hugh,
      I believe that this article as well as many of Mr. Rainer’s other articles point out that the current clegy/laity system IS the problem. What few “leaders” will admit is that their position as “pastor” is a hireling position and the “laity” position the seek to disciple encourages passivity. Upton Sinclair said, ““It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” This it very true for the pastoral ministry because this clergy/laity system contradicts scripture pertaining to the qualifications of an elder. It should be the desire of every young man to become an elder one day. Ladies, your desire is to be a wife of a man who fears God and His word thus it would be your desire to be a wife of an elder. This elder role is certainly not a role that lords over other believers, but provides the example to the church.
      What happens in some cases is the Holy Spirit administers gifts to the “laity” and they use these gifts against the wishes of the “clergy.” The problem here is that their “vocation” demands performance. It also requires the clergy to wear many hats. This is a problem is they do not have the spiritual gift of discernment. Any pastor will become defensive if believe they are right even when they are wrong on an issue pointed out by a disagreeing layperson. On the other hand, the “laity” may become passive because they expect the clergy to do all the work, thus quenching the spiritual gifts in their own lives. Combine this with a vocation that requires scholastics over spiritual giftedness and you create a very volatile system. I question the “calling” into pastoral ministry and the pastoral system itself and not the individual who unknowingly enters into a system that contradicts scripture. Very little is mentioned of those who entered into this ministry only to find out it was nothing they thought it would be. This system is full of problems including laity passivity, egoism, pastoral burnout, vision casters, false teachers, false doctrines, legalism, traditionalism, scholasticism, socialism, commercialism, dominionism etc. etc. etc. Rhetorical question: If it takes a few years in a seminary to convert me from a “laity” into a “clergy”, what role does the Holy Spirit really play in the church?

  19. Hank Arnaz says

    Presently I am in a church where quite frankly the Pastor is NOT a leader and seems to be comfortable with his extremely small congregation (not a new church plant) of older believers. He never challenges them, expects anything from them or sets any standards. Come as you are–leave as you came. I can only observe that he is older and does not have any ambition to really reach the lost, start programs, disciple etc. If only he knew what a real church does. I feel sorry for (besides myself until I relocate) the people who think this is what “church” is about. No wonder they only come with a hit and a miss. Why become a Pastor if you’re not truly called? Of course he gets a salary. Question answered.

  20. Ed Ball says

    As a teenager I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in a denomination that realized the importance of our youth, and spreading the Gospel through tracts and door to door visitations in a predominantly Catholic rural community of approximately 3,000 personnel. Our protestant revivals were frequent, in addition to the faithful congregation, it was standing room only, even after folding chairs were squeezed into the sanctuary, and 1200 to 1300 in attendance was not uncommon.

    As a prodigal son, several years went by before I met my wife and returned to the Church, in yet another denomination. The Pastor was a likable individual and truly a man of God, highly thought of by all members, and frequently made visitations to all 350 members each month. He generally used comic strips to open his sermons to break the ice and get directly into delivering God’s Word.

    I returned with my family to the U.S., joined with the same denomination and found a rift between the ideology of contemporary vs. traditional sermons. I soon took on the task of layman and Sunday School teacher and entertained those issues with a focus upon scripture, rather than conforming to the standards of the world today. Then the issue of homosexuality and its acceptance seemed to sweep across our conference gatherings, well before our government elected to repeal DADT.

    I firmly believe we are meant to be set apart from those that live in the world. Let us plant the seed, through our love, attitudes, and well being, allow them to see that Christ truly dwells within us, then let God do the rest.

    As for pastoral visitations, sadly, somewhere America has lost the importance of having a “personalized” pastor, one that members can relate to. Just dropping by to see how folks are doing, addressing issues in prayer with the family in their homes, or just words of appreciation and encouragement, mean more than anything they could say from the pulpit. Of course sharing a glass of lemonade and a slice of pie never hurt either.

    In 16 years, since returning to the U.S., a pastor has arrived on our doorstep twice, even though standing open invitations were always available. As for visitations, apparently Jehovah Witnesses realize the importance of home visits more than those we’ve elected to support over the years.

    Bottom line, I’ve brought my son up in a Christian environment and charter school system, and have taken my ministry into working with disabled veterans and those in need. Giving back to the community as I feel led through the Spirit.

    I no longer feel the need to worship in a physical structure with a steeple attached where those that worship don’t seem to miss our lack of attendance. Not to worry, God still speaks with me through His Word as well as prayers, and I have probably entertained angels unaware in the last several years. My testimony to the thousands of veterans I entertain makes all the difference in their lives. Let us remember the seven letters to the seven churches, and ask ourselves “where do we stand?” Have we convicted the soul of those we meet with God’s word, or are we tracking the best batting average to share on Sunday morning?

    May God Bless All of You,

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