We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined.

In early 1984, I began serving as a pastor for the first time. I would ultimately serve four churches as a pastor and nine churches as an interim pastor. In 1984 I was a young 28-year-old pastor without a clue. Today I am 58-years-old, and I’m still not sure I have a clue. So much has changed. So much has changed in pastoring in just thirty years. Let’s look at major ways the pastorate has changed in that time.

  1. Thirty years ago, most people in the community held the pastor in high esteem. Today most people don’t know who the pastor is, nor does the pastor hold any position of prominence in most communities.
  2. Thirty years ago, most people in the congregation held the pastor in high esteem. Though I cannot offer precise numbers, there is little doubt that church members as a rule don’t view pastors with the same esteem as they did thirty years ago. That is one major reason serving as a pastor is becoming increasingly difficult.
  3. Leadership skills are required more today than thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, I could preach sermons well and care for the congregation, and I would be deemed at least an adequate pastor. The demands and the expectations of the pastor are much higher today. Many of those demands can only be met with at least decent leadership skills.
  4. Interpersonal skills are required more today than thirty years ago.  Pastors thirty years ago could get away with some personality quirks because they were generally held in such high esteem. No more. Pastors are supposed to relate near perfectly to everyone.
  5. Outreach was accomplished by getting people to come to church services thirty years ago. That is not so today.  I remember some of the classic outreach ministries I led thirty years ago. They were all designed to get people to visit church services as a first step. Today, many barriers must be addressed in order for someone to be receptive to come to our churches.
  6. Thirty years ago, there were very few “nones.” The  2012 Pew Research project that identified 20 percent of all American adults as non-religiously affiliated has become a marker of change. Almost all people claimed some type of religious affiliation thirty years ago whether they were believers or not. It was not culturally accepted to be a “none” thirty years ago; there is no cultural stigma attached today.
  7. The Internet and social media have made pastoring much more challenging than it was thirty years ago. In many ways, it has been healthy that the pastors and their ministries are more transparent. For example, sex abuse of children in churches became a national concern when many priests and pastors were named as sexual predators. But there is no rule that someone must speak truthfully on the Internet and, specifically, in social media. Pastors today must deal with issues about them that travel fast on the Internet, even if a church member or someone else tells a complete lie.

Some things about pastoring, of course, never change. The pastor is still called to preach the Word, equip believers, and provide ministry to congregants and others. But other aspects of pastoral ministry have changed and will continue to change.

Certainly pastors need training in Bible and theology. But, more and more, pastors need additional preparation in leadership skills, interpersonal skills, and missional realities. Thirty years ago, the church expected the pastor to be a capable preacher and caregiver. Today much more is expected.

How are pastors responding? How are you responding? What other challenges and changes do you see?


  1. Dan says

    The twenty years of being pastor have changed a lot over the years. It has become more and more difficult not only to reach people but to keep them. It is more challenging to teach people, with so many pastors/teachers on the TV and radio, despite the fact many teach contrary to the word of God.
    I must continually seek ways to reach others and to look at the entire person…all their needs. I must address how we can and will minister to many of these issues almost before we can address their spiritual needs. The family/person is hungry, worried about bills, loss of homes and/or cars etc…and with all of these worries, spiritual needs tend to take a back seat to them. It is, at times, frustrating especially as a church planting pastor with limited funding.

    • says

      Keith –

      Many seminaries indeed need to provide better training on such issues as leadership and interpersonal relations. But the church needs to do a better job equipping these persons in such skills before they send them to seminary, It’s both/and, not either/or.

      Thanks for the comment.

        • says

          Riley, I know what you are saying. I have worked as a church planter and with new church planters here in Brazil for nearly 30 years. Our church planting class at our state seminary has been more than anything else a laboratory for problem solving…we share that ministry is many times 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, borrowing from Chuck Swindoll. If a young pastor can learn how to work with people, fight “fires” or small crises that crop up in both new and more mature congregations and most of all, learn problem solving skills, then he is much more likely to thrive than just survive.

        • Mark says

          And that is why most, but not all, degree/seminary programs require a year or more of work in a congregation. You learn to relate to people, perform pastoral care, and you might even have to conduct a funeral. (Weddings are questionable since you have to be credentialed, but that is the only exception.)

  2. says

    I left seminary feeling completely prepared 3 years ago. I learned in around 2 months it wasn’t the case. Luckily, I had the life skills to easily adapt and an environment to do so.

    While the esteem thing has changed, I think in many communities it just takes physical presence to get this back to a pretty good ratio.

    What I agree with the most is the issue of personality and leadership ability.

    • bill bigham says


      isn’t it time we purged the word “luckily” from our Christian vocabulary? I hear believers use the word LUCK often. The skills you had to adapt were not from luck but from God. Either there is LUCK and NO GOD…or GOD and NO LUCK.

      • Wes says

        Excellent point, Chad. It is not a matter of being “lucky” in ministry. It is a BLESSING. You’re right. It’s not “Luck and No God” nor “”God and No Luck.” It’s God and His Blessings. Furthermore, as Ed Stetzer commented recently, it’s not that we “help” in the church, but that we are partners.

  3. Larry Elrod says

    Dear Thom and others,
    I am a non-traditional pastor. I did not grow up in the home of a pastor, receive a call from God as a teenager that took me into youth work, Bible college, seminary, and a little church as my first position in a life-long career. I came out of the business world in mid-life and went to seminary. I had to learn the hard way how to work with people when I was not signing their paychecks. After eighteen years I am just now getting some idea of how nothing I do really matters if the Holy Spirit is not doing it first. I am still naïve enough to believe that my job description is found in two passages of Scripture; Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-13. That is the “what” I am supposed to do. The “how” I am t do it is found in the life of Christ and the teachings of Paul to Timothy and Titus. I am somewhat surprised at how much education and training I have to pursue every year to be remain useful to God. I love leading people to Christ and praise God have seen many people saved. I also love working with growing Christians. It is more fun to steer than it is to push. I still struggle with mediocre believers; first because they often give me reason to wonder about their conversions and second because they are so defensive when it comes to exploring their relationship with God. So, I have a few close Christian friends and many other relationships that are tenuous in some way. The loneliness that comes with that is similar to that which came with being the owner/operator of a small business. Were it not for my relationship with God who loves me so much He made me HIs child and for my wife who loves me so much she became my best friend I would not be able to continue to serve as a pastor. I think I have rambled too much. I really don’t know too much about how being a pastor has changed. I only know how much I have changed being a pastor. I pray this comment strikes a cord with others.

    • Sean says

      Thanks Larry – the sentence that resonated with me today was, “It is more fun to steer than it is to push.” The challenge I’ve come up against is that you can’t steer a stationary vehicle.
      May God continue to bless your ministry.

  4. wcbcpastor says

    My firs pastorate began in 1981. One of the notable changes I have experienced has to do w how I exercise pastoral care. Early on I spent much time visiting in peoples homes- except for some older adults, I rarely make home visits unless I have been invited in and have secured an appointment. Today I email and spend more time in small group settings exercising pastoral care.

  5. Keith Jones says

    One additional thing that has SERIOUSLY changed since I began in church ministry about 43 years ago is that church members are much less consistent in their attendance. In the 1970’s and 1980s, I’d estimate that about half of typical Sunday attendees were there every Sunday, unless a serious illness or maybe one Sunday during a vacation was going on. Now that number is about 15 or 20 out of 100, and ‘regular’ attendees come from half to three-quarters of the time. I’ve observed this in city, small-town, and country churches. It really makes it a challenge to staff children’s ministries, the nursery, etc.

    • Mark says

      And back then, people were not as mobile. Try a city church where your congregants include young professional people not from the area. We stay in the city when we have to on the weekends. However, lambasting people for not staying in the city to attend church on Sunday will get you nowhere. That is why email and ministers’/priests’ blog are so popular.

  6. Allen Calkins says

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to biblically preach and lead a church without being considered a judgmental jerk by the community and a growing percentage of church members, especially ‘fringe’ and ‘under 40′ members.

    • Mark says

      You should read the blog of Nadia Bolz-Weber who is not viewed as a judgemental jerk and yet ministers to the fringe. She might not be welcome in many churches but she is the priest.

  7. Joshua Ogaldezz says

    Because there are pastor-centered churches and we live in a celebrity culture, I believe pastors have to navigate through the waters of what to do with ‘celebrity pastor’ mold that people have these days, specifically becoming image conscious that comes with it, the busy savviness, and the bigger than life expectations.

  8. Bruce Bates says

    Great post Thom (as always). I mourn the changes many have listed below. I wonder as well if some of these aren’t for the better though. If we are honest, if our attendance numbers were good, our budgets met, and our youth happy, we were too. I don’t know those always fulfilled Jesus’ call to being and making disciples (though I won’t argue they didn’t either. I think worship attendance and generous giving are marks of discipleship as well). We are learning/trying new things we never would have before because necessity/termination is the mother of many inventions. And because we believe the Kingdom should happen outside of our walls. Thanks for listing what many of us have had a hard time quantifying.

  9. says

    Tom, I’d add this one: The Expectation vs. Contribution differential is higher today. Thirty years ago, people expected less from the church and were willing to contribute more. Today, expectations are through the roof, but contribution (dollars and volunteer hours) is lower. The 80/20 equation is closer to 90/10.

  10. Joe Godwin says

    A couple of big changes I have experienced is time management and communication. Thirty years ago I could lock myself in the office in the mornings for study and my assistant (called a secretary then) would serve as the guard at the door. She would tell callers I was not available and would return calls in the afternoon, unless it was an emergency. With e-mail, people expect immediate responses. Sermon prep is often interrupted by e-mails by those who are not willing to wait for a convenient time for me to respond.

    • Gordon Wwoods says

      Turn off automatic email downloads; then there’ll be no interruptions. Those who can’t wait can call and your gatekeeper who can identify true emergencies and pass them to you. BTW, making people wait for an email response helps them to develop patience.

    • wyclif says

      I’d suggest that if you feel interrupted by email, you are doing email wrong.

      The entire purpose of email is so that you are not interrupted and you can get to the messages from church members when you have time. A suggestion: don’t open email when doing sermon prep or other crucial tasks. Close the browser window if you use web email, or turn the email app you use off. Commit to only reading and responding to email a set number of times per day (for example, 2x…once in the morning and once in the afternoon). Make it clear that you probably will not return email until the next day if it is sent late in the day or evening.

      • says

        I know you directed this question to Joe Goodwin. However I would like to point out that the quiet time for study that a Pastor needs is not only, or even primarily, for sermon prep. He needs to be spending time in the word, in reading theology, church history, and brushing up on the original languages, quite separate from the time that he spends actually crafting a sermon. For a pastor to study only or primarily when preparing to teaching others is like running the voltage out of a battery without recharging it.

        • Mark says

          That’s all fine but sometimes talking to people and being available is worth far more than more study. I have seen too many ministerrs run around before the service starts trying to get the last things done and not talk to but one congregant. I have also seen priests who had it all together and talked to everyone coming in the door and even took a few minutes to talk to me one-on-one.

          • says

            It’s not either or, it’s both, and. In my view, roughly half of a pastor’s time should be spent in the study, and half with the people, in their homes, in town, having coffee, etc. My schedule devotes mornings to study and leaves afternoon’s open for visitation. I find that prior to the service is not the best time to be chatty, as we sinners are trying to frame our hearts and minds for an encounter with the Lord of the Universe. There’s plenty of time for that after the service.

  11. Kevin Vendt says

    I think another thing that has changed in the last 30-40 years is education levels. In the past, he pastor was often the most educated person in the community or church. Now it is not uncommon to have many people with as much, or more education than the pastor. In my most recent church, there were numerous Masters degrees in the congregation, and even several Doctorates. This may be one reason for the sense you have of the loss of esteem for the pastor in the congregation.
    Good thoughts overall Thom. Thank you.

    • Mark says

      When the minister/pastor has a masters or doctorate and acts and speaks like a scholar, then he/she gets respect from those that have one too, regardless of the field. Those who are highly educated will not put up with anything less than a scholar.

      • says

        That is precisely why our forefathers so strongly promoted an educated ministry, including general preparation through a Bachelor’s degree, study in Hebrew and Greek, etc. It’s largely because the learned and educated will look down upon a lack of education, and therefore will not be edified. If some churches have been getting away from this, it is time to get back to it in the modern context.

        • Mark says

          And rabbis can run circles around most ministers in terms of knowledge. The jewish seminaries teach at a much higher level than the rest. The Christian biblical scholars who went to Hebrew union college were some of the smartest I have ever seen. When that group did preach sermons, they were very short and on point.

          • says

            Can I remind us all that the apostles were “uneducated”? Let’s not get too puffed up with knowledge that we forget that. And I am 110% for education, higher learning, and being as scholarly as possible. However, for many university education is a matter of finances and time and not intellect or spirituality. Even in the secular business world, those with degrees are drowning in college loan debt and having a hard time finding work. So let’s not get tool big for our breaches with formal education. It’s not always the benchmark of ability. Let me say again: I DO believe in education 110%, in a perfect world.

  12. says

    So very true, on many fronts. I was thinking the other day how a few decades ago, just setting up an evangelistic tent rally would be easily attended by many in the community. Today, that same endeavor would probably be a ghost town of sorts.

    The times change, and that means we pastors must “adapt” to those changes. Not necessarily change ourselves, and certainly not change the role of the pastorate, but adapt accordingly could only be thought of as “wise.” We can not be good stewards of our time and resources if we elect not to change.

    I actually wrote a recent blog post about why it can be a very positive thing for us pastors to communicate with our congregations via social media. It holds especially true for people in our congregations who are under 40 years old.

    If you’re interested here’s the link for that article.

    -Charles Specht

  13. Charlie Edwards says

    These are excellent points to prove the theorem that, while
    God hasn’t changed, God’s word hasn’t changed, and human nature hasn’t changed, Time has!

  14. Paul R. Jones says

    I am blessed to be a volunteer chaplain and have a Masters degree in Biblical Studies. Many of the members of my home church have advanced degrees. Our pastor is very popular and the personnel committee has always paid our staff a living wage. I believe the secret to a church full of Christians and not pew ornaments is in the cultivation of disciples. Seeker churches abound with shallow roots. Church hoppers feed at a buffet of church program providers. One church for kids programs, another for the terrific band, soccer, basketball, and who knows, Frisbee football. Our churches bear little resemblance to the Biblical standards for Christianity. If we could get past the name it and claim it, give every new member a job mentality and get back to Biblical preaching, discipleship, and sacrificial service perhaps we would be further down the road. Just my opinion.

  15. Jdbar14 says

    #5 is huge. I’ve also seen it lead to some conflict where older members of the congregations want frequent altar calls to see people “walk the aisles” and have that tangible expression of the growth of the kingdom. Meanwhile, the pastor looks out into the congregations and sees exactly the same faces that he’s seen for the past two or three years. It makes it harder to summon up the energy for a quite possibly empty response to a call to accept Christ.

  16. jonathon says

    Thirty years ago, upon entering a church, one usually felt as if was treading in sacred space.
    Today, there is narry a hint of sacredness, even during a church service.

    That difference — pastoral tolerance of the invasion of the profane replacing the sacred — is what I see as the biggest change in pastoring, in the last thirty years.

  17. Jeremy Scott says

    This was hinted at by a previous comment, but I going along with point #7, I think that average pastors today are unfairly compared to the well-known pastors. Particularly in the area of preaching. Our sermons are constantly being compared to the great preachers of today. On one hand, this is frustrating. On the other hand, it is good for there are far too many pastors who are content with mediocre preaching. Knowing that such comparisons are out there could be a help to better study. But, at the end of the day, most of us just don’t have the giftedness that the more famous preachers have. I don’t mind that, but I wish our congregations could be a bit more easily edified (to borrow a term from Harold Best).

  18. says

    #3 is critical. It’s why I’ve written 3 straight books on leadership for church leaders and pastors. This is my 20th year in ministry and strong leadership is needed more than ever. Great insight!

  19. Mahlon Smith says

    Dear Thom: Thanks for your post. God called me to preach His word 22 years ago. I pastored for 5 years in Florida and I am pastoring a wonderful church here in Oklahoma. When I see the increased emphasis on the need for leadership in our churches, as well as conferences, books and blogs, I wonder if the leadership being called for is necessarily Biblical leadership? I know when I was in Bible College in the early 90’s and then seminary in the early 2000’s, theological education had shifted to offering more classes on managerial theories of leadership. As much as we know that all truth is God’s truth, and that general revelation can include insights gleaned from the business world, has the push towards bringing business style thinking into the pulpit and pastor’s study made for better churches? I think our church world and more so us pastors are addicted to quick results. Just some thoughts. Thanks for the blogsite, it is really a blessing.

  20. says

    “Today, many barriers must be addressed in order for someone to be receptive to come to our churches.”

    I’m one who often invites un-churched people to church. I’d like to give this more thought. It’s a no-brainer as to why unsaved people should go to church. But what exactly are the obstacles, and is there a way to make them more comfortable visiting without compromising doctrine or worship?

  21. says

    A Church values its pastor, and is willing to overlook flaws or “personality quirks” to the extent that it values and emphasizes the Word of God. Re: 2 and 4, You will still find this today I think in churches that place a premium on sound doctrine and the ministry of the word. I have also discovered that #1 still holds true more or less in a rural area.

  22. says

    Dr. Rainier: I always appreciate your work and the work of Lifeway. I am a Nazarene pastor and ethicists now pastoring in Missouri. I hope you don’t mind, but I have posted a sort of “response” of your article here:

    This is the longest and probably most cathartic blog I’ve written in a long time. I hope is provides some helpful analysis and insight…. Thanks for taking the time to read it! God bless!


  23. Mark says

    I am not a pastor but from an ordinary congregant’s perspective I know the ministry has needed to be updated for 30 years. However, all industries have changed in the past 30 years. Why would the ministry be any different? To begin with, the education level of most attendees has increased in the past 30 years. However many ministers are still stuck in the 1970s and the 1980s. Those ministers also seem to be the ones who are still teaching at seminaries where new students are still learning old 1970s and 1980s ideas. Technology back then might have included a tape recorder or a Sony Walkman; today technology includes Blog postings. However it seems that many ministers are scared to write a blog. I do not know if they are scared of their congregants or their leadership. However the few ministers who do write blogs and answer the difficult questions tend to develop large national followings and be held in higher regard than those who do not write. However should a minister choose to write a blog, he or she has to be prepared for the responses in the discussion that follows. Thirty years ago, old people took the preacher to lunch on Sunday after church and discussed gardening or other innocent topics (I know. I was drug along to those lunches.) Today the young professionals would like to be included in a lunch or dinner with the clergy where they could chat with him or her. However, ministers should not do this if they can’t handle the discussion or the questions that are likely to arise. Sadly, it seems that many ministers are hesitant to reach out to their own congregants. Thirty years ago, many topics were taboo and off limits; today, all topics are fair game. As a minister, if you don’t understand some topic in the modern world, ask someone. Don’t plead ignorance. Young professionals will happily explain it to you.

  24. Dean says


    I believe point 1 & 2 & 6 are true, but lack historic perspective. If our time of reference covered 2000 years of church history rather than a mere 30 years and if our context included all nations rather than just the US I would suspect US pastors still have it relatively well. What US pastor has been martyred or come close or how many of the “nones” have thrown a Pastor in prison?

    I do not see biblical justification for Pastor to be concerned with points # 3 and 4. The NT directs Pastors to preach. Paul was a servant leader, but this is not the MBA type leadership qualities #3 has in mind. Paul did not come with eloquence but I am sure he and Timothy had very good interpersonal communication. Your church is not looking for the next incarnation of Obama with a teleprompter but a man of God who has a real relationship with the people you serve. Ten out of ten people in the pew would prefer the latter.

    The barriers unbelievers face in coming to church is a hardened heart. When churches invent market strategies to incite unbelievers to hear the message it is a futile effort. Pastors are to heralds what God has already revealed not invent a marketing campaign. Most marketing campaigns to the lost have a tendency to water down the news that their deepest problem in sin and Jesus is has the answer to that problem.

    The greatest change in 30 years are Pastors who have confused about their vocation. Preaching has taken a back seat to other “ministry” opportunities. Your calendar becomes so full that sermon prep suffers and there is no life in you sermon. Some of you men have made the gospel boring and trite! When was the last time you teaching elders have taught a single theological truth to a seasoned saint?

    I exhort you men to stop looking for excuses from the world and your circumstances and look inwardly at your lack of zeal and prayer life. You have the most rewarding and blessed job in the world. Serve the King!

    My father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law are all pastors so I know it is a difficult vocation. However, I know of no other vocation where its members blog as much about complaining about their profession is. How appealing do you think this bitching is to a watching and lost world?

    One marketing campaign I am in favor of the church starting is ending this woe is me mentality among it leadership!

    • says

      Amen, from a pastor’s wife of 45 years. I would say the number one thing for a pastor that has not changed would be a burning desire to see the lost saved. I am thankful that my husband, who is 74, still has a burning desire to see the lost saved!

  25. Scot says

    i would have to say 1, 2 and kind of 7 are the most significant changes for me. I was ordained in 1987 at age 26, and truly had no clue. But people respected the commttment and dedication it takes to become an ordained pastor. The day I was discussing an issue of biblical interpretation with a paritioner and he told me, “We’ll that’s you opinion and I have mine. Let’s just leave it at that.” I knew things had changed.People can find a preacher somewhere on the internet preaching exactly what they want to hear. They are held to no standard accountability and someone with a degree from a cereal box is accorded equal standing with those of us who have dedicated decades of our lives to faithful study of scripture.

    • says

      Everything that you say is true and more. Yet if we truly have wisdom and understanding to share for our years of careful study of the Scriptures, the sheep will hear the Shepherd’s voice in our preaching and teaching, and they will follow. A certain respect for the office helps to gain a hearing, but even where that is lacking, they can be won over by the Holy Spirit speaking through us. And when that happens, love, respect, and thankfulness to God for the pastor dramatically increases.

    • Mark says

      And a young lawyer having just passed the bar has the same right to go before the court that a senior partner does. Age does not mean one is more learned or has a better argument. Has your “faithful study of scripture” taught you facts or how to relate to people and understand them? And on some topics, everyone is not going to have the same opinion.

  26. Jill says

    I am not sure people hold their pastor in a lower esteem now. I’ve been a pastor for 12 years, started when I was 25. So you do the math there! All I’ve seen changed in my 12 years are my colleagues who are becoming, I hate to say this, more and more egocentric and lazy. I don’t think being a pastor is harder or easier, I think it’s just coming to a place where people in the world expect their pastor to be of the world, to be authentic and real, and are expecting them to be who they are instead of playing a role. Instead of setting he or she aside, congregations are becoming inclusive and are struggling with including the pastor when he or she has an expectation of being treated different or more specific as something “special”. I think the pastor is required to be more vulnerable and transparent, which I feel is a complaint among my colleagues, but personally, I find that to be refreshing and rejuvenating. After all, we all are trying our best to be Disciples, it’s much easier to do that with our masks off.

  27. says

    One concern I have, as a congregant, is the mentality of the pastor regarding his role, and the way he interacts with the parishioners. A great change has occurred in this area. Today, a lot of pastors have developed the idea they are the admiral of the Old Ship of Zion, and all must meet their requirements before being admitted on board. Gone are the servant-leaders. Forgotten is Christ’s admonition of not lording it over their followers. With the growth of seminaries and Bible Colleges teaching this style of pastoring, it has created division between the laity and pastorate. Too many pastors are isolated from their followers, not mixing, having little interaction with the congregation’s normal day-to-day existence. Relegated to the Sunday only sermon, or perhaps a Wednesday night teaching session, Sunday night meetings all but forgotten, few opportunities are afforded for the pastor to get to know his constituency. Hence no bonding takes place, the pastor remains isolated, and the congregation feels no obligation to attend or be held accountable for not attending these meetings. Fellowship if it is to take place at all, has to take place in other places, small groups if they are created, or in Sunday School, which is diminishing in popularity on its own. Keeping the model of the highly educated pastor has separated him from those today whose Biblical education is limited at best. Secular education has little relationship to Biblical understanding. Well educated by world standards is no guarantee of dedication to the Scriptures, many times quite the opposite. A great dearth of Scriptural illiteracy has impacted the whole church, resulting in generations who do not know the Bible. These illiterates, conscripted to teach Sunday School, lead Christian camps, work with youth groups, are unable to teach what they don’t know, of course. This great separation, the seminarian taught pastor, and Biblically illiterate congregation has set up another model like the Roman Church. More people to day are “nones” because they have not been taught the Scriptures by those who are in a position to teach them. Error has crept in because everyone began to teach what he thought was the right way to interpret Scripture. Simply put, just attending church is no guarantee of this knowledge of the Holy getting into the minds of the students. Pastoral leadership has to address this issue if the church is to be viable in the future; those pastors who do this will find great rewards of parishioners who know the Scriptures and will have lives changed by the Holy Spirit, because preaching the truth, teaching the truth, is God’s way of disseminating His Gospel. I Corinthians 1:17-31 gives us a great mandate to simply teach the Cross, and Christ crucified, and let the Holy Spirit convict and bring to Christ those who would respond to the Gospel. Pastors must understand this if they are to be significant in the future. They must depend, not on the educations provided by the seminaries and Bible Colleges, on the Holy Spirit to quicken those to attend their churches. Great education is not an assurance of learning how to serve Christ.

    • Scot says

      I find your comments very interesting. As a Pastor I have observed much the same attitudes as you describe. I have no desire to Lord it over anyone, I try to be a servant leader, and have followed that model for 26 years. In my current call for 2 1/2 years I am one of the outsiders in my church. I would love to teach scripture as you suggest, but I have been stymied. I can’t do it on Sunday morning because there is no consistent attendance at either worship or Sunday School classes. I can’t hold a class on the same topic for even 2 consecutive weeks because the people who are there for the first week will not be in attendance the second week. Doing a sermon series is equally untenable. I have begun a discussion of scripture on Facebook, formed a secret group and invited members of my congregation to participate that is having some limited success. But how can a teacher teach when the class doesn’t show up. William, I agree we with your assertions that pastors need to be servant leaders. I agree that pastors who see themselves as “Kings” over their kingdoms are driving people away from the church in droves, and are contributing to the “rise of the Nones.” I agree that Biblical illiteracy is a huge problem. However, your comments betray the prejudice I experience almost daily. The opening comment you make about servants contains the assumption that there are no servant leaders left in the pastoral ministry. I can say with confidence that that is not true, I know many pastors who are. I will also venture a guess that you did not intend to paint all pastors with a broad brush as you did. But that is a perception of my vocation that I fight every day. When I tell people I am a pastor too often they assume I am analyzing every word and action to find some sign that I am passing judgement upon them. People are afraid to be themselves around me for fear that I will “CONDEMN THEM TO HELL!!!!!” That can’t be farther from the truth. The look of fear in people’s eyes when they hear that I am a pastor breaks my heart.

  28. says

    Can I remind us all that the apostles were “uneducated”? Let’s not get too puffed up with knowledge that we forget that. And I am 110% for education, higher learning, and being as scholarly as possible. However, for many university education is a matter of finances and time and not intellect or spirituality. Even in the secular business world, those with degrees are drowning in college loan debt and having a hard time finding work. So let’s not get tool big for our britches with formal education. It’s not always the benchmark of ability. Let me say again: I DO believe in education 110%, in a perfect world.


  1. […] Seven Ways Pastoring Has Changed in Thirty Years: We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined. (Thom Rainer) […]

  2. […] Seven Ways Pastoring Has Changed in Thirty Years “We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined.” […]

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