I live in rural Southside Virginia, where small churches may be found in abundance. These churches are hurting in many ways, not least because of frequent pastor turnover. The pastorate has become, for many, just another career path.
Some pastors say they are changing jobs because God is leading them to another church. I do not doubt that this may be true in certain cases. However, I’m afraid the “grass-is-greener” mentality is at work as well. Some men I’ve known aren’t so much pastoring as “pasturing” – moving from pasture to pasture whenever the grass appears greener.
Let’s not think this is healthy for our churches.
In the New Testament, elders were never imposed on their communities from the outside. When Paul revisited the churches of Galatia, he appointed elders who were home-grown. They knew the culture. They enjoyed the respect of the community. They had jobs and were not a financial burden on the congregation. But the main point is this: they were not parachuted into the congregation from the outside.
We who are Bible-believing Christians say: “We are not conformed to this world in our church polity!” But let us go on. Have many of our pastors have the mentality described above? How many of them will stick it out – thick or thin – in the places to which God has called them? Or does the “pastor as career” mentality make it easy for them to move on when it is “advantageous”?
We have a serious cancer in our churches. And the real battle is in our thought life. Whether we have conformed externally will always depend on whether we have or have not conformed internally to the spirit of this world. The truth is that by doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we will accomplish more, not less. You need not fear that if you wait on the Lord you will not be as effective as if you were to charge ahead in the flesh.
I encourage my students not only to affirm the authority of the Scriptures but also to live by biblical principles. It is especially easy to become contaminated by Mammon in the ministry. The solution? My son once put it this way: “Today’s pastors need to sink their roots into a community, and then ministry opportunities will come as the Lord opens doors.” To do this will require the same kind of determination to do the will of God that Jesus had.
One thing is certain. We who live in the heartland do not need any more greener-pasture pastors.
October 25, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.