Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. It is rooted in the fact that I see a disconnect in many churches between the expectations they have of the pastor, the pastor has of himself, and what the Bible sets out to be the expectations of God for pastors. Of course, there is no way I will be able to do justice in playing out every thought, but I hope to think through a few things.

With that being said, I will begin with what I see far too often in the denomination I am a part of, the Southern Baptist Convention. In our denomination most churches have a Senior/Solo Pastor position which is distinct from every other pastor position in the church. If a church is large enough to support multiple staff, then the Senior Pastor is usually over that staff. The rest of the staff may be called 'pastors', but often they are called 'ministers'. Regardless of what they're called, the 'Senior' pastor has more authority and is still in a position by himself. I see this as a great problem theologically and practically.

Mark Dever has a helpful booklet called 'By Who's Authority: Elders in Baptist Life' that I recommend for those in churches that do not practice a plurality of elders. He can argue that far better than I can in this particular post, so I defer to him for that. There are many other resources out there as well that will argue for a plurality of elders from the Scriptures.

Understanding that I believe a plurality of elders to be the Biblical pattern for the local church will help understand why I also feel the expectations of most churches for their pastors is unrealistic. Again, I will speak mainly from what I see in the SBC. Seeing that many churches have a solo pastor mentality, their expectations are for that pastor to be the one who does all the shepherding. In fact, many churches do not see the ministry of the Word as all that important, as long as he's a good 'pastor'. What is meant by this is that the expectation of many churches is that the pastor be there to pray for them when they're sick, visit them in the hospital, marry their children, bury their loved ones, administrate in the office, be at every church function, and a thousand other things. Are these things bad? Not always, but they should not be the most important thing the pastor does. If he can deliver a good message that is a plus, but that's not what's most important in these expectant churches.

If a pastor gives all his time to doing these things, there will be very little time for the ministry of the Word. I will argue in a couple of posts from now that the ministry of the Word is the main calling of a pastor (and that is good shepherding!), but for now I want to simply say I think the expectations of many churches are not Biblical. After all, can we go to the Scriptures to prove any of those things I just mentioned are of greater importance? Churches need to go to the Bible and see what God calls His elders to do, and let that drive their expectations for him (them!).

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