Monday, January 25, 2010

"I Will Build Jesus' Church"

I have a theory that I hope is wrong.

There is a lot of talk at conferences, on blogs and in books about how pastors need to take care of their marriages and families. This is a good subject and I am glad people are talking about it. But I am wondering why we are talking about this so much nowadays. Why the need to talk about this so much now? I do not think the answer is simple and flat. It is possibly multilayered and very complex but I have a sneaky suspicion about one reason in particular.

Today's pastor is expected to be almost anything but a pastor. He is leader and CEO par excellance. He is not only the man charged with steering the boat - keeping it afloat but he is also the program director in charge of drawing people onto the ship. He is a manager with a winsome personality. Therefore pastor search committees best be looking for Type A types.

As Eugene Peterson writes, "If we all get caught up in running the store, who will be the pastor?" Well, my guess is the guy running the store will do his best to be. He will sacrifice his "off days" and time with his family to do all this. Thus the need for all the talks about family health.

He has bought into a subtle new and improved version of the first lie. "You shall as be as God for your people. You will save them. You are responsible so you better be responsible. It is up to you and that is why attendance has been down. Work harder. You are the Messiah for this congregation. Save them with your works." Of course just like the first lie this one contains a significant amount of truth. That is why it is so hard to counter.

No one really believes what should be the hope-building words of Jesus when he says, "I will build my church." "No, no, no Jesus. We got that. At the expense of our families and marriages and friendships we do the ministry."

I suppose one issue making a pastor's marriage and family are so important a subject is because they are an example to the rest of the congregation and the larger community. Yep, maybe. But even more is the example of the pastor's belief that God is the one who saves and Jesus will build the Church. But is it any wonder our people struggle with grace? When we are willing to sacrifice our families on the altar of ministry, should we wonder?

No one says it outright and most of the time all this is so subtle and so harmless looking, we never really see it happening. But let's stop and think. It seems like nothing is happening at your church. It needs a boost, right? New program! New event! More work. (By the way, no one ever suggests more prayer...unless praying about a new event or program.)

We are like bloggers who want more readers so we start doing giveaways. Why should our people buy into grace if the pastor and the leadership of their church cannot stop working and planning at the expense of their wife and kids? We tell them to stop working for their salvation. Why? Because Jesus did all that was necessary for us to be saved. We just relax in his love and grace and believe the the good news. We then tell them Jesus will build his church but we need a new program so people will be excited and more people will come in.

And lets face it, not so far deep down we want to look really, really busy.


John said...

So very true. I am discovering that visiting people, whether in the market square, assisted living, homes, over a meal or in a cafe' is not done enough. If you do not talk to your people how can you pastor?

ed said...

Amen brother. Two very tough experiences with Type A pastors (one previous, on current) have illustrated this in a big way.

It is a shame that most big churches are built around one guy (who will be inherently flawed, just in many different ways) in order to attract and grow. It is our folly and our failure.

We are finally being forced to trust in Christ as the only builder of our church.

Anita Kay Head said...

Good point, Matt.

There are some deeper statements to be made about the importance and structure of church government here than I am capable or qualified to make.

But in a totally different vein, this reminds me of the sermon my pastor preached on Sunday about the year of jubilee in Leviticus when Israel was told not to work the land. He preached about God requiring Israel to rely on Him and said something like this (much more eloquently than my paraphrase, I assure you): Faith comes in, not only when we act, but when we are told NOT to act and to rely on God to act. Seems the same would apply to church-building and pastoring.

Scott said...

Interesting question and thoughts. Perhaps the need for the emphasis on pastors and their families also arises from the fact that we have elevated being a "pastor" to such a degree that we have forgotten that we are ALL called to be ministers/pastors AND that we are ALL called to be servants. Thus the professional pastors believe that it is THEIR job to work/push/drive/lead to the exclusion of all else (justification for neglecting families and relationships); meanwhile, living as a "leader" encourages them to forget their role as follower and as a servant to all...including their family.

The pastor of a church I uses to attend was WAY type A while also incredibly insecure. He went directly from seminary to being a senior pastor, never experiencing the joy of serving underneath someone, which explains the comment he made once - "I am the lead pastor for a reason. I could never stand to follow anyone."

I don't attend his church anymore.

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