I know entirely too many pastors that feel stuck. They are living a life where they feel pulled between two directions. These two directions, at a very basic summary, are what they genuinely believe to be the fulfillment of their calling in Jesus, and not Jesus.
On the one hand, pastors sacrifice almost everything they have and are to be a shepherd of their churches. Their dedication is at a point that many of them are tired and worn out and ready to walk away. But they persist because this is what they know to be the calling of God on their lives.
Many of these pastors have no personal lives. They are in endless meetings. They are endlessly bombarded with requests of congregation members, and many of these requests are not things they are genuinely called to do, nor do they enjoy doing them.
On the other hand, if the pastors walk away, many of them walk away from the faith entirely. If they give up, many times they lose their faith. They dedicated their entire lives and were never able to see the fulness of what their spirits desired to see. The people that walk away often due so because they reach a level of realization that whatever they are experiencing is not what they wanted to see or experience.
Many pastors think these are the only two options for them. Yet for many, they know intuitively that something isn’t quite right and maybe there is something else, but these are the only two options they know of. I am here to tell you there is a third option. It is time to redefine your calling, job description, and what family in Christ should truly be.
Pastors, if this speaks to you and your heart is worn and desperate for a breakthrough, know that is in this third option that you will find freedom.
Why do some of these pastors fall into “sin”? When we demand too much of a pastor, sometimes getting back into the flesh is almost like a breath of fresh air for them. It is their escape from what they have dedicated their entire lives to. When hundreds or thousands of eyes are upon you all the time, you are expected to live a perfect life 24/7. And many of these eyes are often more judgmental than the world’s eyes. I know atheists that treat Christians better than Christians treat each other. Pastors are humans like the rest of us, and we cannot forget this.
Where did the Bible every appoint pastors as the lone overseers of a church? This is why we fail our pastors. Church should be a family gathering. Everyone there is one giant family, and we should be able to interact with each other as desired. We have replaced family time with an organized meeting which shuts everyone up.
When I was young, I learned to hate the television. Certain members of my family would not allow us to interact and talk as long as their TV shows were on. And they ALWAYS had a TV show on. I was not allowed to interact with my family because we had to watch a show. This is PRECISELY what church has become. The music and the pastor’s sermon are the show. The pastor has been placed on a pedestal, usually all by himself. And now he is trying to balance on this pedestal by himself, and it is extremely hard for him.
I am going to tell two stories here to help illustrate some concepts. I am going to use the name Chris to represent a pastor here. For years and years people at my old job used to constantly call me Chris, even though that was not my name. This name does not reflect any real pastor that I know of; rather it reflects them all.
The Lonesome Journey
Chris somehow decides he wants to be a pastor. He likely has a genuine calling to be a pastor…whatever a pastor is. So off to seminary he goes! He gets an education, and decides he is going to create a church. He forms a non-profit church, gets some loans, and finds a building to rent. He then starts trying to find people interested in attending his church.
Chris works on getting as many people into the church as possible, as there is a lot of overhead for the building and rent. And if Chris cannot get the money, Chris is the one liable for all of these bills.
Chris preaches the best sermons that he knows he. He seeks God to give the best messages he can. He tries to get some amazing worship music in his church also. The people respond well and like it. But at the end of the day, Chris is the one responsible for everything and the bills. Chris is the one in charge. Chris is the one everyone is counting on. Chris is truly a one-man band. He runs the meetings, he is in charge of the sermons.
Chris slowly starts getting people to attend his church. These people are simply attendees of his church – they come to hear the music and the messages. These people start giving money to the church to help pay the bills. At some point, Chris can even afford to get paid for being the pastor of the church. Chris starts getting people to commit to the church and commit to helping pay the bills. But at the end of the day, Chris is the one responsible for everything and the bills. He realizes that he cannot force people to remain inside the church, and if they ever decide they do not like him, then they can leave. And with it goes the finances they were bringing to the table to help with the overhead.
Chris assembles a team to help him. He has some elders, assistants, and maybe a variety of ministers. But at the end of the day, Chris is the one in charge of everything, and Chris is the one responsible for everything.
Chris has the task of running a church, which is like running a business, but with endless meetings. He also has to prepare for sermons and messages. He also has to meet with congregation members and encourage them, and maybe even counsel them. He has to perform weddings and funerals.
Oh, did I mention Chris has a wife and three kids? He also has to try and find time for them.
Chris has a MASSIVE amount of responsibility. Chris has the responsibilities of at least 5 or 10 people, but all of this responsibility ultimately rests on Chris, because the bills ultimately rest upon Chris. Chris is not greedy for money, not at all. But he is in a spot where a massive amount of financial liability is at stake, and he really does not want to suffer from this.
The Team Journey
I suspect this will make even more sense after I get the post on stewardship up. But for now, I will tell the journey that Chris did not take, for he has never heard of it before. But it is so simple and easy, yet profound.
Chris gets a calling to be a pastor. Off to seminary he goes! He gets an education, and decides he needs to be part of a church. Chris prays and pursues God and asks God to connect Chris with some other fivefold ministers. Chris wants a family and a team. Chris wants an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, and a teacher.
Chris finds other fivefold ministers, and they pursue God together. They decide to, as a team, found a church. They create a non-profit church. Responsibility for the church is now split five ways. Chris is already only having to do 20% of the amount of effort as he was in the Lonesome Journey. There are now five people responsible at the end of the day for bills and the church.
The fivefold ministers get to work. They each do what they do best. The evangelist gets out there and starts getting people into the church. The prophet is there to prophesy and encourage people once they come to the church and to start equipping people. The people get a taste of prophetic ministry, and they want to come back for more. The pastor is there to help shepherd the people and counsel them…and to do whatever else a pastor does. The teacher is there to help teach people and equip them. The apostle helps to teach and equip. They all help to oversee the church, and they operate together as a team. The Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts are very much present and operational at these meetings.
Something unique here – Chris is not the main one preaching. He does not have all of the responsibility. And because Chris is not authoritarian (he is not seeking to dominate God’s people and lord over them), Chris is ok with this. Chris now has the time to have a personal life. The responsibilities on Chris are already less than the lonesome journey. Yet Chris still gets to minister to people, and to walk in the fullness of his calling. But it gets better.
The fivefold ministers each take turns and share all of the responsibilities, including teaching and preaching. They are a family. And as members of the congregation come and decide they like this family, the new members are interested in becoming part of this family. The new members are treated well, they are equipped and edified. The new members are allowed to operate and flow in the gifts. They are in a place where they feel equal to Chris and the other fivefold ministers. Nobody is lording over them. They are not at church for “Chris’s sermon”, but rather they are at church to get equipped, and to fellowship. The church building has become a large hangout place for the family.
The meetings are varied. Worship. Sermons. Teaching on practical things. Healing meetings. Prophetic meetings. The sermon is no longer the primary focus – Jesus is. People can come and meet Jesus in all His glory, as much as can be done through men. The variety of meetings helps to keep people interested and coming back for more.
The new members, now know that they are an equally valued AND functioning members of the body. They actually get to minister to people. They are all made to feel important. They are all allowed to talk and share things. They are no longer pew-sitters. Instead, they are saints starting to mature in the faith through hands on practical learning. They are members of the Body which are starting to function.
The new members are then given an opportunity. To become part of the family. Not to sign some covenant, since Christ taught us not to do this. But rather these members are given the opportunity to take a share of the responsibilities and burdens of the church. The responsibilities and burdens that were split 5 ways can now be split 100 ways, maybe even 1000 ways.
This new family can vote together on how big they want to grow. On whether they want to all have to be locked into the same thing every meeting. For example, let’s say the church grows to 1000 members. There could be separate meetings throughout the week. One led by the prophet, one led by the pastor, one by the teacher, and so on. One for people to just come together and have a free flowing time together of whatever the Spirit leads. The fivefold ministers become more like football coaches on the sidelines helping to encourage the players.
The members can vote and decide whether to pay the fivefold ministers. Because the ministers have shared responsibility, they have more personal time. The ministers could get jobs outside the church to lessen the financial burden on the church. Or, if the church so desired, they could vote to pay some or all of the fivefold ministers so that they can be available more often for the members.
Chris is no longer locked into the mindset that church is a meeting with music and then his sermon. Chris now believes church is just the saints gathering and doing whatever it takes to encourage one another and become more like Jesus.
Chris is not a one-man band here. He starts off like a regular band with multiple musicians. And then works his way up to being like a member of a symphony orchestra. And the music is beautiful.
Mathematically, let’s say the church wants a building that will cost $1 million. If Chris alone is responsible for that building, that is a HUGE burden on him, usually. And if Chris is the one running the church like he is a one man band, he will usually suffer this burden. But if Chris has the team journey, and people join up until he has 1000 family members. Then each member is only responsible for $1000 instead of one member being responsible for $1 million. Chris’s need for money has now decreased by 99%. The world is no longer calling Christ’s church greedy. Too many times I have heard people say they cannot afford to go to church. This should not be so.
This is the beauty of family. Family was designed to be able to help share burdens and carry us through life together. But in an authoritarian church, people really don’t feel like they are part of the family, because they aren’t. They are just attending a meeting of some organization. But if you change the structure so that everyone is an active part of the family (not just pew-sitting), then everyone becomes responsible for this journey together. The focus then changes from attending an organizational meeting, to growing in the maturity of Jesus Christ.
Also, I will mention that home groups do not fix this problem. The entire structure must change away from authoritarian.
Less is Greater
Sometimes in life it is nice to have less responsibilities. To have more time to enjoy life and all of God’s creations, this is a wonderful thing. To not have to be the one that EVERYONE turns to. To not be the lone person responsible for everything.
Pastors, the answer to your burden is a genuine family of God. A fully functioning Body where all of the members function together. We are to be overseers, not dominators. The coach of a football team is not the star quarterback. We are called to be coaches. We are to equip the saints, not to lord over them. People have been walking away from churches in droves. The people know there is something wrong with the current church system. And pastors, you know it to be true also. Some of you will struggle with the desire to be in the spotlight, and the desire to dominate God’s people. If this is you, it is because you are taking ownership of something that is not yours. We will talk more about this in stewardship.