Pastors Wanted.

I heard recently of a friend I was in college with who had been pastoring a church for 14 years and recently he resigned his church. He surfaced again two months later representing a mission agency.

Last autumn, another friend, about my age, resigned his church. He had been there for ten years, and the church he had been at before that he had also been at for a long time.

Another friend quits years of pastoring, to go teach at a bible school. Another leaves his long served church to work in administration in his denomination. The local chaplain becomes a chaplain after years of long service in a local church.

This has me bugged.

Qualified, experienced pastors leaving the local church, to do something else, somewhat related. Not leaving in disgrace or failure, just leaving.

Like I said, this bothers me. Mostly because we are living in a day and age when experience is needed. We need people like these who have proven a willingness to stick it out for the long term. People who are committed to others come what may, and who have a deep sense of calling to care.

But I think I'm starting to get it.

These pastors who are quitting, they aren't the ones who move on after a couple of years, or see it as a step on the way to a bigger and better church. No, they are the ones who stick around, long term. They see a part of their work as that of being present, for a long time. They live the discipline of stability which calls for a committed way of life with a certain group of people for the long haul.

Yet how many of these committed relationships can you commit to in your life time?

How many of these long term relationships can you have with groups of people? People you live with and learn to love, in spite of their many idiosyncrasies. You love and you care and you argue and you make up. You grow and watch and pray and hope and celebrate and hurt for them. How many times can you do that in your lifetime?

Maybe it's like a couple that's spent a lifetime together and are in love and the thought of starting over with someone else if their spouse dies, is just too overwhelming. It won't happen because it's too hard to create again the unique dynamics the two of them once had. They will never love again like that, and they realize it.

Sometimes these pastors pour everything that they have into the churches they care for, and that cost can sometimes be so great. It leaves them unable to see how they could ever do that again. They don't have that youthful zeal that would once drive them on. They become tired and the church expects certain levels of care and service from them. It's just how it goes.

For them, the thought of another long term commitment to a group of believers is simply overwhelming. So they look at their options, and move to a part of ministry that might not be as emotionally demanding for them.

Longevity is a good thing. Commitment is good too. But how do you live in this place, for a long time, again and again and again?


I don't have the answers.
In fact I think I'm just beginning to understand the questions.

20 comments:

  1. I think I'm just on sabbatical for a few years. I still love local church ministry. That's where my heart is -- that's where the action is -- but for some reason God has redirected me. I never felt burned out or the need to leave or do something else. But this opportunity to work with a Bible college training church leaders in Micronesia reached out and grabbed me. It's all ministry -- even if someone ends up doing a "secular" gig for awhile...

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  2. Well, I actually have the answers, but they're written down in this weird code and I need this special 'unscrambler ring' to decode it. I had to mail away for it, so it could be a while, but I'm pretty pumped for it to get here.

    I'll let you know when it arrives.

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  3. When Matt sends you the secrets of the universe code could I please have a copy?

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  4. More seriously, isn't this what a lot of us go through in our lives. We change and the people around us change. A job we have given ourselves to passionately for years, were "called to", no longer holds us like it did at first. We shift into related areas of service - or feel led to totally different and new things.

    As Brad says, it does not mean we have left ministry.

    I guess the questions will always be there; What next, God? Where next, God?

    God just does not seem to leave all of us in a static place. Even when we stay put there are movements inside that take us to new places.

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  5. I'm just going to throw it out there. According to Reginald Bibby..... Baby Boomers lack commitment. And so do the following generations. Oh, Westerners.

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  6. No... I think Randall pegged it with the old married couple analogy. When you've let yourself become part of the Church family, and the family lets you belong and be part of them, the thought of having to uproot, rip out that half of your heart and start from scratch is just really unappealing. The older we get, the harder starting again gets. Some of it has to do with comfort, but more of it has to do with getting emotionally attached. It hurts to leave, so when leaving time comes it's just less hurtful to think of using your gifts elsewhere- where the emotional ties won't be so strong, and where the next leaving won't be so hard.

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  7. Yeah, it's all ministry, like Brad said.

    And I know your heart for the local church Brad, and I'm glad my idea to get you elected the President kinda fizzled out. That would rob some church of you.

    And yes, Linea, we change and life happens and that can be great, but I'm trying for something different here. Not all these people shift work because of changed interests, but because of relational demands, even down the road.

    The energy required to love a large bunch of people, the learning curve as you learn the hearts and lives of a group of people, these are demands that can become huge, especially when you consider doing it a couple times in your life, in different places.

    Some of these people become our mothers and our fathers and sisters and brothers and are our family where the thought of leaving would bring much pain. The thought of joining yourself to "another family" can be simply too frightening.

    You do this a couple of times in your ministry career until its time to retire, and you retire into a new place still and you suddenly realize you don't have family or home.

    When it's a "calling" and not a job, when you are a "Shepherd" and not a "Hired Hand," the relational twists and turns can be daunting. Still they are a part of the cost of doing what one does.


    I do understand how some of these people feel, and I guess I am concerned that it feels like we are loosing so much experience and wisdom in these people who step away, even for a bit.


    Greg: I remember reading of an Asian church that they required the discipler to make a ten year commitment to the church and work before they were able to do this work in the local church. Ten years.

    Most of us would freak out at that level of requirement.


    Matt: Are you becoming a Gnostic now??

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  8. I would agree with the couple analogy but I do think there is something more to it. The following is just my own thoughts on the subject. I have never been a pastor so I can't say I understand completely. I do know with nursing it's something similar though. Why do the experienced ones leave? I don't think it has to do with commitment. I think we a good many of us start off down the road we never see ourselves leaving, I know I never did. I thought I would be a nurse forever, it's what I loved.

    And maybe that's what is doing us in, it's what happens to anyone that doesn't know where to draw that line. How do we identify ourselves? We might use adjectives as nice, stubborn, organized etc. But some of us identify ourselves by our job. For example who am I? I am a nurse or a pastor or a teacher. We wind so much of who we are into what we do that to separate the two are almost impossible.

    Dedicated to job because it's how we define ourselves, I think is what plays a part in getting burnt out so to speak. Though one great nurse I know said he doesn't like to think of it as burning out, but to me that's what happens.

    Another part of it, is people in industries where we suffer the abuse of others, and share their pain. I witnessed a rather traumatic death while ago. It wasn't the death that bothered me so much but what I will remember for years was the scream of the loved one left behind. It wasn't a hysterical scream, it was such raw pain that it's seared into my memory. It's hard to be able to separate yourself from things like that, to go home, pop some popcorn, watch some TV and not ponder on scenes like that. Not to demean any other professions - but unless you deal with raw grief, pain, hurt - I don't think it can be understand how that takes a toll on the caregiver wether, nurse, pastor, counsellor etc.

    And part I blame on our society. I'm not that old, at least I don't think I am!! Yet I have noted a change in what is considered society norm that bothers me to the core. This instant fix, it's not my fault, instant gratification, always taking.... I'm speaking in general terms here, certainly not everyone is like that but it's a change I've noticed.

    So what can we do to keep the experienced ones in any profession around? A little gratitude goes a long way, a please and thank you. Maybe drop off a little note saying you did a great job, thanks for listening. Maybe dropping some cookies or banana bread next time you run by the church or firehall or wherever. Maybe cutting the caregiver some slack. We all have bad days, and I realize we are suppose to be perfect, but we are human and as much as I would like to be perfect at work, I know a bad day can unfortunately affect the way we all behave.

    Like I said just my two cents for what it's worth.

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  9. "your ministry career "

    I have a problem seeing those words together, but I think they provide a little of the 'why' ministers change jobs. Not ragging on anyone BTW.

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  10. Partly said with tongue in cheek, and partly because its the vernacular of the day. For me Career means my life's work.


    Tara:
    "But some of us identify ourselves by our job. For example who am I? I am a nurse or a pastor or a teacher. We wind so much of who we are into what we do that to separate the two are almost impossible."

    Exactly. That is a classic problem with pastors who really become what they do. When their identity is so entwined in what they do, when they stop doing it, they loose their identity. Thats why some don't want to retire or quit, they will loose themselves. And worse, when one is forced to quit because of health issues or just a bad fit with a church, they can totally shut down and get lost, because their identity is what they do, and if they are not Doing pastoring, then who are they.

    Classic.

    "Not to demean any other professions - but unless you deal with raw grief, pain, hurt - I don’t think it can be understand how that takes a toll on the caregiver wether, nurse, pastor, counsellor etc."

    yeah. Amen to that sister.


    and yeah, all the different works or jobs or callings or whatevers have their own things to struggle through, and we simply can't know what any given person goes through at their place of work, unless we were them.

    Which, I suppose is why I don't want to be making large judgement statements on those who shift in their work from pastoring to other areas of work. Hey, we are all differently made and motivated. Best deal is to listen, learn and go where God leads us to go.


    Still, like I tell people who want to go into ministry, only go into it if you have heard God tell you to do that. It's too crazy sometimes and too tough to go into it with anything less.

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  11. Thanks for that post randall, I am not a pastor but I find the stories and insights of pastors to be provoking and quite fascinating. I remember visiting an eastern orthodox church one time and having a chat with the Bishop and it was almost unconceivable to him to leave the church he served. It showed me how much his church mattered to him, but also how much he believed one should be faithful to where God has placed him.

    Now here is something I know a little about, historical theology. There was once a wonderful man named St. Augustine of Hippo. Here is my theology teachers insights on being a pastor. Augustine served as a bishop in a small North African town translated as "Horse" writing, speaking, caring, and pouring his out his heart to his community and the church as a whole. Augustine's writings shaped western civilization, and he was just some schmuck trained in rhetoric from an obscure little town called Hippo. He was the last father, and the first middle age theologian.

    That is what I gotta say about that.

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  12. In the Old Testament times, at fifty years old the temple workers were let out to pasture. Less responsibility for a lessening energy level. Not a bad idea! Less commitment or desire for new and continuing relationships? I don't think so. Just a new season of life.

    Randall, I'm working through what it means to pastor with that lesser energy level. We need to ask ourselves (us "older ones") what new forms of pastoring will look like. Wouldn't that be an interesting reversal of roles -- baby boomers telling younger people that we, too, are ready for changes in the church!!

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  13. We left our church to avoid cutting the baby in two. We still do not want to leave and we never answered the questions you are asking so we wouldnt expose the selfishness of the younger ones replacing us.

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  14. I think I may be beginning to understand the question.

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  15. The church today in America must have a completely different overhall.....we must examine the New Testament and become missionaries in this diverse culture we live in....the Gospel of Christ's message never changes but the methods we use must begin to tremendously change!

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  16. I wonder if there is field work for pastors like me with experience in various areas who want to work in america or europe, but still has the support of a local church and that neither dominates the English language fluently, only nivel medio.
    My background is Baptist free, but for a while I'm working in a Methodist church that is unable to send a pastor to the field.
    I am married with three children ages 25, 21 and 9.
    My 25 year old daughter is married and only the other two live with me.
    I visited Italy in 2007 and called to reach other people did something to me, so I believe that God can use me in a country like America for the growth of his church.
    Grateful,
    Pr Carlos
    São Paulo Brasil

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  17. I am a pastor and I am looking for the position of full time minister.

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  18. Why are you amazed at this. First off, going to a school and learning what men think on the subject of God does not make a pastor or even a teacher. Only God makes a man of God. Most pastors are in the profession and not called. I am a called out one, and I have not heard the Lord say a thing about going to a bible school. But I have went through trials like jobs all my life. Wisdom and knowedge are only truly learned in the hard trials of life. And only a broken vessel is counted worthy of use. Because we drip on everyone. A real pastors passion is to move people to a deeper understanding of Love and the Lord. Frankly being a pastor and not being broken will lead to a life of regret.
    God does not want white suits in the office of pastor. He wants men who are real not perfect. He wants honest men. Men like me frankly, I came into the kingdom kicking and screaming. Of course there is the matter of apprication. And one of hearing from God. These men do they hear from God. Or are they simply not really servents of God. I am a servant of God and man. I receive no money but I am there. What is the motive of serving God. Man can't truely serve God and money. I have moved in most of the gifts, even that of prophsey and healing, so what seems to be there problem or have they become as dry dead bones.
    It is often that people enter into the minstry and never had a real job. They think being a pastor will be a field day. Easy sailing. The Sad fact is as a pastor most will not be whom God called them to be. In fact they will actually be trying to live up to the ideas of people about who or what a pastor is. And that is the real jest of the problem. When people are trying to be different then they are they will move out of that place sooner or later.
    God does desire for all of use to change. But the change he wants is on the inside. He does not want us to become whitewashed tombs full of dead mens bone.
    We pastors need to make errors once in a while, we need to laugh at ourselfs more then anyone knows. Because we can get to serious at times. You know a pie on the face can make a world of difference. It puts things into prospective. Most pastors today never get the right prospective of the world or church. As a example. Let define church.
    You will get a thousand different answers. Gods idea of Church is family. Not a business. God does not need a business he wants family. So was there Church a family. Indeed not. For they cast away there church.
    I call these kind of men, pocket preachers. Because the family of God is expendable to them and are not counted of any value.
    There is a disunity of fellowship that has not allowed them to bond with there fellow brothers in Christ. Of course I could be wrong, I only have dozens of people calling me daily from our church to check on me.
    Pastors are running to hard today to actually develope a relationship. If a pastor wants to be effective you have to be willing to be hurt. I recomment planting a church guarden to all new pastors and even old ones. It is when you get in the dirt and let your hair down that we see people hearts and see them as people.
    A pastor is to be a servent first. Friend second and third a pastor. Most pastors get those roles reversed. Pastoring can't be a profession as many think it can. It must be a compulsion of LOVE.

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  19. Why are you amazed at this. First off, going to a school and learning what men think on the subject of God does not make a pastor or even a teacher. Only God makes a man of God. Most pastors are in the profession and not called. I am a called out one, and I have not heard the Lord say a thing about going to a bible school. But I have went through trials like jobs all my life. Wisdom and knowedge are only truly learned in the hard trials of life. And only a broken vessel is counted worthy of use. Because we drip on everyone. A real pastors passion is to move people to a deeper understanding of Love and the Lord. Frankly being a pastor and not being broken will lead to a life of regret.
    God does not want white suits in the office of pastor. He wants men who are real not perfect. He wants honest men. Men like me frankly, I came into the kingdom kicking and screaming. Of course there is the matter of apprication. And one of hearing from God. These men do they hear from God. Or are they simply not really servents of God. I am a servant of God and man. I receive no money but I am there. What is the motive of serving God. Man can't truely serve God and money. I have moved in most of the gifts, even that of prophsey and healing, so what seems to be there problem or have they become as dry dead bones.
    It is often that people enter into the minstry and never had a real job. They think being a pastor will be a field day. Easy sailing. The Sad fact is as a pastor most will not be whom God called them to be. In fact they will actually be trying to live up to the ideas of people about who or what a pastor is. And that is the real jest of the problem. When people are trying to be different then they are they will move out of that place sooner or later.
    God does desire for all of use to change. But the change he wants is on the inside. He does not want us to become whitewashed tombs full of dead mens bone.
    We pastors need to make errors once in a while, we need to laugh at ourselfs more then anyone knows. Because we can get to serious at times. You know a pie on the face can make a world of difference. It puts things into prospective. Most pastors today never get the right prospective of the world or church. As a example. Let define church.
    You will get a thousand different answers. Gods idea of Church is family. Not a business. God does not need a business he wants family. So was there Church a family. Indeed not. For they cast away there church.
    I call these kind of men, pocket preachers. Because the family of God is expendable to them and are not counted of any value.
    There is a disunity of fellowship that has not allowed them to bond with there fellow brothers in Christ. Of course I could be wrong, I only have dozens of people calling me daily from our church to check on me.
    Pastors are running to hard today to actually develope a relationship. If a pastor wants to be effective you have to be willing to be hurt. I recomment planting a church guarden to all new pastors and even old ones. It is when you get in the dirt and let your hair down that we see people hearts and see them as people.
    A pastor is to be a servent first. Friend second and third a pastor. Most pastors get those roles reversed. Pastoring can't be a profession as many think it can. It must be a compulsion of LOVE.

    ReplyDelete





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