Breaking Pastors (part two)

With 1500 pastors leaving their jobs every month in North America I’m working through some of the reasons that are contributing to the exodus.

I know some people who are part of that statistic. In fact, since I first started Bible College and the path to the full-time gig I’ve got now I’ve met lots of men and women who worked as pastors who don’t anymore.

One friend was hired as an associate pastor at a large U.S. church with multiple staff. Their church was in the buckle of the Bible belt. When he was hired he was told, explicitly by the hiring committee made of board members, that they chose him to be a balance to the senior pastor. They explained that the senior pastor, though loved, was shallow both personally and in his preaching and teaching. Their plan was for my friend to bring some depth to the mix. They supported the senior pastor and his driven personality type but thought the church would benefit from sermons with more depth, occasionally, and a process of follow up that would build disciples rather than just attenders.

It only took a few months of “applied theology” before the senior pastor complained to the board and a few months later the board complained to my friend. It became clear that the most important question was, “Does it work?” and work, in this question was, “Does it increase attendance or offerings?” A few years and a few ulcers later and my friend was packing the U-haul, along with another staff person, a former Bible College professor, after the board decided to find staff that would be a “better fit”.
One of the things I think that breaks pastors is this simple observation…

Anyone can do what we do.

I have some good friends reading this who will disagree and some of them tell me how great I am at different aspects of what I do.

I love these people. I never, ever get tired of hearing them say that.


But here’s the deal (as my friend Robert would say), we’ve chosen a field, studied, read, gained experience – and STILL a believer with a grade 3 education will feel completely comfortable setting me straight on my theology, preaching style, teaching content or prayer life. Someone who has only been a Christian a few years will read a book, see a video or visit another church on their vacation and confidently set about telling us or showing us the right way things should be done.

Everything we have, all our hopes, plans and dreams for here and the hereafter are tied up in what we do. Nevertheless, a deacon who fixes cars for a living, who couldn’t tell Greek from Hebrew and who has never actually read the Bible from one cover to the other cover, thinks psychology is the devil’s handiwork and any musical instrument invented since the pump organ probably is too, gets to jump in the opinion ring with us and go mano-a-mano at the leadership/board/deacons/presbytery meeting. They can speak on behalf of the nameless, faceless “number of people” who’ve come to them to complain, criticize or conspire.

The truth is, there’s some merit to this. We can all have a relationship with God and I’d be the first to step and agree that “God is no respecter of persons”. But nobody really applies that biblical truth when they’re flying. If cousin Eddie decides half way across the Atlantic that God’s no respecter of persons and decides he’d like to fly us the rest of the way to London we’d be right to freak out. But not at church. No sir. My wife doesn’t even apply that to plumbing at our house. “Let’s hire someone.” She has learned to say after 25 years of me saying, “I can fix that.” Only to have the final state of the house 7 times worse than it started.

At church, if cousin Eddie decides the Lord’s led him to understand that the KJV is the only translation that God is happy with, and he finds enough like-minded people then guess what the will of God turns out to be?

Here’s the thing. After you’ve gone to school, more school, conferences and workshops, you’ve read books and more books, magazines and other professional journals, listened to hours of recorded messages and teachings, worked at pastoring for years and years – all that knowledge and experience quickly gives way to something a few people heard on God TV. How demoralizing to pour your heart and soul into an individual, couple or family with some spiritual guidance only to be told they’re going to get some professional help instead. It causes you to step back and do some serious evaluation.

What’s the point of “clergy” anyway? Why have a group of people who get paid to do what everyone else can do? Is the whole idea of “pastor” outdated? Are the subtle nuisances of theology (the study or conversation about God) worth specializing in?

…to be continued…


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, God, Leadership, Life, ministry, pastor, reality, Reflective, religion, stress, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Breaking Pastors (part two)

  1. lori says:

    Yes we need pastors Brian…just as we need someone tough enough to make perogies at the market. I know , I know that I’m getting off topic but I think that I understand what you are saying. It never fails that every week I have one or more people who decide for whatever reason to stop at my perogie booth and remark.
    It goes like this: Do you make the perogies? Do you make them from scratch? Are you a chef? Are you actually Polish?? Do you use a machine? How many do you make? By yourself? What makes you so popular around here?
    which quickly turns into…….
    My (mother, aunt, grandma, neighbours baba)makes perogies. They don’t look the same as my families. I wonder if they taste the same as our family recipe. They couldn’t be as good as so-and-sos. We use real cheese, fresh dough, we boil them as they were intended, etc.. etc.. etc…
    It is so hard on my head that sometimes I wanna freak out.
    Everyone wanted free samples at one point, they wanted all my accomplishments posted at my booth. They wanted to slauter me for being from away and serving such ethnic food on this pretty little island.
    I almost threw up my hands a multitude of times….and then….
    the smiles , the conversations, and the financial rewards of those damn little Polish dumplings started to have an impact on me. I realized I couldn’t possibly, nor did I want to please everyone. I started to tell people that they should make perogies themselves, that they should go to their babas houses and that if nothing else they should stop coming by my booth to remark anymore. Wow!! What revelation there was in that.
    Pastoring, perogieing, all the same thing. It is relationships. Some work, some don’t.
    It comes down to believing in yourself and not being trampoled on.
    Brian I think you are wonderful and that you have to stop trying so hard to people please. Believe in what you believe in, share it with those of us who want to hear from you and don’t be scared to say to some of the others that their opinions are not of your own.
    You can delete this if you want, it was a little bit of a rant.

  2. Ryan says:

    We definitely need pastors/priests/ministers…because not everyone is an expert. We live in an age where everyone indeed thinks they are an expert, and more often than is right, they get listened to by others just because their voice is louder and they use the right keywords. Nevertheless, we need the true “pastors” to help to show us the way because they know the truth (usually) and best way to relate that truth in a way that fosters faith. Bless you Brian and all that you do 🙂

  3. Judy says:

    Of course we need pastors. Shepherds. People who care enough about every single person in the flock to attempt to do the seemingly impossible: equip everyone (with all their varying backgrounds and hangups) to do the work of the ministry. Out there.

    We don’t need dictators or politicians – either in the pew OR in the pulpit. We don’t need marketing specialists, gimmick-mongers, or what might euphemistically be called cosmic gurus, either. We need real people to encourage us to be real. We need those who have studied the original languages, yes – but we need even more for those same people to listen to what the Spirit says – and do it. While we’re at it – that’d probably be a good idea for everyone huh. What a concept. Be real, don’t judge, press in to God, listen to His voice, and obey.

    I heard one pastor once describe his role, not as a hockey player playing his heart out on the ice and gasping for breath while the rest of us were spectators in the arena – but he saw himself rather as the hockey coach, supporting, encouraging, building up the team members, equipping them, giving them skills and the opportunities to use them. No, the team members weren’t the staff members; they were the congregation.

    I like that.

    • brianmpei says:

      “We need real people to encourage us to be real.” A big job to take on if someone were to seriously embrace it. And you’re also pointing out the other side of the coin – pastors/leaders who become dictators and build their own kingdoms. The danger of letting humans into the Kingdom…

  4. Michelle says:

    I wish we did church differently. I mean, radically differently. (Is that proper grammar?) I wish we had a more fluid group of leaders who stepped up to the plate when/as necessary given their particular gifts. I’d like to get rid of the titles. I wish that the church community was central to life and not a peripheral spiritual bonus. I wish we were more communal.

    I’m torn about the credentials thing. Some idiots have a lot of education. Some very wise, loving people who make wonderful leaders have never actually studied in an institution. I don’t know. But, since we’re doing church this way, I’m glad you’re flying the plane!

    • brianmpei says:

      You’re describing my dream! And the way I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be.

      I agree on the credentials thing. Elihu in Job sums it up nicely – it’s not age but the spirit in a man that creates wisdom. I’m mostly thinking of me telling you how to take a picture.

      Thanks for flying!

  5. Tim Milner says:

    yup. I agree. I’ve seen it. Why do churches not let the leaders lead? Why does a vocal minority get to squelch the move of God time and time again? Why do churches practice “membership” and why does “Roberts Rules of Order” at business meetings replace the Holy Spirit and the calling on the lives of leaders? Why does a church claim to prioritize Jesus, who is the earth-shaking, visionary, dynamic, uncomfortable King of the church – and then turn around and play this safe, predictable, man-centered, institution-promoting brand of church? Um… yeah. Pretty sure Peter and James didn’t have much time for the petty stuff that tried to derail the early church. Yet I worked at a church that spent the best part of 2 years of meetings dealing gripes and complaints and never dealing head on with the sins of the Spiritually obtuse.

    • brianmpei says:

      “Roberts Rules of Order” – first thing we tossed when we started the new church!

      These are great questions Tim that will cause us to become truly irrelevant if we don’t wrestle together, as the Church, for the answers. I was recently hearing about the underground church in China. They don’t mess with much of this stuff and they’re definitely not using “Roberts Rules”! 🙂

  6. Phil says:

    Hi Brian
    I think sometimes that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to setting pastors up for failure. We have no prequistes for “Bible School”, some can hardly be recognized as schools to begins with. They are more lessons on how and what to think about God and the Bible. And as you know it’s just as much about communicating and building relationships then getting theology right. We all know people who “attend” bible school and we all think “WTF?” but noboby says anything, because we don’t want to discourage or offend them. Then we have people become pastors with no training what so ever, they simply get the position because they are nice and the majority of people like them. So no wonder everyone thinks they can do the job. Every body knows your doctor went to school for 9 years prior to treating you, or pilots spent countless hours training prior to taking you across the Atlantic. The hard part about pastoring is that you should have some type of calling prior to training. But how many fail their formal training? Some one who can’t differ between an elbow and a knee is not going to make it through mdical school, but everyone passes Bible School. I’m not hung up on formal education but I think it would go a long ways to change the attitude of “I can do that”.

    • brianmpei says:

      My experience would agree with what you’re saying. There is a painful and even dangerous gap between various “schools of ministry”, “Bible Colleges”, Seminaries, Christian Universities and real life. In some cases it’s our denial attitude that we call ‘Christian’ to never talk about the bad stuff – even though a basic precept of our faith is that we’re surrounded by warfare. Consequently we run face first into the hard wall of reality and we are totally unprepared. In some cases, as you say, some people jump in who were made for something else and that just can’t end well.

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