Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pastoral Turnover

Ron over at the Old Geezer blog site asked me an interesting question. He asked me, “What were my thoughts on pastoral turnover”. With only 25 years of ministry, 10 years as a Senior or Teaching Pastor, BA from Bible College, and limited Seminary, 15 years to “simmer” on a backburner while reading, listening, and meditating, and oh yes, the Bible, here are my thoughts on pastoral turnover:

First of all, both pastors and church members have forgotten who the church belongs to. One must start here first. The church does not belong to the members, irregardless of whether they are charter members who laid the first brick, how long they have been members, how much they have been involved, how much they have given, or how much they have endured.

The church also does not belong to the leadership, the Teaching or Senior Pastor or the Council of Elders. Pastors are merely under shepherds, under the orders and direction of the Chief Shepherd.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

When this is forgotten “territorial feuds” develop with both Pastor and People who begin to think that they respectively own the church. They begin to think as owners, they think that they know best how to manage it. We have a manual that lays it out for all of us!

Second, many pastors and churches do not take the scriptures seriously. By this I mean that pastors are given a monumental task and responsibility. They are to shepherd, tend, feed, guard, guide, teach, and protect the flock. They are to do these duties humbly, prayerfully, and by the power of the Holy Spirit of God with the realization that the Chief Shepherd is looking over their shoulders and that they will one day give an account for their stewardship. Men need to take their God-given task seriously. Watching for the precious souls of those whom have been bought by Christ’s blood is an awesome task that no one is up for apart from the help of God.

Church members fail to heed scripture also. They forget that we the sheep are to submit to those whom God has placed over us in leadership. We forget that they labor and watch over our very soul. We sheep, begin to think that since we too are priests and kings in Christ that we know better about how to manage the people of God than the shepherd.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:7)

Thirdly, since pastors and churches fail to recognize other shepherds within the congregation, rarely is additional leadership raised up. Many times pastors are too insecure or too jealous to share the ministry with others. As the church grows one man cannot effectively do all that is needed. The leadership of the body is open to any adult male who:

• Has a true, God-given desire to shepherd Gods’ people

• Who already meet the qualifications in I Timothy 3; Titus 1; I Peter 5; Acts 20:28

• Who has been “tried” and “proven” in various opportunities

• Who have been recognized by the existing leadership as gifted, qualified, and equipped

Failing to recognize, equip, and raise up additional godly men in a local body leads to another major reason for pastoral turnover: the body almost always goes outside of itself for a Shepherd. I don’t understand this.

We go to Seminaries, Colleges, and Denominational offices both local and national and look for a “candidate.” What does this guy know about your fellowship? He wasn’t saved there, discipled there, or served there. He doesn’t know the vision of the body, the mission of the body, the values of the body, or the needs of the body.

Usually a new guy comes in with his own vision or his own agenda. The difficulty with this is statistics and surveys such as Barna state that it takes 1-3 years for a new man to gain the trust of the body; it takes 7-10 years before the new man is even considered as “the pastor.” Until then he is consider a number of things, the new guy, an interloper, the preacher, Pastor So & So; So, or Brother So & So, but not as the individual members’ pastor.

If men have been recognized, equipped, and developed from within the body, then there is a remedy when a vacancy occurs. If a pastor dies, becomes incapacitated, or does leave, then one of the existing men can step right into the teaching role and the church never misses a beat.

Fourth reason that leads to turnover is that many men in reality, although they don’t recognize it and would deny it, are hirelings and not Shepherds who are to lay down their life for the flock. Many men come to a church for stability, opportunity to further themselves, paycheck, or security. Then when trouble becomes “unbearable”, the fight grows wearisome, the results are too slow, and the obstacles (which they usually unwittingly create) they move on to greener pastures. Churches think that they are an employer who is merely "hiring" and employee. This not biblical!!!!!!!

Fifth reason that leads to turnover, in some rare cases, God leads the man out of the church. There are some legitimate times, rarer than actuality seems to dictate, that God has different plans for the man and/or the local flock.

Sometimes a man has taken a body as far as he can take them and he needs to leave or he will do more damage than any good he has done thus far. Some men remain too long and they are unable to develop the sheep beyond a certain level of spiritual maturity. Sometimes the next man is used to take the body even further in spiritual development.

Sometimes it is time to shut a church down. Revelation 2 and 3 gives us examples of churches that Christ gave a “last chance.” It was - recognize your sin, repent of your sin, rehearse where you have come from, and re-do what you are now doing. God will close a church down. He does not need local churches. Local churches exist because they need God.

Sixth reason that leads to turnover is that men attempt to minister in the flesh. Somewhere along the way they stop growing in Christ themselves. They become too busy in the ministry for the Lord. They stopped watching for their souls. Many times pastors fail to maintain a dynamic devotional life, a prayer life, and they burn out.

Failing to take Ephesians 4 seriously many pastors do the work of the ministry. Pastors are not to do the work of the ministry; they are to equip the members to do the work of the ministry.

The burn out rate for pastors is high, the suicide rate is high, the divorce rate is high, and the lifestyle is ripe for turnover. Shepherding does not have to kill a man, burn him out, or cause him to leave a flock. Since longevity is the key to blessing, development, growth, maturing, and otherwise care of the flock, it behooves both flock and shepherd to be obedient to scripture.

Seventh reason that leads to pastoral turnover is unqualified men in the pastorate. Not everyone who says they are a believer is a believer. Many pastors in fundamental-evangelical churches are not saved. In the last 150 years we have “redefined” the gospel.

Many people in our fundamental churches are clinging to a past “act” and formula for their salvation rather to a person (Jesus Christ.) On those occasions that the gospel was “peddled” improperly, and a man made a “decision” based on a faulty presentation of the gospel, he then was more than likely pronounced “saved” and by God, he better never doubt it. Then because he has innate gifts or abilities he goes into the ministry and pastors as a complete unbeliever.

On the other hand there are men who are saved and yet are not qualified. Maybe they pass the most obvious of the qualifications – they are not drunkards, or adulterers, or they have great business abilities. Yet they are stubborn, self-willed, demanding, demeaning, willful, rough, or proud.

Most surveys show that the number one reason pastors leave their church is conflict between pastors and people. How can this be? If a man is gentle, able to teach the truth, gently persuading his people, with no personal agenda and self will about him, how can there be conflict?

If God’s people truly and sincerely love one another as they are instructed which includes the pastor, how can there be conflict?

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” (I Peter 1:22)

I think I have wasted four pages of reasons when it really boils down to one reason: we just don’t take the scriptures seriously.



I believe this side of heaven we will always have conflict and turnover in churches for 2 main reasons.

1. The Bible teaches us that there will always be tares among the wheat so the truly saved can only be known by God alone. (Matthew 13:30)

2. Even if there were no tares in the church
(pastors or people) there would sill be conflict and turnover because none of us have arrived to a state of sinless perfection.
(Romans 7:18-24)


arlee bird said...

This was a very timely post for me. I am a member of a church were I have been for nearly 20 years and am on the administration council. Recently we had a pastoral change due to more than one of the reasons you posted above. The council asked for our pastors resignation because we knew he was planning on leaving anyway and was frequently not in the pulpit on Sunday mornings for what he attributed to as "health reasons". As a small chuch we don't have back up staff.

We had a situation which I truly believe came from God happen at the same time as our crisis. A pastor and his team from a chuch plant that was looking for a property to operate from for a youth ministry during the evenings was looking to our church. The pastor is a respected long time member of the community and his team is highly qualified. And they are very familiar with our chuch, its history, and many of the members.

I was a part of the pastoral search committee which became very stressful due to strong resistance from a small portion of membership. This Sunday the congregation voted to accept this new pastor who has a sense of vision that the previous pastor had lost. We have already seen attendance and giving rise dramatically in the time our new pastor has been filling in. Now that he is the pastor I am excited about the prospects the future hold for our church which was in a serious state of decline.

Your post today clearly outlined some of the important issues that many churches face.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I agree that the Bible is not taken as seriously as it should be. I also think that the Church doesn't do much to explain the Scriptures in depth in understandable terms. I know a lot of people who leave church simply because they didn't understand a word that was coming out of the pastor's mouth. Wonderful post!! Have a greatly blessed day!

Dan Trabue said...

Some good points, especially the realization that it's not the pastor's church or the people's church, but God's church. God will call who God will call. God will lead the church where God will lead. We are to simply to strive, by faith, to be faithful.

We've been fortunate in having our pastor for going on 25 years now. She is the most tremendous, challenging - yet humble - pastor, preacher, shepherd, evangelist that I've ever had the chance to know or hear (and I have heard and read MANY pastors).

I think when someone is as blessed with a gift as some pastors are, that goes a long way towards helping in longevity. A great sense of humor and patience helps, too.

It's really cool and grace-full when it all works out so well and so powerfully.

Dan Trabue said...

(In the first sentence, I meant "strive by God's grace..." although striving by faith is not all that bad, either, I suppose...)

Mike said...

I like the idea of a church finding and building a pastor from within that church. People know him, he knows the people, and they most likely still share a similar vision. Good post.

Brian Ray Todd said...

What more can I say to your thorough explaination. I agree. The word of God is the authority and Jesus Christ is the focus. My wife and I left our previous church for not trusting and obeying the Word of God. These are ministry rich times for the true Children of God.