It’s obvious you took this very seriously, so I want to do the same. Let me offer a couple general responses, and then a couple of specific.
One, it seems as though you might be unfamiliar with SBC polity. For good or ill, most SBC churches run on a congregational polity system. I think elder led is a better model, more biblical model, but the responses in this list come from men who are dealing with “what we’ve got.” That means every-member-business meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis. Would love to do away with them, but that’s the way it is for now.
I am actually familiar with both baptist and SBC polity. I do know that it is typically congregational rule. I really did realize that they were voicing legitimate "complaints" with the system that they are working in or under. In my first church I too did the quarterly and annual business meeting. So I do know the drill. In my last church we went to monthly elder/leadership meetings and one annual meeting where the elders reported the past year's ministry to the congregation. I did away with both buisness meetings and quarterly meetings.
Two, as a general remark, again the responses on his list reflect ministry as we deal with it, not as we’d prefer it. We’d love to do away with business meetings, ignore criticism, only counsel if we are gifted to, etc. but that’s not the way it usually works. We are often put in single staff situations, expected to do everything whether we’re gifted for it or not, and this gives rise to the struggles in this list.
I realize not many if any would prefer ministry the way they have it. I think however many times we all things to continue simply because they have always been done this way rather than through patient, thorough, repetitive training and example. I realize sometimes constitutions need to be changed if they require regular business meeting. I think the criticism issue is a little easier to handle in some churches. Because we are out of balance on the fact that we are equal in the body, we forget that in another sense pastors/elders are given to the body as gifts, and they are to be properly reverenced and respected. Again this comes with training and education. But as long as our churches treat pastors as hirelings by "hiring them" they will be subjected to this treatment. The counseling, it is not a matter of being gifted in it. We are not called to be counselors we are called to be equippers, edifiers, and disciplers. If a man can't equip, edify, and disciple then he might not belong in the ministry.
We are not Christian psychologists practicing some form of white magic christian psychology. I have no use for the James Dobson's, Larry Crabbs, etc. Confront sin, whether in thought or deed with Scripture and guide to Christlikeness.
That’s in general, now for a couple specifics.
Budgets: Again, because of cong. polity, the budget in most SBC churches is done by the whole body, administered by a finance committee, which most pastors have to work with. Not fun, but that’s life.
I realize polity and constitution over rule many pastors and force these issues. Been there done that. I think it can be corrected in some cases and needs to be in most.
Weddings/Funerals. In a perfect world, we could be more choosey about these. I am much more picky about whom I marry, than whom I bury, but the truth is in ministering to the community we are often in situations with these we might rather avoid. Yet we do our best, frustrations and all.
I was flabergasted to read Lloyd-Jones thoughts on this. Now, I am in complete agreement. I know Arminian pastors, SBC or plain baptist ones like to think that they can use these instances to obtain "decisions." But I stopped marrying non-members along time ago. Yes, it has caused some grief. We lost a family becasuse I would not marry their granddaughter. I can't remember when the church started marrying, but it used to be a legal deal with officials marrying. Funerals, I do for members.
Announcements: I agree/disagree. Never before the sermon, but I also say: never before the service. People will forget by the end and it takes away from worship, so we do ours at the end, after everything is over.
I think that doing them at the end is counterproductive. Now you have taken my mind off of the main point of the message and Christ and put it on pot-lucks, or business meeting times, or choir practice, or a void in the Sunday school staff. I would think that is worse than just prior to a message. We do ours first, our statement is this, It is our custom to make our annoucements prior to the beginning of our worship service, so before we begin, please take note in the bulletin... I really don't think it matters in the long run. You can make the announcements, put them in the bulletin, and put them on an overhead and people still will come up to you and say, I didn't know the ice cream social was at 6:00 instead of 5:00.
Critics: Again, perfect world vs. reality. We all know it’s wrong for folks to act that way, and we ought to be more direct in dealing with it, but in this imperfect world it’s a part of life. And as for ignoring the anonymous stuff, easier said than done.
I am well aware that we as pastors are thin skinned. I dislike being criticized also. But I have learned to give it to the Lord most times. I know very well it aint easy at times. But, I do stand by the fact that if it is annoymous it gets no attention from me. Don't be a coward. The bible says if I have offended you, then you are commanded to come to me and tell me.
Counseling: I think this might be the one place where your comments were a bit harsh and over the top. Being a caring shepherd doesn’t make us perfect, doesn’t mean that we occasionally struggle in some areas. And again, we’re not all gifted the same. Some are gifted counselors, some are not but they do it anyway because they DO love their sheep. Still doesn’t mean that when you’re hearing a person go on and on about trivial things in the midst of that counseling that a mind can’t wander, etc. The “get out of ministry” might be a bit harsh, and miss the point of what the responders were getting at.
I knew 11 out of 10 people would think I was over the top. However, this thought wasn't original with me. I have heard a leading pastor (I can't think of who at this minute), a well known pastor write in a book awhile back, if you can't do or take something or another, then get out of the ministry. Generically I will stand by my bold and capitalized admonishment. Face to face with a guy who is honestly struggling, I would say, stop counseling, throw your psychology books away, and begin equipping, edifying, and discipling. If you can't or won't do that, then please, resign, give the ministry to someone who can and please drive a truck. What I might say generically in my blog may not be the way I would say it to a living human being with feelings who is my brother in Christ. However, as gentle, and loving as I could make it, I would still say, find another job.
You are right, we are not gifted the same. If I did not have the gift of exhortation, I would find a godly person who did have it and have that person help with those who need help. However, even though one might not have the gift of teaching, we as pastors are required to be able or apt to teach. We cannot shirk our duty of equipping or edifying or discipling. we are not counselors nor called to be counselors. Yes, I know the HS is called a Counselor. We are to come along side, bear burdens, but we are not called to listen to mindless pointless drival and trivia to make someone feel good.
In all, I agree with most of what you’ve said. But for the most part it comes off sounding pretty idyllic, when the point of the post was to describe our discontent with the way things are, the things we deal with because it is imperfect, etc. We all strive for the biblical model, but some of us are slower in reaching it, and get frustrated in the meantime.
I thank your for reading and evaluating. It could be misconstrued at being somewhat idyllic, however, I try raise the bar and set high standards. I have found if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. I think we lower the standards to excuse our laziness, lack of skill, faulty methodolgy, lack of sucess. etc. I think if we find some areas of discontent we should seek to rectify them one by one. Truthfully, I didn't really look for "the point of the post" as much as I looked at each and every individual statement and meditated on it. I will be the first to say it is more than possible that I missed the point. My goal was to take a statement that was supposedly made in all honesty, evaluate that statement and respond from my heart with information that might be of help or assistance. Please belief me, my heart was not to be naive, harsh, critical, unloving, or idyllic. I truly spoke from my heart about what I came come to conclude after 40 years in regards to the statements that were made.
I realize we fight the good fight, strive to be faithful, live with the debilitating limitations of sin, and are put weak clay. I also am well aware that we become frustrated at time, again, guilty - have been there and done that. For the record this was not a response against Mr. Rainer or any pastor, SBC or not. I just candidly reasoned through each statement and gave my heart felt thoughts.
Hope that helps. Feel free to send it on to Thom. I’m sure he’d appreciate the input.
By His Grace,
Scott M. Weldon, Pastor
Faith Southern Baptist Church
PO Box 653
Marshfield, MO 65706