Saturday, October 29, 2011

Calling: The church's perspective

What is a church doing when they seek a new minister.  Are they hiring a pastor?  I hear that term used sometimes by churches and it always makes me cringe a little.  You hire someone to cut your grass or to fix your roof. Is that the kind of relationship a church wants with their pastor?  I don't think so.  For me, the much better term is that the church calls a pastor to come alongside and lead them in ministry.  That idea of calling seems much better than the thought of hiring.

When a church hires a minister there is the sense that the minister is now an employee of the church.  In some ways, at least in some denominations, the pastor may be an employee of the church.  The IRS treats the pastor in that way and so do many churches.  In a church of 50 people such a pastor now has 50 employers all of whom expect the pastor to meet their own individual expectations of what a pastor should be.  If the pastor violates those expectations he or she could find themselves terminated, and thousands of pastors are terminated each year.  In some circumstances, such terminations are valid and needed because of serious misconduct on the part of the pastor.  But, too often these terminations occur because the pastor upset one of his or her many bosses.  There are some churches in which pastor after pastor has been fired, and it is highly unlikely that each of those pastors were guilty of misconduct.  More likely, the church had the view that the pastor was an employee of the church and expected to jump every time someone yelled "Jump."  (A word to judicatory leaders reading this - It's time we stopped helping these churches find new pastors.  We have sacrificed too many good pastors on the altar of dysfunctional churches.  If such churches are not prepared to address their unhealthy behavior we need to have the courage to tell them to not expect any more assistance from their judicatory.)

What happens when a church recognizes they are not hiring a pastor but calling one?  One thing that will happen is that the congregation can understand they haven't hired someone to come in and do ministry for them.  They have called a person to come and lead them in ministry.  He or she is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4).  Pastor and congregation are to work alongside each other to impact their community for the Kingdom of God.

When a church calls a pastor they should be willing to follow that person.  I do not mean by this that they give him or her ultimate authority and bow down to every wish.  I have met pastors who demand that kind of power, and these individuals have a warped concept of pastoral authority.  One the other hand, I have seen many churches who claimed they wanted a pastor who could help the church grow, and then they rejected every effort he or she made that might lead to growth.  If a church has called a person to lead them then they should allow that person to lead.  You cannot hold someone accountable for something for which you've not given them authority to do.

Think of it this have called a new pastor who both you and the pastor believes is part of God's calling for each of you.  To refuse to allow this person to lead is to deny God's calling.  Again, I'm not talking about a pastor who acts like a dictator and demands absolute obedience.  These people need to be weeded out of the ministry.  I am talking about trusting the pastor who is seeking God's will for the church and is attempting to the best of his or her ability to lead that congregation in the fulfillment of that will.  When a pastor and congregation can work together in this manner many good things can happen.

As your church considers calling a pastor the next time I hope you will give some thought to the concepts discussed here.  To call a pastor rather than hiring one will lead to much better results.

No comments: