Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The entrepreneurial pastor

Yesterday I tweeted an article I read from entitled "Would you attend your church if you weren't the pastor?"  I thought it was a great article because it asked a question that many younger pastors, and probably some older ones as well, are asking.  The author, Philip Wagner, talked about all the things he tried to do to satisfy the people of his church from the way he preached to the way he dressed.  He finally came to the place where he accepted the fact that God had called him to be the person He had created.  Wagner realized he could not satisfy everyone, and the only person he really had to please was God.  He began to live and minister in ways that honored who God created him to be.

That's really a pretty risky step for a pastor to take.  In many churches the term for a pastor who makes that type of decision is "unemployed."  I remember several years ago a woman in the church I pastored, a person who was a strong supporter of my ministry, and I were talking about a pastor who had recently purchased a Cadillac.  She said she hoped to never see me drive such a car.  I assured her I would not because if I could afford a Cadillac I would probably buy a Mercedes.  She was not amused!  That conversation demonstrated how people in our churches have certain expectations for their pastors, and I'm convinced that more pastors are terminated or forced to resign because they fail to meet those expectations than for theological reasons.

When churches are seeking new pastoral leadership they often say they want a pastor who will be able to grow the church.  Few of them realize what they are saying.  I like to remind those churches that if they could be growing by doing what they have been doing, they would already be growing.  I then ask if they are sure they are willing to allow a new pastor to make the necessary changes that will enable growth to happen.  It is then that I often get a look from the committee members that reminds me of the last time my burrito didn't agree with me.

If we are serious about wanting to see churches grow and people reached with the gospel then we have to accept the fact that this is not 1950.  We need entrepreneurial pastors who are not afraid of coloring outside the lines to lead our churches, and we need churches willing to let them do that.  If I may be so blunt, let me say that if the churches are not inclined to support such a pastor then they should stop saying they want to reach this generation for Christ.  They are lying both to themselves and to God.

For many traditional churches, such a change will not be easy.  Many of them will need someone to help them process the transformation that will have to occur within their churches that will permit their pastor to be more entrepreneurial.  A good consultant, coach, or someone from within their denomination can help them in that process.  My book, Intentional Ministry in a Not-So-Mega Church, addresses this and could be a good resource for a church interested in changing to study.

Wagner's question is a good one.  At this stage of my life and ministry I would have to say that I would not pastor a church that I wouldn't attend if I wasn't the pastor.  Life is too short, and the work is too important to be playing church games and trying to please everyone.  I was blessed in that most of the people in the church I pastored were willing to let me be the person God created me to be, and that would have to be true of any church I would serve.

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