Who Needs Pastors?
Dr. Doug Posey
According to a recent study, doctrine and church beliefs were found to be the most important reasons why adults switch churches. For those who have regularly attended more than one church as an adult, 89 percent indicated they would select a new church on the basis of what the church says it believes. Next in line of importance is the preaching (87 percent), with the authenticity of the church members and the pastors coming in as a close third (86 percent).
Audrey Barrick, "What Church Switchers Look for in a Church," www.christianpost.com (4-10-07)
Based upon that information, assuming one is only considering Christian churches that embrace biblical truth and doctrine, the first thing he or she then considers next is the person in the pulpit. I know it says, “the preaching,” but if they already agree with the message, what they’re scrutinizing is the messenger. Gee, no pressure there! Of course, that statistic can be taken another way: when people leave, chances are, it’s related to the person in the pulpit too!
Some denominations and contemporary Christian movements (or churches that have been burnt by pastoral betrayal) have decided to deal with the seeming over-emphasis on the preacher by minimizing the role of pastors. In fact, some will go so far as to say, “The church isn’t about any man, so we don’t need a pastor!” And they proudly try to carry on without benefit of an earthly shepherd.
Others so thoroughly subject their pastors to the governing bodies of the local church and/or denomination—fearing the pastor wielding too much power—that they micro-manage their clergy into total impotence.
As long as the church is located on planet earth, there will be imperfection in the pulpit. Pastors will fail, bore people, overstep, burn out and disappoint. Some, unfortunately, will mess with the message. Nonetheless, Christ established His church on this particular planet. He gave each member a role to fulfill and “He Himself gave some to be… pastors” (Eph. 4:11). Jesus just might differ with those who say we don’t need them.
So, don’t kill the messenger. Don’t diminish the role of the pastor so as to avoid inevitable human failings. Don’t elevate the role of pastor to the point of giving him no option but to fall. Don’t expect so much of the pastor that he implodes from the pressure. And don’t forget to pray for pastors.
Why this topic? Because I happen to believe that pastors—true shepherds, not hirelings (see John 10:12, 13)—are called and ordained by God. Though we are all appointed as ambassadors of Christ, pastors have been entrusted with the message in a unique way. As such, they can become targets. James warned, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
This topic might seem self-serving, since I’m a pastor. But, let’s remember that in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he exhorts the Colossians to,
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4).
And Paul’s not whining. That’s why we need the proper perspective of pastors and that’s why pastors need prayer, so that nothing gets in the way of the messenger and the messenger doesn’t get in the way of the message!
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” –2 TIMOTHY 4:2