I’M NOT COMPLAINING. I’m not crying for help. I’m not necessarily describing you or your local church. I’m certainly not trying to start a debate (please don’t take this there). Still, I wanted to share some important (though hard) observations that have been on my mind for a long time.
One of my greatest fears is that the church has been operating under a warped view of the preacher and his work for several generations. We confidently boast that our preachers are not “pastors,” yet we treat them like they are in daily practice. We teach that the work of the preacher is to “preach the word” as a faithful minister of Jesus Christ, yet we often drench our ministers with unrealistic and excessive expectations that we ourselves are unwilling to practice.
We create a rigid and exhaustive job description which few can actually meet. Then, we hire an outside man to come into our area, become a part of our local church, and do “church things” for us. He becomes the shepherd and the savior of the church. He’s the silver bullet that will turn things around!
If he works well, brings good results, and is liked by the church, then we will keep him around. But, if he doesn’t measure up to our expectations, if we don’t get the results we hoped for, or if the members become unhappy, then we will just find a new preacher. Another family will be uprooted, another wanted bulletin will be posted, and another preacher will come along to step into his place.
In many ways, the preacher has become like a mere employee of the church who’s job is to simply serve the needs and wants of the local church consumer. This faulty system has turned God’s ministers into professional holy men and Christians for hire. He becomes a tool to use for our purposes and objectives. He is depreciated to the status of a hired hand instead of held high as a brother and fellow laborer in Christ.
Is this current setup really what God intended? Is this system a healthy recipe for church success? Does this fit the preacher/local church model we read about in the New Testament?
Could this be why so many good men “leave the ministry” each year? Is this problem more prevalent than we would like to admit?
I write this as a Christian who has made a commitment to preach the Gospel. I love preaching, I deeply love the church, and I love preachers.
I know things will never be perfect, but I believe we have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to how we view and treat our preachers. I also know that I am not alone in observing these sobering and all too common scenarios. I pray that we can all try to acknowledge the cracks in our current setup. Let’s start now by making a resolution to do what we can as preachers, elders, and church members to move forward in a better direction, even if it is just one small step at a time.
Brandon preaches for the North Lownes church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.