- Lessons From Investors
What things do you do before you invest in a stock, bond, mutual fund, etc.?
Certainly we can’t guarantee the future. That’s why we look at trends, past performance, past behaviors in bull and bear markets, P/E ratios, investment journals, etc. and, on the basis of these indicators, we make a judgement as to whether to make an investment based on our goals—whether they be aggressive growth, steady income, or conservation of capital. If our analyses do not coincide with our investment goal, we walk away and seek other places where our investment goals have a reasonable expectation of being met.
If we take such care with our finances, why don’t we exercise the same care relative to the highest and most precious of all offices, namely, the Office of the Ministry?
A “Divine” Placement Process???
It appears that in a growing number of instances, the pastoral calling process, though called “divine”, sometimes shouldn’t even be called “humane.”
Excited, gifted young pastors are continually given placements by denominations and seminaries in churches which haven’t been able to support and pastor and, though past performance is not a guarantee of future returns, have no reasonable expectation of doing so. The results: full-time pastors are on unreasonably low compensation levels causing frustration, family difficulty, and additional unnecessary pressures.
Of course, finances are not the only issue. Consider the following:
- congregations with histories of dysfunctional patterns,
- congregations characterized by repeated splits,
- repeated unjustified (or questionable) forcing pastors out,
- power plays by an entrenched vocal minority of antagonists within the congregation,,
- an unwillingness to support their local and denominational ministries generously
Let’s not forget the most important issue: their adherence to doctrinal teachings and practice of the denomination.
Any or all of these issues ought to be considered by denominational executive before considering whether to place a pastor in any given congregation. Pastors, too, should also be alert to these and have a politically secure way of expressing their concerns about going to such congregations without risk of censure or disrespect for the “divinity” of the call.
God Calls Pastors To Dysfunctional Congregations, Too!
Certainly, there are cases where God may move a specially-gifted individual to choose to go to a problematic congregation. God has provided His church with some very specially-gifted pastors to lead these churches to God-pleasing health and renewal.
But Christian ethics and practice dictates that such individuals be fully and accurately informed of the given situation in its entirety and be made aware of the resources realistically available to assist in that place. Most importantly, such Christian practice would also demand that realistic potential scenarios—and their consequences—be fully and candidly discussed before a candidate accepts such calling.
Needed: A New Process To Guide The Pastoral Investment
What’s necessary to get denominational officials to begin a process of developing minimum guidelines and standards for congregations to be eligible to have the privilege of calling a pastor—before they will allow a call to be extended?
What does it say about the respect for this divine institution when denominational officials allow full-time calls to be extended to ministry veterans of ten or more years at $18,000 per year? (Yes, Virginia, it does happen!)
Certainly God’s servants deserve, as Paul indicated, more compensation that the local pizza delivery person and more respect than the “legendary” Rodney Dangerfield!!
If the denomination and those placing pastors won’t respect the worth of pastors, but send them to places of certain failure anyway,
Is it any wonder that the congregations won’t respect them either?
After all, is it the congregation’s right to have a pastor—regardless of how they will treat him—or is it a privilege that God gives to a local expression of the Body of Christ so that they can be mutually edified an growth together unto maturity?
Invest Pastors As God Would Invest Them
Let’s stop casting our pearls–God’s Called Pastors–“to the swine.” Let’s use divine principles of stewardship in the stewardship of the divine call. Let’s not take God’s “talents” and bury them in a hole of multiple dysfunctional congregational dynamics when opportunities for maximizing such gifts abound.
Instead, let’s begin asking, “How would God invest these ministers—the precious pearls—in His church?” Are there churches toward which we ought to shake the dust off our sandals until they demonstrate repentance and genuine desire for healing? If we ask these basic question firsts, maybe addressing these questions would be one of the most important first steps toward congregational health we could take. Let’s treat the divine Office of the Ministry the way it’s meant to be treated—with a greater sense divine reverence and respect.
Let’s protect God’s greatest investment–His pastors.
Thomas F. Fischer