I’m working hard to complete a book I started in 2015. During research, I came across the mini-series published by the GOCN network (must reading for anybody interested in the development of the ‘missional’ church conversation.) Reading Alan Roxburgh’s, The missionary congregation, leadership and liminality, I was struck by this story about a pastor describing his job,
“…pastoral care is the business we’re in; and if we’re not preparing worship, we are doing pastoral care. Pastors are supposed to be in the church rather than in the world.“
This worldview strikes me as sad. The pastor reflects a bygone paradigm held by many career pastors living in a world of exclusivity that relies on a cultural inheritance of power and privileged. Today, this world barely exists and pastors like him should barely exist too.
In Christendom, clergymen could plant themselves in the church community in both vocation and personal life, with hardly a need to engage the ‘world out there’. (The loss of influence the church has experienced over the past 50 years is largely a result of this paradigm.)
Most paid pastors spend the vast majority of their time tending to the flock, which is fine since that’s your job. (Some manage to insert mission related things in the job description, things like hanging out with friends or at the local coffee shop on a regular basis. Sweet gig if you can get it.) But if you’re like many pastors, you also work beyond your job hours, and into the church community in your personal time as well. If we take a look at the balance of time, most of it is spent with Christians.
I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post on how church workers and pastors probably don’t have any friends outside of the church, let alone leave the office during the week. Turns out, it’s mostly true. Turns out, that’s a huge problem.
Pastors who spend most of their time managing the needs of the church have contributed to the systematic decline of Christendom in North America. The loss of Christendom isn’t a bad thing. But how we continue to operate, under the assumptions of Christendom, is.
Our inward posture makes us blind to the world around us, and one by one like storefronts during a recession, churches close. Churches with pastors who spend all their time in ‘church things’ merely delay the inevitable, but worse off, deny the central calling of the church: love thy neighbour, make disciples, and to witness to the neighborhood.
These commandments are practices that occur beyond the safe church community where no job title is excuse enough to ignore them. I would go so far as to suggest
Here’s the crux: when pastors model insular and exclusive lifestyles, the church body will reflect the same, and that eventually leads to decay.
It’s easy to busy yourself caring for all the internal needs of the church. But consider the tension that strong leadership doesn’t seek to strengthen the administration or the institution. Strong leaders build-up the next generation of leaders to replace the former. Furthermore, if the ‘priesthood of all believers’ is in your lexicon, then building everyone to lead in their unique way is an additional dimension that will alter the job description for pastors. Giving away power may reduce your own, but it also builds the priesthood and eventually frees up your time to get back into the ‘world’.