Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pastors and Elders

Yesterday, we looked at one of the ways that a worldly business model has been creeping into the church, specifically through the expectation that pastors would have served in "lesser" ministries before being moved up into more prominent roles (i.e. how the other church's youth pastor became your preaching minister). This alone is hurting the church.

But it's also become commonplace to have so much ministry staff in the model of the business world that ministers, paid ministers, are now doing work they were never meant to do and other offices of the church have been pushed out completely. 

There are churches now that have "executive" pastors or "administrative" pastors. I see job postings for them all the time. You see, the church has become such a business that they believe that they need someone on staff whose entire job it is to make business decisions for the church - hiring/firing, policies and procedures, budget allocation, etc. It's this guy who becomes the main cog in the wheel, the gear that makes the whole clock turn. He's running the show, even if he never preaches a sermon, teaches a Sunday school class, leads a small group, counsels a widow, feeds an orphan, or even changes a light bulb. 

Yes, really. 

All of these functions are functions that ought to be carried out, biblically, by elders. But you want to know something else that's scary? There are churches now that don't even have elders. 

Yes, really. 

Some have elders by name only. Some have elders, but they go by worldly titles (like board of trustees or just "the board). But some have no elders at all. They have so professionalized their pastorate that there are no "lay" leaders within the church, despite the fact that in the New Testament, lay leaders were all that the church had. 

Instead, these churches have pastors for everything the elders would normally do, and in some cases, they have staff members for the things that deacons would normally do. (They don't have deacons, either.) So they have someone on staff for budgeting, even if it's not an official "executive" pastor. They have someone on staff who takes care of the grounds, someone else who takes care of the building. They have a staff member who leads the teaching ministry. They have someone who does nothing but shut-in visits. And they pay all these persons to do all these things. 

And all that the church members are then expected to to show up. Let the professionals handle "ministry;" you just come to church.

This is more true in some of the bigger churches, which are then hindered by having such weak connections and integration in their congregations. Did you know that in some bigger churches, despite pastoral staffs of more than twenty or thirty men and women, there are a fair number of members of congregations that no one on the pastoral staff even knows? They don't even recognize the name. 

It's because their business is "church," not people. Production, not community. (Although, let's be fair, they might have a community guy somewhere on staff.)

It doesn't really surprise anyone. After all, this is how most, if not all, businesses operate.

But let us be clear: the church was never meant to be a business.

If you're in a church that runs like this, you're not in a church. Sorry. You're in a social club. It doesn't matter if you get together and talk about Jesus; so could any regular old book club that happened to be studying the Bible. If you're in a church that doesn't take its leadership structure from the Scriptures, you're in a church that doesn't aspire to be a church. It's a business.

Our churches need elders. They need lay leadership. They need men and women stepping up, being connected, being integral parts of the worship and the mission that is happening in our communities. Our churches need community. What they don't need is corporation. 

It's time we take back our churches and demand more from our leaders than a pretty program and a satisfying Sunday service. It's time we stand for real leadership. 

We are a people, not a professional organization. Let's start acting like one. 

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