In an earlier post, I shared an article about the longevity of pastors in small churches. The premise of the article was that longevity is a positive thing and that it should be encouraged. I personally believe that staying in one church for a long time is a good thing. I admire those pastors who have served in one church all their life. I know pastors who have been in the same church for over 30 years. This is an amazing thing. However, though longevity is a positive thing, there are also some negative aspects of longevity. Here are a few negative aspects that I have thought of:
1. Worshiping the Pastor
If a Pastor is in one church for a really long time, there is a natural tendency to put the pastor on a pedestal. The church grows to love their pastor in such a way that the pastor can do no wrong. They defend him and protect him to the extreme. A sense of pride may set in as people praise the church and its pastor for such commitment. I have seen churches that worship their pastor. I worked for a radio station when I was a teenager that was owned by a church. The pastor started that church and had been there for many years. All around the church building were pictures of the pastor. They had a fleet of buses and on every bus there was a picture of the pastor. One day, I saw a bulletin board with one hundred dollar bills that had the pastor’s picture in the center of the bills. There was no paintings of Jesus or scripture verses displayed, but, boy, did they love their pastor! Now, I am not saying that longevity is the cause of such prideful action, however, the longer a pastor stays, the greater the temptation to put the pastor on too high of a pedestal.
2. Depending too heavily on the pastor
Longevity could also contribute to a church depending too heavily on their pastor. In small churches, the pastor is often a man of many hats. As a pastor of a small church, I am the one who prints the bulletins, manages the website, mows the church lawn, and the list goes on. I, for one, enjoy doing those things. However, it is not good for the church to depend on me to do everything. This problem can be solved by the pastor training others to do the work and slowly handing responsibility over to other people. After all, this what a pastor is called to do. He is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
With longevity, there is the risk of both the church and the pastor becoming too complacent. A routine sets in that works and there is no change and no newness. A growing church is a changing church. If a church becomes complacent, it will gradually decline. Sometimes, new blood is needed to break the complacency.
Truly, the positive aspects of longevity is far greater than the negative aspects. The negative aspects can be avoided through good leadership from the pastor. Some final thoughts to consider would be:
1. Christ is the head of the church
A church should never rely too heavily on their pastor or worship their pastor to the point that Christ is no longer seen. The pastor is not the head of the church, Jesus is. No matter how many pastors come and go, the church should always understand who their real leader is. They are to follow Christ. They are to study His Word and follow His example.
2. Serve until the job is done
In the earlier article we saw that a pastor should stay where he is until his job is done. God calls pastor’s to churches for specific purposes. Once the job is done, its time to move on, no matter how long or short term it is. I also believe that a pastor should also understand and be aware of when its time to go. For example, if a pastor leads a church to a certain point and he has brought the church as far as he can take them, then perhaps its time for a change. If a church is in decline and there are issues and conflicts that center around the pastor, then perhaps its time for a change. I made a commitment a long time ago that I would never allow a church to split or go into rapid decline under my watch. Staying is not worth division. If it seems that the church cannot be united with me as pastor, then its time to graciously leave. I would never want to be a part of destroying the testimony of a local church.
A pastors role in the church is vital. His primary responsibility is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, How do I know if am doing an okay job? It is when I see spiritual growth in the lives of the members. It is when I see people taking responsibility. It is when I am continually handing over ministry responsibilities to those equipped to serve. This is why teaching on spiritual gifts is so important. How do I know when its time to go? When the job is done. When I have done all that I can do and through the leading of the Holy Spirit I realize a change is needed for the good of the church. Pastor’s longevity is good and best, however, don’t stay for the sake of longevity. Do what God has called you to do. Focus on the job at hand and the real head of the church, Jesus Christ, will show you when and where you should serve. Churches, support the pastor that God gives you. As long as he is preaching sound doctrine, you should follow his leadership. Encourage him. Make his job easier. Don’t depend on him too much. Look to the true head of the church, Jesus Christ.