Posts Tagged ‘who do pastors work for’

Pastor Phil couldn’t believe what he was hearing at the monthly meeting of the church board.  He had only been pastor for six months.

Out of nowhere, Don the chairman viciously slammed Pastor Phil.  Don claimed that Phil was preaching against sin too often … that several experiments in the worship service were colossal failures … and that Phil needed to spend less time in sermon preparation and more time in home visitation.

It wasn’t Don’s criticisms that bothered Phil as much as Don’s tone.  Don was implying that Pastor Phil worked for Don!

But that’s not how Phil saw it.  As he planned his time, he didn’t contact Don on a daily basis and ask, “What should I do this Thursday?  Study for my sermon or visit shut-ins?”

It’s safe to say that as many as one thousand pastors are terminated monthly.  My guess is that this question is at the heart of the problem:

Who does the pastor work for? 

As I see it, there are four possible answers:

First, the pastor works for the congregation.

In churches with congregational government, church members vote to call a pastor, usually on the recommendation of a search team and/or the church board.  But while the congregation may have the final say as to who their pastor will be, no pastor can truly work for the entire church body because everyone has differing expectations for their pastor.

Mary wants the pastor to preach through Bible books.  Joe wants the pastor to preach on contemporary social issues.  Linda wants him to speak on family/emotional problems.  Bob wants the pastor to preach on theological truths.

Mary wants her pastor to focus on home visitation/counseling … Joe on administration/organization … Linda on leadership/teacher training … Bob on vision casting/big-picture items.

Mary wants to become the pastor’s personal friend … Joe aims to become his advisor … Linda hopes the pastor will be her advocate for women’s ministry … and Bob wants the pastor to become his golf buddy.

I’ve only shared with you the personal viewpoints of four people!  Can you imagine what it’s like to pastor a church of 75 … or 150 … or 300?  The expectations keep escalating.  The larger the church, the less likely the pastor can ever meet everyone’s expectations.  If he tries, he will fail miserably.

Unless the church is composed of a handful of people, no pastor can ever truly work for the congregation.

Second, the pastor works for the governing board.

Whether they’re called elders, deacons, the church council, the board of directors, or something else, many churches expect that the pastor will work for the governing board.

When I first entered church ministry, this was my assumption.  I’d meet with the deacons once a month and we’d make decisions together.  In fact, I made few decisions without consulting the deacons.

But this arrangement just slowed the ministry to a crawl.  If I made a proposal, but only one deacon hesitated, we didn’t do it.  In fact, the more items I brought to the board, the longer the meetings lasted, and the less we accomplished.

The better way was for the board and I to agree on a job description and for me to report to the board in writing on a monthly basis.  But although I wanted to be accountable, I could never tell them everything I did … and I didn’t want to feed anyone’s micromanaging tendencies.

I believe a pastor should work with the board … not for the board … and that the board’s primary mission should be to encourage and protect their pastor.

When I worked with a board that said, “Jim, you’re the professional.  We’re going to follow your lead and promote your ideas and protect you from attacks” … the church prospered.

But when I worked with a board that said, “Jim, we’re the professionals.  You’re going to follow our lead and expect you to promote our ideas and protect us from attacks” … the church tanked.

Every church I know that is doing something significant for Christ’s kingdom is led by a strong pastor … and I don’t know a single board-led church that is growing to any degree.

Third, the pastor works for a powerbroker in the church.

This person may be a charter member … a wealthy businessperson … the church patriarch/matriarch … a large donor … a church staff member … someone who employs many churchgoers … an adult Sunday School teacher … or a former pastor … but this person holds the real power in the church.  Whenever the pastor wants to make a major change … and sometimes even minor ones … the powerbroker is consulted … even if they hold no official leadership role in the church.

It’s good to have friends.  It’s wise to listen to advice.  But I will never understand why professing Christians ever pledge allegiance to any unofficial/official church leader and let that person do their thinking for them.  It’s not only unwise … it’s just plain dumb.  No powerbroker can ever do for a church what a pastor can do!

Should a pastor listen to board members and powerbrokers?  Yes, he should try and understand their concerns, but that doesn’t mean he should automatically do whatever they want.

Once a pastor has identified a powerbroker, he needs to ask God to remove that person … the sooner the better.  (In case you think this sounds harsh, this is a step that all intentional interim pastors take.  No church can survive if it’s being taken hostage/blackmailed by a powerbroker.)  Whatever the powerbroker thinks, the pastor does not work for him/her … because:

Finally, the pastor works for Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Head of the church … not the church board … and not a church powerbroker.

Every Christian church is ultimately owned and run by Jesus … and not anybody else.

*Jesus directly calls pastors into ministry.

*The risen Christ gives pastors unique combinations of spiritual gifts including leadership, teaching, shepherding, prophecy, discernment, administration, and showing mercy.

*Jesus leads pastors to engage in formal training in Bible schools and seminaries.

*He gives them ministry mentors.

*He allows them to suffer so they can identify better with parishioners.

*He certifies pastors through the ordination process.

From a pastor’s viewpoint, he works directly for Jesus … with the governing board … over the church staff … and never for any church powerbroker.

But in all too many cases, the board thinks the pastor works directly for them … some powerbrokers think the same thing … and conflict is crouching at the door.

Think about this:

If a church board/powerbroker wants to run off their pastor … and he is not guilty of any biblical offense … then:

*Which board member/powerbroker has God directly called to ministry?

*Which board member/powerbroker has God specially gifted for ministry?

*Which board member/powerbroker has completed formal biblical/theological training?

*Which board member/powerbroker can preach like the pastor … pray like the pastor … counsel like the pastor … and pastor like the pastor?

If the pastor ever capitulates and starts working for the board or for a powerbroker … he’s finished in that church … because a pastor must work directly for Jesus Christ.

What is the church about?

It’s about fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples … baptize them … and teach them.

If a structure advances the Commission and expands the Kingdom, we should applaud it.

If a structure hinders the Commission and stalls the Kingdom, we should oppose it.

It seems to me that churches that have a strong leader and a strong preacher do a far better job of advancing the Commission and expanding the Kingdom.

After 36 years in church ministry, I look back and realize that when I was working for the board, the church stalled … and when I worked for the Lord, the church prospered.

As Pastor Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel has often asked pastors, “Who do you work for: the board or the Lord?”

As for me and my house … we work for the Lord.

Who do you work for?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: