The are called by God to shepherd the flock of God with care, diligence, and insight (1 Peter 5:2).
But in over 20 years AS a Pastoral leader in one way, shape, or form, I’ve come to see that the structures by which the western world tries to DO church tend to be detrimental to the overall health of pastoral leaders. The traditional, top-down, get more people in the doors type of church structure…
- Burns out pastoral leaders because the numbers simply don’t fit. Jesus Himself only took on 12 men as disciples, yet even a “small” church today will expect the pastoral leadership to take on 30 to 40. The job is too big for one man.
- Separates pastoral leaders from the flock. There is an artificial division between shepherd and flock due to things like education level, salary, top-down authority structures and the like. The leader is not able to be cared for well because he’s set apart in an unhealthy way.
- Makes the pastoral leaders into a commodity. Enough said?
- Isolates him from true accountability. Because the pastoral leader is paid (typically) he’s often afraid to be honest about his own struggles. He doesn’t know how the church family might handle his “true confessions” so he keeps them inside… and suffers silently for it. No wonder so many pastoral leaders wind up in sin.
- Makes him fair game… yes, as in hunting. The pastoral leaders of a typical church walk around feeling like they have a target on their foreheads. By virtue of being paid staff, most people in the church feel the right to criticize, evaluate, and knit-pick the pastoral leadership’s life, decisions, and use of time. It’s hardly conducive to making him a cared-for member of the church family.
- Puts the pastoral leaders in a position where they have difficulty being servant leaders as Jesus described. Instead they become the point at the top of the organizational pyramid and eventually fall off.
I don’t highlight these things because I’ve been hurt by them (I’m just being honest, here). I highlight them because I care about the well-being of my pastoral leader brothers out there.
Things need to change. Pastors need to be part of the body, not a hired gun who can be fired just as easily. Genuine relationships need to extend even into the leadership of the church.
I’ve yet to see a church that has pulled off the last part of Hebrews 13:17…
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
I believe it will require a change in the way we organize the church.
Things need to be done in an intentionally, deliberately, purposefully smaller context so that one man doesn’t have to take on too large of a load… so that it is more natural and do-able to create shared leadership among qualified men… so that true body-life and accountability can be joyfully provided to the leaders just like everyone else.