Remove the pastor to allow the church to continue? Economically, the congregation just can’t afford a pastor anymore… I’m hearing this a lot as of late. I remember James Glasse writing in “Put it together in the Parish” that even the tinyest of congregations should be able to hire a full time pastor to serve the community, ideally in any number of outreach/experimental ministries. Only later on, after the congregation had grown, should a building be considered. While James Glasse book was written 45 years ago, when 10 tithing families could make such happen, today it would take more, yet, such is still well within the purview of a small congregation.
The root cause in most cases is a failure to be missional. Ie. the congregation is likely looking at the building and grounds, and ministry to themselves, rather than to the community, as far as providing for the church to continue. Rather than removing the pastor, should it not make more sense to see off the church assets, keep the pastor, and focus on community and outreach? A building a church does not make.
Of course, the problem is, folks become attached to the building, and its history. Even more so, how many would be outraged, if the church that bought the building held vastly different doctrinal beliefs? Yet, where does Jesus stand in all this? Where do we pick up our cross in this?
Along the same thought process, one might be concerned about a pastor put in that situation… no doubt there will be many nights of second guessing. What could he have done differently? Were there other solutions? Why was the congregation so inreach focused? What about the huge personal investment with the congregation? Did he have no impact? The thing is, congregations can be pretty fickle, and weird… The big thing is, where God’s word is preached, it does not return void. He may never see the results, but for sure, he made an impact. Scriptural words yes, but it doesn’t help with the heartache and second guessing of now.
I read over at Heart of a Pastor last week where he talks about the shifts involved in becoming a Missional Congregation based on a book he is reading. It seems many of the issues in churches removing the pastor are very much in the maintenance domain.
Chaplaincy (Self) Hospitality (Others)
Focus on ourselves Focus on the world
My guess is, such issues develop subtlely. Perhaps when a pastor is in one place for too long a period of time? Its the old Adam’s desire to shift more and more of the burden onto the pastor, especially over time. Its the old Adam that wants his own served first. Its the old Adam that wants comfort, familiarity, and safety.A devoted pastor will do just about anything for his congregation within the bounds of scripture. He is doing his best, but he may be doing them harm, albeit totally unaware. Left unchecked for too long, years of inreach eventually will take a toll, such that all resources end up going to maintenance and sustaining efforts, rather than mission…. And then a new pastor is sent in. In short order, he realizes to fix such is going to be an intense uphill battle, and its one he may not be able to win. He can pour his heart into the congregation, only to find out at some point, he is no longer affordable, and is shown the door.
So the solution??? Nip it in the bud… I really liked what Heart of a Pastor had to say.
Are we a missional congregation or are we satisfied with the status quo? Are we inward focused or outward focused? Or consider this question: If this congregation ceased to exist, would the community miss us?
I think if congregations periodically reviewed such questions, they are well on the way towards predicting problems, and heading them off at the pass. As far as congregations that are already embedded in inreach, such should serve as a wakeup call.
Granted, especially in todays climate, there are going to be events well outside the churches domain which can upset the apple cart. Ie, a factory town, should it experience massive upheaval is going to be in trouble. They may well find they end up having to move from missional to maintenance in no time at all, especially if the town becomes 70% ghost town in a short period of time. The key I think is to keep thinking missional, and be willing to make the hard decisions early, and go forward, rather than waiting until the decision becomes a forced one later on. The other key, is always be running scenarios… how can we remain missional, if something majorly bad happens, even during the times of great church growth.