on pastors as servants and stewards

I am reading this book: Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan 2009) right now (which is pretty good and if you’re in ministry and tired, you should get it too – it will help).  Burn out can affect our whole being and life: spiritual, emotional, physical, even relational health.  Throughout the book the author has short little interviews with pastors from around the country who have burned out (or came awful close to it) and survived to tell about it (or even in some cases, lived to tell about it, literally).  In the section about getting back to Spiritual health, she interviews a pastor in Texas named Matt Carter.

A.J.: Do you see the current Western church as being ineffective in reaching people with the gospel and growing them?  why?

M.C.: Pastor Bob Roberts asked the question in a recent book, “If we (the church) could plant one thousand mega-churches all over the United States over the next ten years, wouldn’t we be able to completely change this country for the cause of Christ?  The answer Pastor Roberts reached was, “No.”  Why?  Because that is exactly what the church in the United States did over the last ten years.  We planted over one thousand churches that have grown to more than two thousand members apiece; and yet, per capita, there are fewer people going to church today than ever before in the history of our countrySomething is terribly wrong.

Why is this occurring? I think there are several reasons, but I’m personally convinced that one of the main reasons people in America are leaving the church in droves is because there is severe biblical malnourishment in the body of Christ.  They are leaving in droves not because we aren’t clever enough, not because we don’t have enough resources, but because people come to church, are entertained, and the leave starving, anemic, and utterly ineffective for the kingdom of God.  I believe this is a direct result of pastors not fulfilling primary responsibilities God designed for them through Scripture (130).

Here is the part I wanted to get to but felt I had to include the above for this to make better sense.

A.J.: What do you see as the primary responsibilities of pastors and church leaders?

M.C.: In Scripture, we see two primary responsibilities of the pastor: servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  The apostle Paul wrote, “Men ought to regard us [pastors] as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  Unfortunately, so many pastors view themselves first and foremost not as servants of Christ, not at those responsible for stewarding the deep things of God to their people, but rather as servants of the church! I grew up in a church that expected the pastor to be available to meet the every whim and need of every congregant.  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If someone was in the hospital, he better go!  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If he spent too much time on his sermon rather than with the people, it was said of him that he was “a good preacher” but “not a good pastor.”  Although hospital visitations, meetings, and coffee times with the church are important, Scripture reveals that they are not the pastor’s primary responsibilities.  Being a servant of Christ and a steward of the deep things of God are (130-131).

In view of Mark’s post the other day, perhaps not just pastors and leaders, but Christians in general are burning out of church and or ministry because there is first malnourishment in the pulpit (though not in all cases) and second, because there is confusion and perhaps conflation of roles and responsibilities within the congregation?

If pastors are doing everything or more than they should, they will burn out, fast.  And it seems, that burn out is not limited to just pastors.  Even the rest of the folk can burn out when trying to do too much or when they function outside of their proper or spiritually gifted roles within the body (and when they are not taking care of themselves adequately).

Finally, any thoughts about the pastor’s primary role being servants of Christ first and foremost (not servants of the church) and then as stewards of the mysteries (the deep things) of God?

3 responses to “on pastors as servants and stewards

  1. Pingback: Trish of Fish With Trish flubs answer to Important Doctrinal Question… « The Online Discernmentalist Mafia

  2. Jesus taught that if you are to be a leader in the Kingdom of God, you need to be a servant. He did not leave that to mean just a servant of Christ. Church leaders are also to be servants of their congregation. And, according to Ephesians 4:11-13, leaders are to equip the saints (members) for the work of the ministry until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of God unto a perfect (mature) man. Most pastors do not do that. And when they do, they expect their mature members to hang around their church doing nothing more than they have ever been allowed to do before. Instead, when a pastor finds a mature member, that member should be encouraged to leave the nest and start another group–much like a child when they grow up should be encouraged to leave and start their own family. Also, just like a healthy family, the pastor should be willing to help that mature member get started–even sharing resources. The last comment I would like to make is that 1Peter 5 states that church leaders should not be overlords. What I have discovered over the last 30 years (and I have been a pastor myself) is that many pastors have become lords over their flocks. That is one major reason church members have left and are very disappointed with church. Smaller, more personal and relational churches with servant-oriented leaders is what we need in order to counter what is wrong with the Western church today.

  3. Maybe one reason pastors and others are burning out on church has to do with the structure of church.

    Up until about 200 years ago “we” meant your family. When “we” started to be society, it marked a major turning point in the transition to a collectivized world. Satan has been guiding the world to this collectivization to advance his own purposes. He cannot be everywhere at once and needs to leverage his influence to increase his control.

    I would suggest that unsaved people can only be collectivized so far. Feudal Japan probably represents the highest level of collectivization possible naturally. To really collectivize the world, Satan needed Christians who were able to sublimate their selfishness to such a degree as to construct social institutions that would not be so easily torn apart.

    Key to this was the church as a system and institution. Once people could be sufficiently bound to these systems, they could be transferred to political and corporate collectives and technology could provide the tools to maintain the collective without the need for Christians any more.

    As a measure of how far this process of collectivization has come, one has to only consider why people do not start a family business like a grocery store, hardware store, or gas station any more. There is little room for individuals to work outside the collective.

    For those of us drawn by the Father to Jesus, we can consider that the means that is used is truth. It is a perception of, desire for, and recognition of truth that draws us to Jesus who is truth. However, those who are drawn to truth often are puzzled over the institution and function of church. If we try to view the church as a mechanism of truth, we find it hard to see where programs, events, activities, classes, and lectures accomplish this.

    The only people we can “sell” on the idea of church are those who already are resonant with these collectivized systems.

    I have found it better to seek those who are seeking truth and tell them about Jesus. Bringing these people to a church may not help them to grow into the image of Christ. It is sad but it looks like any real Christian progress needs to be conducted outside of mechanical church systems.

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