Did you know that the average minister of the Gospel develops an average of 3 year relationships with those they minister to in the traditional church system? You might ask: how can this be, and is there a better way? To understand this, you need to understand that a pastor is first called by God (in most cases) from within an established fellowship. These are the people that have grown and mentored this new pastoral candidate for years. They know who he or she is and loves that person deeply.
Yet, in our current system, we force our newly called to leave those relationships and move across the country to attend our Christian colleges. Once there, the pastoral students spend 3 to 5 years building relationships in ministries around their college. Some even go on to attend Seminary and again move and spend another 2 to 4 years building relationships at other churches.
Finally, once their education is complete, they now are thrown into the job market with churches looking for the most qualified employee to run their mini church organization. Many pastors do not become head pastors right away. In fact, the majority do not even get paid much even after 4-6 years of college. The majority of new pastors start at the bottom of the corporate ministry ladder and have to “put in their time” and have someone who likes them to give them a leg up.
Program after program, ministry to ministry, our called pastors serve and wait patiently to one day get the green light to become the pastor of an established church. And then guess what? The churches they have access to (or are qualified to lead) are generally the unhealthiest churches available. And this is the main reason why 50% of all pastors never preach after their first pastorate, for these churches chew and spit out pastors every 2 to 5 years.
Of course, there are pastors who excel in this system. You can identify them easily as a church begins to grow and the ministry becomes healthy once again. This process also takes around 5 years. And this is where “God” helps them to “climb the ladder” to the next level of church as He “calls them” to cut all of the ministry he has been doing for these 5 years and move on to a new group of complete strangers. Is it really God calling pastors to function this way? Is moving up the church ladder the sign that God is blessing your ministry? And what about all the souls that fall away as the change of a pastor is the most volatile thing that takes place in a church?
Oh, how sad it is for the pastor who has ministered for decades, yet feels lonely as it just takes too much time to invest in personal relationships knowing that most relationships will only be temporary. And how sad it is that so many lay people find heartbreak as they invest so much into their pastor only to see Him be called to go away to somewhere where the grass seems greener.
John 15:3 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Sure, God may call a pastor to “Go” and we are always open to God sending us. Yet scripture shows us that there is a major difference from an elder to an evangelist. God sends some to plant the churches and He sends others to become shepherds to make disciples of those new assemblies. Truth be told, we have too many pastor who are willing to serve in honor, yet are unwilling to take out the garbage in the Lord’s Kingdom. For if God places a shepherd in a ministry, we are called to remain even if better opportunities arise. God has placed some to reach the one no other can reach. Is that not a worthy enough job to stay for?
All this to say that there is a better way. What if the person who is called in their church were to become an apprentice of the pastor he has been taught under rather than just being sent off to a college? What if after that pastoral apprentice is ready, the entire church rallied around him and worked to plan out how he could start a ministry that would be birthed out of the first church? What would happen if the entire church loved this called pastor and their community enough to multiply the Kingdom of God through division by having some seasoned saints go and plant a church with this pastor in the very town or area he lives in? Can you see how this pastor would have a huge leg up as they already have fellow peers and acquaintances in his community who know him?
It is time to reform how we do church. We need a reformation of structure. We need to minimize the “business of ministry” and maximize the “relationships of ministry” because our faith is one based primarily on intimacy with God and each other. See how radically different this biblical approach could be… Rather than a pastor who has so many scars from the many different groups of people he tried to serve in various ministries ever 3 to 5 years, we can find pastors who spend their entire lives building deep and intimate relationships within their home communities and doing their part to make disciples, mentor, and properly send others to start new ministries.
If you were once a pastor and are no longer because of your wounds, know that God does not rescind the call to ministry. If you feel the sting of the Holy Spirit causing shame or guilt as you have given up on preaching, know that it is because God still has a plan for you, and there are pastors like me rooting for you to try something new. For those pastors who are being tempted to move up the ladder to greener pastures, know that God is not a God of broken relationships. Make sure that you are absolutely sure that it is God who calls and not a lack of contentment with where you currently serve, as the souls of those you serve will always be affected when you choose to leave them.
And if you are just starting to embrace your call to ministry, know that there is more then one way to accomplish the task the Lord has given you. Now you are presented with a choice. You can serve the old traditional way. And the fruit of that will most likely be years of jumping around from church to church as you minister to many various groups of people for a short time. Or… you could learn how to start growing a ministry right where you live (even from within your own home), and over the next few years God may bless it and grow it into a fruitful ministry.
There is one thing that you can’t buy. That is time. This new system will save pastors thousands of dollars by bypassing college and save pastors an average of 10 years as to when they would finally become a head pastor in a church. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is truly the one that teaches us all things and the pastor and mentor have an intimate and healthy relationship, why not start a church right away? For I tell you the truth, it is not the education of a pastor that makes a good pastor; rather, what makes a good pastor is someone who is humble and fully surrendered to God and His Way of holiness. And as we start to put that into practice, we are going to see revival as small, intimate fellowships begin to replace the business we now call church.