Have you heard this one? I just heard it the other day.
I’ve been generally aware of the “pastor shortage” or, put differently, the “need for pastors,” but the other day after a men’s Bible study, a church member shared this doozy with me.
You see, the local church my family will probably join is between pastors at the moment and it’s been seven months. They have stalled in the search, basically taking the past seven months to write a church profile with only two salient facts in my view: low attendance (50-60 a Sunday) and minimal budget (somewhere around $150k a year).
But now, with only depressing effect, there’s this fact in the mix. Only one pastor is available for every five congregations looking for a pastor, or in need of a pastor.
I say, let’s honor the rumor and explore what it may mean. Like from a God’s eye view. For example, are we saying that God isn’t providing shepherds for His flocks? Seems unlikely. What are some other options?
One other option, possibly the only other option, is that the pastor-less churches aren’t churches.
What would that mean? What would we be saying if we concluded that four of five pastor-less churches aren’t “churches”?
I’ve been thinking about this question all week. And the answer, as I see it, is not as surprising as you might guess.
What does it mean that four of five pastor-less churches aren’t actually “churches”?
It means people aren’t religious anymore.
And that fact is not surprising at all. It’s quite mundane really. It’s not even embarrassing. It’s “just the way it is”.
Specifically though, or more acutely, it means that these pastor-less groups, are viewed by men like me (or men I went to seminary with) as uninterested in religion. Instead they’re interested in having their way all the time, and won’t be moved from their opinions.
In the particular church I have been attending, the head deacon was curious about my opinion on whether the flag could be placed back behind the pulpit in the sanctuary. It seems the previous pastor took it down as an early order of business during his tenure.
The point here is not, “What did you tell him, Pete? We are having the same debate.”
The point is, “What man on earth, let alone man of the cloth, man called by Almighty God to preach the Word, wants to debate sanctuary decorations?” That’s not a Christian church problem, that is a personality problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
Step 1 of problem solving, Air Force Officer Training School style: Recognize The Problem. The problem here is not a pastor shortage, the problem here is a truth shortage.
The God of the Bible, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe is not afraid to use unpleasant truths to accomplish His will.
The truth is these groups of people long ago stopped being Christian churches. Everyone with children left—that’s the first sign. But more than that, churches grow. They also convert people. If so-called “churches” aren’t growing and aren’t gaining new converts for years, they’re not churches. This isn’t the end of the world. It’s the truth.
In conclusion, don’t put out a “Pastor Wanted” sign if you’re not a church.
And if you’re not a church, then the only public action for your group is prayer. If the “church” won’t pray together, then you’ve learned all you need to know. 1. It’s definitely not a church and 2. your two options then are evangelize or leave.
I say, why not evangelize? Most people are horrible at it and you’ve at least got a ready audience.
As for me and my particular situation, I’m attempting to practice what I preach here. I’m sticking with these folks, who otherwise are not a church, because they’re a ready audience and they need Gospel as much as the next man.