I love pastors. I was one for thirty years. But my heart goes out to them because most of them are wasting their lives. Let me tell you why.
Statistics show that some 85% of the churches in the U.S. are either on a plateau or are declining. Some of these churches can be turned around, but most of them can’t. From my 50+ years in active ministry, my guess is that 60-70% of pastors in the U.S. are pastoring churches that have no chance of long term survival. All these pastors are doing is wasting time. No real pastor was ever called to preside over a dying church. Even most of the disciples finally left the Jerusalem church.
There is a real disconnect between what so many pastors consider authentic ministry and what the Scriptures refer to as authentic. Jesus was clear – we are called to make disciples, not dish out pastoral care, which is what most pastors are doing.
So folks, I’m pleading with you. If you are the pastor of a dying church and all you are doing is administering pastoral care, abandon that sinking ship and set sail to participate in authentic ministry that makes disciples.
Now I know what the pushback will be – everyone deserves to be cared for. Sure, I get that, but I also get that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Great Commandment or the Great Commission. Dishing out pastoral care is not making disciples nor is it fulfilling the Great Commandment if it keeps healthy people from becoming productive disciples. Going to church and sitting in committees isn’t the gospel. Leaving worship, refusing to sit on committees, and taking the gospel to the surrounding area is the gospel.
I have a saying: “You can take care of people without transforming or discipling them; but you can’t transform or disciple people without first taking care of them.” So I’m not against taking care of people. What I’m against is doing everything for healthy people instead of following Eph. 4:1-12 and equipping them for the work of ministry.
Most people in established churches are left to rot spiritually while attending church on a regular basis. That is not what God intended. Period! Jesus said “go,” not “sit.” He said “be my witness,” not “listen to sermons and inspiring music.”
It’s time we take notice. We will all be held responsible for one thing – did we or did we not make disciples? It’s that simple if we are healthy people with all our faculties.
Question: How can a pastor who is used to spending his or her time simply caring for the church transition to making disciples as Jesus calls? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
This article must have been hearing my thoughts for at least 15 years. Thsnk you for saying what some clergy know to be true.
Why is it one or the other? Perhaps one can administer “dying church pastoral care” while also developing a completely parallel ministry reaching people in need….
That is hard to do. The writer even acknowledges it is possible but limited. I am trying to do that currently and I can tell you, it has come down to a choice. Pastoral care is very time demanding and real disciple making is also. Then of course there is family needs of the pastor and work. Most pastoral care situations are in churches were the pastor is bi-vocational. Most Christians in these churches were not discipled to do the ministry of the church and it is all about what the paid professional can do for me. It is not that I do not love them it is just that the world around the building is lost and dying and that is my call. Now I do think there are those called to pastoral care ministry but how do you get someone to come and work on little to no pay. I would be glad to share the money I receive that is called to that ministry. Just letme use the building for ministry and discipleship.
What would you say to someone who is starting the road to Pastoral ministry. I am currently in a dying church and this has been the first church I have ever been in like this. Would it be wise to try and stay after I get to the point of being a Pastor or would it be wise to call it what it is (based on the fact one the church is still open then and two that it is still dying).
Im not sure what you are saying. sounds as if you are preparing to be ordained? Either way, leaders always call it like it is. the first step to turning a church around is to get them to realize they are dying
Being part of the solution & putting every effort into breathing new life into the church. It’s bring people together & letting them know tjey are valued…that they are needed. Complacency is a lonely place to be life, let alone the church.
You rely on small group leaders and lay pastoral staff to meet the pastoral needs. The Senior Pastor (a misnomer) is responsible for making disciples. Pastoral care is part of that, but making disciples is the primary goal.
We are doing just this in Phoenix, Oregon- the challenge (hurdle, barrier) is that while the yearly impact of the ministry/mission be growing to exceed 2100 persons, those financially able to contribute/support has diminished to the point of insolvency-
The model of church that has prospered these past 75 years has been built on the premise ‘if you can afford a pastor then you deserve to have a pastor’: if not, well, lots of luck- our prayers are with you.
In pinning to have these two grow in tandem, be prepared and willing to seek alternated modes of financial support.
The book “Power Surge” states in clear terms how to move from a “membership” church model to a “discipleship” model. The membership model is often preoccupied with providing a broad age-level program focused on getting people to “join”, while at the same time spending great resources perpetuating a system of benefits and privileges to keep a consumer-minded congregation coming and giving. The discipleship model is intent on cultivating spiritually transformative and generative leadership that inspires Individuals not to “come and join”, but rather “go and serve”.
What about come and join AND go and serve?
It may be that those who leave are looking for a different message, one that spreads from the heart of the individual and is less about perpetuating the church.
I do not believe I am wasting my time as I offer spiritual direction in following the ways of Christmas in my pastoral care. I preach the good news and the pastoral care flows from how the Spirit has comforted, convicted and challenged folks to transform.
The real questions is when was the last time you lead someone to Chirst? After all that is what we are called to do
I served growing churches in every appointment I had because I encouraged the church to be open and accepting of new people. I got rid of church bosses, and put in three year rotation for all officers. I trained leaders to do the home work of running the church and thinking out of the box on how they should be ministering to each other and the community. I preached the old fashion UMC gospel of Spiritual growth. The last 25 years of my ministry was in the larger churches of the conference and my salary was larger than the bishops.
Oh dear. How out of touch you are with today’s chuches and today’s society. The last 25 years of my career? You wouldn’t last 2 weeks now.
There are sure a lot of “l’s” in this statement… And some bragging!!! I’d like to know what happened to the churches when you left to go on to the bigger church…
First of all there are 5 “Is” in the article. Secondly, I stayed at the same church for 24 years and didnt go on to a bigger church. Not sure where the bragging statement came from. Strange how people respond when their conscious is pricked
I think the “bragging” observation was leveled at the previous commenter (Tom Faggart), not at you, the author of the article.
Thanks for this voice of what I believe is an all-too-common reality.
They weren’t talking to you Bill. They were speaking to Mr. Faggrat above.
I just read this weekend that the problem is that Chritians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of aquariums. Attributed to Paul Harvey in Farr’s Renovate or Die. Powerful message here. Thank you for being daring enough to share it!
I consider my job as a pastor my tent making that allows me to make disciples. I am using the 3DM tools to make disciples. I am seeing people move from believers to becoming more like Jesus.
I love what Mike Breen of 3DM says: “If you make disciples, you will always get the church. If you build the church, you rarely get disciples.”
I must say that I never felt that holding the hand of a dying person was wasting my time. Being the in the emergency room when a parent lost a child in an automobile accident was the right, not the wrong place to be at that moment. Sitting with a family when the doctor came out of surgery and announced either “we got it all” or “I am afraid there is nothing else we can do” was not a mistake. From baby dedications to baptisms and weddings on through funerals and wakes, I never had the impression that God thought I was piddling away precious seconds when I could have been saving souls.
And yes, I taught the scriptures in the pulpit and the class room. I challenged folks with the notion that the true gospel very much comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. As a pastor I invited people to worship, to the mission field, to the joy of generosity, the burden of compassion, and the requirement of doing justice. I experienced a lot of things. I was hurt by some people and loved by others. I felt both frustration and elation -but never once felt that in extending care to others that I was wasting my time.
again, you miss the point of the article. whether or not we care for people isnt the issue. Spending all of our time taking care of people, changing their spiritual diapers, without equipping them to make disciples is the point of the article. Most pastors i know have never led a person to Christ. That, in my opinion, is sinful. Yes, we must care for people, especially those who cant care for themselves, but we should never keep healthy people dependent on us
Hard to believe you read my article that way. I held the hand of my wife as she took her last breadth. I know the importance of what you said more than you know. but i tell you, that is not what God calls pastors to spend all their ministry doing. That task is for chaplains, not pastors, and there is a difference. Read Eph. 4:11-12. My point was, too many of us spend our entire life doing for others what God intended for them to do for themselves.
“That task is for chaplains not pastors, and there is a difference.” Sometimes I hear my pastoral colleagues complain that they “don’t want to be a chaplain.” They think there has to be more to what they are supposed to do. There is. It’s called Word and Sacrament. When I was ordained, I was ordained into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. My primary purpose is to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. There can be plenty of talk about discipling people and helping them grow in faith, and that’s great and important and worthwhile. But the first step to doing so must be taking seriously our call to Word and Sacrament. I know too many pastors who don’t want to be chaplains but who also don’t want to be pastors. They aren’t reverent. They don’t seem to appreciate the power and mystery of what God is doing in worship. They don’t spend dedicated time on their sermons. They read the words of the liturgy during the meal as if they were reading a take-out menu. It doesn’t seem important to them – and therefore it’s not important to the people – and therefore Jesus is not important to the people. These pastors would be much better suited to be social workers or community organizers. That is where their gifts are. For those who still want to be pastors, I think that if they took seriously their call to Word and Sacrament, then the discipling of people would flow from that. Yes, give pastoral care. Yes, teach. Yes, encourage. But none of that is going to happen without Word and Sacrament. Christ is the center of who we are, and worship must be at the center of what we do. I think that if a pastor is proclaiming the Word and administering the Sacraments – whether the congregation is small or huge – that pastor is successful. Yes, numbers are important and they are easy to count (and easy to judge). But was the sower a failure or wasting his life when some of the seed fell on rocky soil or dry ground? No. The sower did his job. He cast out to the seed to all sorts of ground. In some places it took root, in others not so much. The “success” of the sower is not dependent upon the fruit produced by others. It’s dependent on the fruit he produces – and he did produce fruit. He did what he was supposed to do. He scattered the seed. It seems like far too many pastors are trying to judge their “success” based on numbers and what those around them are producing. If that were true, then only pastors of mega-churches and “celebrity” pastors would be successful. I can’t believe that “success” is only about numbers or that pastors in small congregations are not being faithful to their call. The church spreads around the world and has a God who has equipped all of us to be different, but still important, parts of the body of Christ. Is the knee not important because it’s not a hand? Is the spleen not important because it’s not a foot? Is the stomach not important because it’s not the mouth? Even the parts that seem unnoticed and unappreciated and a waste are still doing good and important and worthwhile work. Although I have times of self-doubt in my call (so this article was not that encouraging in an already difficult call), in the midst of it, I still trust that God is faithful and God can still use fragile, broken people like me to be the part of the body he needs – that part that proclaims the good news and administer sacraments. If the sower is scattering the seed, he is not a failure – regardless of what the garden looks like. This call is difficult enough as it is. We need more support and encouragement and appreciation – as do the people we serve. I think if people are reminded of that, and receive the good news through both their ears and their mouths through Word and Sacrament, then things will be much more positive.
Also, in reply to a comment further down on this page about the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling that he’s eating with tax collectors and sinners. He says to them, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” The answer, of course, is “None of us. We wouldn’t do that. We would just cut our losses and move on. Why risk leaving 99 alone to find 1 who is lost?” The Pharisees and the scribes would never do that, but Jesus did. Also, contrary to what the post given later says, there is no indication here that the 99 had been “equipped to take care of themselves.” Last I checked, sheep need a shepherd. They can’t take care of themselves. The scandal of the parable is not that the shepherd would leave the 99 to fend for themselves (as shocking as that is), but rather than the shepherd would do anything and everything to find the one that was lost. If you see yourself as one of the 99, then that shepherd sounds pretty stupid and seems like a failure (as the Pharisees and scribes thought Jesus was stupid). However, if you see yourself as the one who is lost (like the tax collectors and sinners), then the shepherd is seen as amazing and full of much needed grace and love for you. If we are focusing on numbers and counting, then this shepherd was a complete failure! Why focus on 1 when you can focus on 99 instead? But if we focus on grace and love, then the shepherd was a success – because grace is scandalous and life-changing. For some people, it turns their world around – and they don’t like it. For others, it turns their world around – and it gives them they new life they so desperately craved. Even the one matters to the shepherd. Even the small coin mattered to the woman. Even the younger son mattered to the father. Therefore, whether the flock that a pastor leads is small or big, if the pastor is feeding the sheep (with Word and Sacrament) – if that pastor is sharing God’s love and grace with them – then that pastor is very successful and is not wasting his or her life at all. Rather, that pastor is being faithful to God, and faithful to the call God has given them. Therefore, to all other pastors who are reading this, if that sounds like you, then thanks be to God for you! You are doing good work – and I appreciate it. I imagine the people you serve appreciate it too. Keep sharing the good news and administering the sacraments. You may not see the fruit right of your seed right away, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your life. You are doing what God has called you to do – and that is wonderful. Thank you for that!
You may *say* your point is that too many pastors do for others what God intended for them to do for themselves. But in the essay that point gets lost in your dismissive language and false dichotomy.
You wrote, “There is a real disconnect between what so many pastors consider authentic ministry and what the Scriptures refer to as authentic. Jesus was clear – we are called to make disciples, not dish out pastoral care, which is what most pastors are doing.”
Why the dichotomy between caring for people and doing the Great Commission? You imply that for a pastor, the former is secondary to the latter. Then you hedge and say you’re not against caring for people, just doing everything for them instead of equipping them for ministry. This is gibberish.
Yes, to “make” a disciple means first introducing them to the gospel. But I can make a baby and then let it starve to death. I’ve been an active Christian since I was introduced to Christ in the Southern California Jesus Movement in my teens. Evangelism was emphasized, and anyone who didn’t verbally “share Jesus” was suspected of not really being saved. As a result, no one oversaw my spiritual development, and I wandered through churches for 40 years — *never* being “pastored,” or as you put it, never having my spiritual diapers changed as I grew in Christ.
I’m so sorry that happened to you. It never should have. thats why my definition of disciple making is everything from spiritual conversations to maturity of Christ. You should never have been left to fend for yourself. I never mentioned evangelism or conversion. Those are just the beginning part of disciple making.
Love your neighbor as yourself, 2nd most important commandment–that is pastoral care. Very important. Disagree with your contention to not engage in p.c.
then you disagree with Scripture where it says you role is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Your attitude is what is killing the church. Consider this everyone: if the only person in a church is doing pastoral care how many people can one person really care for. Or if that one person trained 50 other people to give pastoral care how many people could that person care for? DO the math.
It is not that easy to “train 50 other people to give pastoral care”. This is a delicate skill, similar to the skill of a surgeon. It is the fruit of a lifetime of discipleship and wisdom. In the Orthodox church, we have a balance between caring, and teaching to live a disciplined life in Christ. St. John Chryostom once preached a 3 hour sermon to one person, discerning that this person was thirsty and ready. Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain used to say to his disciples who were clergy,”keep the store open.” If you read the “55 Maxims” by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko (recently reposed) you will see the balance that is the heart of Orthodoxy. By the way, the Orthodox church is growing, gaining converts annualy, by national record-keeping. ( you may be able to find statistics written last year by Anton Vrame, DMin). One of Fr. Hopko’s maxims: do not do for others what they are capable of doing for themselves.
it doesnt take much training to hold someones hand in the hospital and pray for them. I trained people to do that in two visits to the hospital. In the same way it doenst take much training to be a friend and listen and offer a prayer or two. Most of how pastors spend their time is doing such forms of ministry. With a year I had people doing the hospital and later on we had 90 Stephen Ministers who took on most if not all the one on one non-clinical counseling. I do believe in Fr. Hopko’s maxim.
Jesus discipled 13. What arrogance for us to think we can disciple more.
have you forgotten Jesus’s own words when he said “Greater things than i have done, you will do.”
Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.
Never ever underestimate the power of a Christian full of the Spirit.
Kai, Jesus discipled 13 … but the first church of 120 managed to mentor 3000. That’s 25 people per church member.
That’s not arrogance. That’s flat out reality.
Keep on pushing us, Bill! Your prophetic words continue to bless and challenge us. I am so blessed to be focused on disciple-making ministry and helping other pastors and churches to clarify that same focus. Not an easy journey in an institution that rewards people for “care-taking” of the comfortable instead of “risk-taking” to push us into uncomfortable challenges where Christ calls us to go and serve and change the world as we bring God’s realm a little closer into being, but a journey that makes every day worthwhile!
I’ve been reading your comments and I have to respond. I know each one of us is called to reach out and make disciples. I also affirm that we each are given spiritual gifts of which varies from person to person. The one you are describing is the gift do evangelism. We don’t all have that gift, but a person with a gift of compassion can spread the Gospel while listening and caring for a complete stranger. Another is the gift of encouragement, this person can tell about Jesus, all the while helping someone with decisions to make and so forth. They are all important, none is more important than the other. They all make up the Body of Christ…the eye is not more important than the ear, etc. To say a Pastor is wasting his/her time caring for others, does not align with what Jesus taught. He Is our Shepherd, isn’t that caring and nurturing. It’s working together…..I remember years ago when we were going to paint a church that was coming alive…one older gentleman in our church said, “I’m not able to go paint, but I can buy the paint.” To which I said, “My husband, two daughters and I are able to go and do the work”. I think that is what it’s all about…this little church had to get folding chairs for the aisles…Evangelism, yes! Encouragement, yes. Compassion, yes. Faith, yes. Disciples were being made right there in that community. Your spiritual gift must be a strong Evangelism and “preaching” more specific, not pastoring…I’m glad you’re there doing that part of the total Body of Christ. Again, it takes all parts, none being more important than the other.
“No real pastor was ever called to preside over a dying church”? Really? Doesn’t Jesus just say ” Feed my sheep”? Or does he add, but only if you are in a place where you can have success and glory? Humble faithful servants of God, leave now, your wasting your lives. What an awful discouragement to people put in the place to serve the “least of these.”
the parable of the sheep is misunderstood most of the time. We fail to forge that they shepherd left the flock to find the one lost sheep. thats make disciples. Now what most dont consider is How could the shepherd leave the sheep unattended? He had equipped them to take care of themselves. That is discipling the flock to care for itself. that is what pastors should do, instead of taking care of them they should be equipping them to do the work of ministry. Remember Eph. 4:11-12? taking care of people is not the goal of the Kingdom, it is making disciples who make disciples. Certainly people should be cared for, but that doesnt have much “go” in it as Jesus commanded.
I feel Bill’s choice of the word “preside” is a key here. Yes, we should feed the flock, we fail if we don’t. But feeding the flock is the respond to making disciples, not the forerunner. As we build a flock of true disciple-makers, we build a Body that cares for each other and feeds each other, daily. Read the response to Pentecost in Acts 2:42-47. Most of the work here after disciples had been made was done by the Body. The Apostles still preached and did amazing things, but the totality of ministry to the Body was done THROUGH the Body, not the Apostles. If a church leader–pastor, preacher, elder, Sunday school teacher, or even janitor–is satisfied with just maintaining the building and keeping the flock happy–presiding over it–then the flock will get fat and lazy and die in its green little pasture because it forgot to move. You’re idea is well taken. But even “the least of these” is required by God to rise up and do the work.
I am a pastor AND a chaplain.
I feel that caring for people and making disciples go hand in hand. Why not do both? Would Jesus want us to limit our ministry?
Of course not. The broken person that a chaplain consoles is often times changed because of whatever tradjedy has taken place. It is when folks are on their knees that they feel God’s conviction. Why not counsel them as chaplain, invite them to church, train them to be disciples and missionaries; whether their missionary goals be international or domestic?
So many pastors today are afraid to be a chaplain at the same time. Why? A shepherd doesn’t tend to half of his flock; he tends to them all.
the shepherd also leaves the flock to find the one lost sheep. The point isnt that people shouldnt be cared for. It is that its not the pastors job according to Eph. 4:11-12, its the pastors job to equip the saints to do that. The other point is that most pastors dont do any disciple making, they just care for what they have and that doesnt square with the “go” of Jesus last words.
Rev. Easum…It seems to me that you have been out of the pastoral ministry for too long… I remember hearing you talk and have read your writings and admired your vision but feel that now you are not unlike the administrative leaders of the church i.e. Superintendents, Bishops etc who lead from the outside and provide no tangible resources /support to the pastors in the trenches trying to pastor, disciple, care for and build the kingdom.. It is easier to write off and forget the struggling church, and condemn the pastors for not doing better, when in reality they are giving all they can to care for and make disciples of Christ. Rather than a voice of commendation how about words of practical wisdom, and prayerful support. Most pastors I believe strive to be faithful and fruitful day in and day out… The greatest waste of time for me was staying in the good grace of leadership and meeting their financial, and growth expectations.
wow, im just as much a maverick today as i was when pastoring. I havent changed. I said the same words when pastoring. I tried to go to lectionary study but got tired of the complaining because the Bishop didnt give them a better church. Anyone who knows me knows im not part of the establishment. But i dont believe for a minute that most pastors are fruitful.
Disciples make disciples.
Sheep become shepherds in the places they live- marketplaces, schools, neighborhoods, government arenas, etc. The pastor equips these disciple makers/ shepherds. Your article reminds me of Acts and the Pauline Epistles and the relational, empowering, “carrying Jesus everywhere to everyone you meet”- model!
Your ideas can convict and even rub our comfort zones wrong. Yes! God is alive, well, and the “Church”/ BOC is growing- growing as disciples and disciple making! Making disciples of ALL nations, in Jesus Name. This cannot be measured in our buildings, reports, etc. Not really!
The Church of Jesus Christ- His Body- His Kingdom expands….it is the truth of Isaiah 60:1-3! Yes! Time to return to our “First Love,” and passionately join Him in this transforming adventure of love! Joy!!! ❤️✝❤️
you are welcome
Lois, when my son was young I fed him. His meals were prepared and set for him to eat. As he is growing older I now expect more of him. He can make his own PB&J and more. When he leaves our home he will be making his own meals.
How long will we spoon feed our congregations milk and not expect them to grow to eat meat?
Even Jesus got disappointed with his disciples because they lacked spiritual maturity. See Mark 9 after Jesus’ transfiguration where he states, “Oh you unbelieving generation….”
And what of the disciple who wanted to bury his father first? Did Jesus have compassion for his family situation?
What Bill is referring to in the church is not about serving “the least of these” (not saying this shouldn’t happen) but it is about making disciples.
The church is more than a hospital for sinners it should also be a place where we train up physicians.
I believe the point is, if a congregation is always the patient and relies upon the pastor to do the work of what the whole Body is intended to do then it will die.
you got it
Not all of us will reap, some will plow, some will plant, some will water, some will pull the weeds, God will provide the Sonshine. Remember Jesus only had twelve disciples, most Rabbi of that day only had a few, not as many as twelve. In most cases, the disciples would follow their Rabbi for fifteen years before they were sent out. A church that is not growing in numbers, can be growing spiritually. Those people will then be witnesses, in the things they say, but even more in the things they do. They are planting the seeds and pulling the weeds, you may reap the harvest.
Bill, I can see what you are trying to say. I honor you for your passion and your boldness to share what is in your heart. It is obvious that you have many years of experience and have encountered much in life and ministry.
My concern with your article, is your title “Too Many Pastors Are Wasting Their Lives”. No level of pastoral ministry is ever a waste of time.
Again, thank you for sharing your heart. Although I don’t agree with everything you wrote, it definitely makes me take a second look at how I am doing ministry.
if it causes you to take another look at what you’re doing the article was worthwhile.
Yes, but there was more than just Jesus and the 12, After his death there were at least 500 other disciples and of them 120 in the upper room. Not bad for 3 years in the ministry. Somebody did something more than teach 12 men.
A congregation is a terrible thing to waste.
The problem is not in the “pastoring”–caring for the sheep, which IS biblical but is supposed to be done by the elders/bishops/shepherds/pastors/superintendents (see Acts 20). The person most of our churches refer to as “the pastor” should be an evangelist/preacher who leads out in answering the great commission, calling others to get involved in the process, not doing it for them. Notice the great command ISN’T to “go”–that’s a mistranslation of the Greek. It says, “As you are going”, or “since you are already out there, going”, it’s not an imperative. The command is “make disciples”, mathe-t-uo. THE TRUE PROBLEM LIES WITH WHOM WE THINK SHOULD ANSWER THAT CALL. When the church allowed a professional good-deed-doer to be in charge and to do all the work, we started to fade and become ineffective. The Body of believers are the ones that are out there everyday “going”; they should be making disciples every day, in every place, and in every possible setting. The church as we know it IS DEAD. A well-meaning but misguided bunch of professional church-business doers is simply dragging the corpse around and calling that movement. Not until the Body of Christ rises up to its calling to truly make disciples will this change. Pastors need to sit down, Christians need to get up and get going.
To some pastors, a Pastor is just a job. To others it is a calling.
Bill, I perceive that some of the respondents have profoundly misunderstood and profoundly distorted what you said in your blog. People distort what they hear when someone hits a raw nerve in them, and threatens and challenges their most highly prized assumptions and practices. Not once did you couch what you said in either/or terms, yet this is how some of the respondents heard and distorted what you said. The “chaplaincy” model of ministry is pervasive, alongside the “CEO” model for mega-churches. The prophets didn’t say, “Let pastoral care roll down like waters,” and neither did Jesus when he announced his mission, which was to restore Jubilee, a covenantal way of life that has not only spiritual but also economic, social, and political dimensions: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Authentic ministry occurs when we practice the holistic healing this passage implies, ministering in solidarity with the “poor in spirit” (e.g. providing pastoral care) as well as the economically and politically poor (disenfranchised people), and working collectively to reduce systemic oppression in its many faces – and especially recovering the ecclesial practice of justice-making as a theological and spiritual means of grace, as John Wesley intended. Finally, the church might go a long way toward redressing and rebalancing the pastoral care or chaplaincy model of ministry by spending time deliberating and discerning how to equip the people of God to collectively enact promises they made when baptized: “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” “Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?” The implications for ministry of this liturgy — not to mention Luke 4:18-19 — are stunning, and imply a radical way of life that counters the vicious racist, and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee attitudes that infect not only society but also the church itself. There are too many pastors who spend too much time seeking ways to rationalize and justify their lack of leadership in this regard.
It’s refreshing when i receive a thoughtful response like yours. Thank you for hearing through the noise.
I am a fairly new and young pastor, and this is a great article. I am left, however, with the question of how to transform the general thought of the congregation and its expectation of what their pastor’s job is. I completely understand propping up dying churches can be irrelevant, hindering, and causes burnout. But how do we shift the decades-old expectation of a pastor-dependent church? How does a solo pastor fix this in the midst of a retired, dying church? In a culture that just “wants to get back to the old way” of church when “people bring their children to church and we had a choir”? I feel as though I can preach discipleship until I am blue in the face and offer opportunities for parishioners to take responsibility for the growth of disciples and invest in the gospel, but if they still believe (and have for years) it’s my job to do all that, I am at a loss. I think it’s easier said than done. Logistics affect so more than mentioned. I completely understand the dire need to make disciples and not cater to a dying church. But that transformation is more than the pastor. It’s the culture, the generation, and the body of Christ that needs to shift as well.
I totally agree with you. Congregations have been coddled so long that all they know is taking care of them. How do you change that? You bring in enough new disciples that it changes the balance of power and hang on and dont blink and maybe, just maybe God will work a miracle.
Bill, I want to challenge you to rethink your article. If 85% of today’s churches are declining or in plateau, does an increase in numbers equate an increase in discipleship. Not necessarily. Disciple building may be very strong even in a church whose numbers don’t reflect growth.
I am a “real pastor” and have been for 27+ years. That is my calling from God and I am serving in the church to which God has called me. Will we increase in numbers? Most likely not. Will we teach the Jesus way and make disciples? Most certainly. I’m saddened that you would write “No real pastor was ever called to preside over a dying church.” By your words pastors in declining/dying churches are not “real pastors.” Seriously? You know the types of churches to which “real pastors” are called? Do you really know my calling? Surely increased numbers do not reflect that a church is growing spiritually or that it is building disciples.
According to you, the church I have served 17 years which is in plateau, perhaps declining, is a church I should promptly leave because I am wasting my time, and “wasting my life.” Yet our people are making a difference in our community. Many of our members are growing in their understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower. We partner with other churches throughout the state, nation, and world. We have nurtured those who have felt God calling them into fulltime Christian ministry and supported them as they live out that calling.
I may not be a “real pastor” by your definition. But I am far from wasting my time or wasting my life. That’s true for many of the pastors I know across several denominations.
Your article misses the point of what it means to be called by God and called by God to serve as a pastor. Challenge us to build disciples. But please don’t denigrate those of us who live out our calling from God in places God has called us to serve but you would have us to leave.
all i can say is my heart goes out to all the pastors who serve dying churches. I wish instead they would plant a healthy church.
Question: How can a pastor who is used to spending his or her time simply caring for the church transition to making disciples as Jesus calls?
This is a tough one, and may sound very non-pastoral, but…. I am in the midst of such a work of revitalizing a church – way more difficult than planting (which I have also been part of). It did involve very difficult decisions after a long time of caring for people, deciding who to keep pouring into when there is no evidence of change or desire to change. The future of the church, quite literally its continued existence demanded putting time, energy, and focus into people and lives and places that would bear fruit. I/we did not deliberately try to ignore or fail to care for people, but did have to prioritize. The constant care of perpetually immature believers can be a major reason the church is in need of revitalization. The turn around can be extremely hard and painful and slow, but the life that begins to come from it is amazing.
good question and you are working on it. The only thing i can say to you is keep your focus on the prize- expanding the Kingdom. Spend your time on those who have potential, train others to care for people, focus most of your time on reaching unchurched people and discipling those who respond
Dear Bill, for my clarification, what is your definition of “making disciples?” What do you mean when you say “disciple people?”
I answered this in another response, but here goes again. my making disciples, i mean everything from spiritual conversations to spiritual maturity in Christ. my definition of a disciple is Someone who believes in Jesus and whose beliefs inform and transform their. But this is far beyond pastoral care. Our 2016 Conferences across the country deal with Radical Disciple Making. you can read about at http://www.radicaldisciplemaking.com
And yet Jesus spent His whole ministry with only 12 men. The great commission is certainly go preach the Good news but it is also about Discipleship. Winning the miutitudes is not the only plan because converts need instruction.
No disagreement here, but “timing” matters. As an on fire, young pastor, I did not spend nearly the time cultivating trust in the context of pastoral care. I should have. Instead, I set about setting ministry goals for myself and others BEFORE they had come to trust me. I even had an older minister ask me in a loving, yet challenging sort of way, “What’s the rush? Are you planning on leaving (the church) soon?” In retrospect I can see my timing was off. My earnestness, and passion dominated everything. I nearly lost my family, and after only six years the challenge was too great for the church and the loud banging noise that was heard was the sound of the moving van doors slamming shut.
No pastor is called to simply be the chaplain for the church. But we are called to lead sheep, not drive cattle.
It’s not unclear by the many defensive responses by pastors here that we have a long way to go before we will measure our success by how many disciples are made.
I started my church-planting journey by reading your book Sacred Cues make Gourmet Burgers and I’ve been in trouble ever since! (But so many have encountered Christ!)
good on ya Jim. I was in trouble a lot also.
“Statistics show that some 85% of the churches in the U.S. are either on a plateau or are declining. Some of these churches can be turned around, but most of them can’t. From my 50+ years in active ministry, my guess is that 60-70% of pastors in the U.S. are pastoring churches that have no chance of long term survival.”
Yes, yes, and yes – although I would place the percentage of pastors in churches that have no chance of long term survival somewhere near 50% or lower.
There’s a reason I peg the number in that region.
First, a bit of background story: For the past 3+ years my colleagues and I have been conducting research into the distinctions between those pastors whom God seems to have naturally “hardwired” to lead turnaround churches (they are 10% to 15% of the population) from those who are not so hardwired. From those distinctions (we have identified seven which are statistically significant and statistically reliable and valid) we have developed a year-long professional development course.
What we’re finding is that approximately 50% of those who are not “turnaround pastors” can lead their plateaued or declining churches into renewal and conversion growth – if they implement the best practices and (this is key) endure the personal pain required of a change leader. The other 50% either won’t do the work (it is very difficult) or find that their churches refuse to change. But we have seen that many pastors enjoy the pleasure of leading churches into conversion growth for the first time in their lengthy ministry careers.
We’re planning a follow-up longitudinal study (three years) to nail down the percentage of those who move from being “non turnaround” to “turnaround” but at this point the anecdotal information is encouraging.
Sorry for that long “advertisement.” I did not set out to write such a self-serving comment. So let me loop back to my original intent and say – ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON, BILL – but there is emerging hope that we can carve these numbers down…
Im all for hope. keep up the good work
How? If we’re one of those pastors in one of those churches, how?
start having spiritual conversations with outside the church. Focus on them more than those inside and train members to be the priesthood. a place to start
I agree with Bill’s assessment. His data is on target, but I wonder how many of those churches can be turned around? This question led some colleagues and me to do a study of pastors who have turned around plateaued or declining churches. We now have a reliable set of data that describes a turnaround pastor. Only about 10% of pastors fit this profile “naturally.” We believe many pastors can be coached to turn around churches. If we only could help 40% of them, that would be a huge win for the Body of Christ in North America! Our findings will be published in early summer in a book called, “Pastor Unique: Becoming a Turnaround Leader.” I hope this post does not come off as shameless marketing. I mean it to inspire hope. We can’t plant churches fast enough to meet the need in North America. We have to find ways to come alongside struggling churches and pastors.
i hope you succeed. its tough work
The point is not to avoid care taking, the point is that we are to be doing the “5-fold ministry” -which is “to PREPARE God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may up…” Too many pastors take on the role of ‘doing’ ministry, above the command of ‘training others to do.’ Priorities!
I did a sermon once on the 5-fold ministry. I made people respond to definitions by hand, if the description sounded like them; However I did not give them the terms (Apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher), or read the scripture until after the responses. 20 out of around 85 raised their hands for the description about pastors. They wanted to backtrack later because they didn’t “feel qualified,” once I told them the roles/titles. They only needed taught how to pray with others. God has given the church all it needs, we just need to tap it and “prepare” them.
you got it . thanks
Bill, show a little pastoral care to these pastoral leaders. You come right out if the shoot defending your position against pastor who made him/herself vulnerable by talking about holding a dying person’s hand. I have led many people to Christ, empowered others to go and do likewise. Or I should say the Holy Spirit and a bunch of good people did. You are skilled but don’t put having to be “right” in front of other things. We all need to do justice, love mercy, and walk HUMBLY.
Former Austin, Texas Street cop
My friend, 85% of the churches in the U.S. are dying. We cant continue playing the fiddle while Rome burns. Whereas I feel for such pastors, i cant have sympathy for them. Too much is at stake. Pastors who play “pastor fetch” are killing the church and robbing the people of the joy of being disciples.
What I read here is that members of “dying ” churches aren’t important enough to be pastored. I’m so glad I wasn’t in any one of your churches. Only the important people were worth your time how unchristian is that?
Jana, you have a real problem if you heard me say that. Nothing could be farther from the truth and I feel for you. How unChristian of you to condemn me that way. Any objective person wouldnt heard me say what you said i said. For the record what i said was it is pastoral care is more the responsibility of the pastor. Shame on you. Ill pray for you.
I get what Bill is saying. I have been ordained for 28 years and served at larger churches and currently at a smaller church. Much of the “pastoral care” I am asked to give these days is a kind of comfort people could get from a Christian friend/fellowship — someone who can remind them who they are in God’s eyes, offer prayer, remind them of God’s love and they are not alone. Yes it’s fine that they long for the presence of the church, but I am not the only presence of the church. It too often feels like all they really want is bragging rights that the priest paid attention to them. The generation that doesn’t understand the idea of discipleship is missing out on the strength God has available to them. It’s not so easy to change their notions of ministry and pastoring. When I try to educate them about discipleship my words get twisted and they get offended that they aren’t worthy of my attention or I’m trying to get out of doing my “job.” Bruce’s examples of pastoral care make sense to me — incidents of life or death call for sacraments and as an Episcopalian, my priestly role is uniquely needed. But really, wouldn’t it be awesome if every member of our church was recognized as being the hands and heart of Christ in the community? What if we really were equal in each other’s eyes?
Right on my brother. the priesthood of the believer is a beautiful thing when it happens
I appreciated this article.Sometimes we glorify pastors with long tenures and criticize those who were pushed out as they tried to become change agents. But some (only some!) who have stayed at a church for a long time have accomplished that goal by playing it safe and being a mere chaplain. To be fair, some who have been forced to fight or leave have only their poor people skills to blame. But if it is a fair choice, I would rather take the risk of leading a church toward effective evangelism and discipleship then wasting my life in pleasing people and maintaining the status quo. If that results in being forced to move to another field, great. Maybe it will be the setting for a bigger harvest. As to disciple making or pastoral care, I think we all know that both are needed. But care must be provided in a disciple-making system or we will never bring people to real health.
(One more thought… Could this blog utilize a font that is easier to read?)
My father who passed away 5 months ago dedicated his life to dying churches. He went everywhere and felt his calling was to help those who where in need of leadership We never stayed any length of time at one church because he was a master shepherd. Sheep will only follow the shepherds voices yet the shepherd has to gain the trust of the sheep. When he does they will only listen to him. When the shepherd has to move on he trains a new one in his place and makes sure the sheep are safe. When they are they move on, in my dad’s case to the next flock.
In my opinion all these mega churches, modern churches, politically correct churches are not concerned about the gospel but about the perception of the world. My Dad could care less what the world thought. I inherited that from my Dad I just wish I could have inherited his patience and love for the idiots of this world.
Count all the numbers you want I did. I didn’t agree with a lot of what my dad did thought he was wasting his time. However after his death I was amaze by how many little insignificant things he did that changed people lives. You can be the pastor rock star at a mega church and only know a 1/4 of you parishioners if that. Or you can be like my dad minister, love and help and now he’s sitting in heaven talking to God about how lives are changed, how hard it was and if I know him asking to go back again and work some more.
blessings to your Dad. You are a fortunate person to have such good memories. Just one thing. i didnt mention mega churches.
Mr. Easy seems to be a major compassion, but only here in the comments. His words in the original article are, when they are boiled down, harsh and judgmental. What I got out of it was this: Let those people (the eternal epithet, “those people “) fend for themselves. You should be out doing something else. Ptttthhh.
wow, cant believe you got that out of that article. you couldn’t feel my heart going out to pastors who spin their wheels never to achieve what God intended for them to achieve, namely the great Commission? Im shocked. On top of that i never said “fend for themleves.” Again Im shocked you got that out of the article.
I agree with the idea that the typical “visitation” form of pastoral care of members is something that hinders pastors from fulfilling the mission of the Church. If that is something important to a particular congregation, that duty can be primarily assigned to a team of church members. However, I take issue with Easum’s idea that “going to church” is somewhat superfluous. This certainly does not ring true in the Wesleyan tradition. It is in the primary weekly service of Christian worship — centered in constant Word AND constant Sacrament (both every Sunday) — where we most constantly and powerfully encounter the presence and transforming power of God-in-Christ. This is where pastors can be most fruitful in renewing the life of their local churches: implementing continuous transformational worship practices that lead to disciple-making. It is in the primary service of Christian worship where disciples are made, strengthened, and impelled into Kingdom mission. In the Wesleyan tradition, Christians are called to fervently practice Works of Piety (practices that connect us with God) in order to be empowered to practices Works of Mercy (practices that connect us with other people). When we attempt to engage in the Works of Mercy without a constant practice of the Works of Piety, we fruitlessly engage in an anthropocentric endeavor, i.e., without the power of God. This is where the UMC has been falling short for so long. With the best of intentions, we have tried so hard to practice Wesley’s first two General Rules without fully practicing the third. The third is the key to the success of the first two. It is our constant practice of Works of Piety, especially through our continuous exposure to Word AND Sacrament (both, at least, every Sunday in worship), that enables and drives us to effectively practice Works of Mercy. This is the key to our recovery of Acts 2 Church mission. It is what drove the Methodist-Evangelical Revival.
JOE, not sure where you got the idea that attending worship is superfluous. I have never said that. but what i have said is that if all a person does is go to church they never mature as a disciple. And you brought up the Wesleyan heritage. the genius of the Wesleyan movement was the class meeting which is where disciple making took place.
I have just read this book: Autopsy of a Deceased Church
One of the things that struck me in this book is that churches that have died have all turned the “Great Commission” into the “Great Omission”. Rainer says, “Members of the dying church weren’t willing to go into the community to reach and minister to people. They weren’t willing to invite their unchurched friends and relatives. They weren’t willing to expend the funds necessary for a vibrant outreach. They just wanted it to happen. Without prayer. Without sacrifice. Without hard work. But here’s the bigger issue. Even if the church began to grow on its own, the members of the dying church would only accept the growth if the new members were like them and if the church would continue to “do church” they way they wanted it.”
This also reminds me of something that I heard many years ago at a Presbyterian Redevelopment Conference. “If your church closed tomorrow, who in the community would even notice? Who would miss you?”
Im wondering if you heard those words from me because i have been asking that question for decades. Yes a disciple is one who makes disciples and that says a lot about most church members.
[…] Most churches are not growing. Membership decline has been the reality in most of our churches and denominations for as long as I’ve been in ministry. There is no shortage of anger and guilt among the remaining church members and their leaders over that fact. People like Bill Easum go so far as to assert that pastors of churches that aren’t growing are “wasting their lives.” […]
It has been too long since I’ve weighed in on any of your posts. I’ve been silently lurking here for years. But I’ve just grown increasingly frustrated by what we all pass off as “the church.”
This article seems to be a summary of the work we all discussed with you back in 1999-2000 that ended up being your Wormhole book.
And now…all these years later, what has changed? After you cried out so passionately that the emperor is naked, how few have listened.
And yet, I have hope. I truly do.
Thank you for still being a voice crying out in the wilderness.
You are a blessing!
thanks for the kind words. Have heart, there are the beginnings of a movement underfoot called Exponential.org. check it out. Church planting is blossoming all over the country. But not in mainline, they are mostly becoming irrelevant and that pains me so much
If pastors would only folllow Matthew 28:19-18 and Ephesians 4:1-12 then the church would be healthy, vibrant and impactful. Pastors would not be suffering from burnout, stress and other unheallthy issues. In addition, their congregations would understand that ministry is not just in the confines of the walls of the church but is lived out in their daily lives. Ministry is not nor has it ever been about programs and entertainment but about service and making a difference in the world in which we live -home, school, business, etc. The church is us not a building. We are called to be ministers that is servants and to be evangelists and that is to tell others of the good news. When we follow what God has given and not our own devices then we will begin to see a difference not only in pastoring but in the church and our communities.
If pastors will make and teach more disciples then there will be many more who can care for the needs around us even in the early church people were given different duties so as the pastors / preachers didn’t become over loaded and taken away from there first calling “go ye therefore an make disciples” , pastors sometimes get it in there heads that it’s there church, Wrong, it’s the church of Jesus Christ, your all servants of the living God , so do your job and move over and let the congregation help fill the rest and use our gifts. I’m a prayer warrior so let me know how I can pray for you, you don’t need to do all the praying , We are all called to something help us be the best we can be and we’ll make your job lighter. Amen ,AMEN
thank you for the offer to pray. I cant get enough prayer coming my way. if you want to pray for me pray that God will give me the strength to make all the Conferences we have planned for 2016 on Radical Disciple Making http://www.radicaldisciplemaking.com
I pastor a small rural congregation that is strong and for the most part, positive in their desires to grow and go out and make disciples. They are hungry to learn, listen and grow, willing and able to do the work. That being said, the process they use to do anything with their need to have the board approve everything I do so that we can initiate projects to go out takes so long that the energy wears down waiting for the board! Yes, first and foremost they should be going out on their own as I am teaching and encouraging them to do, and I know some are. My desire is that the whole flock be out and displaying their discipleship working for the kingdom as their way of life. I can say that I do see this growth happening with my flock. It’s slow and its positive. I do my share of pastoral care to my whole flock as well as the needs arise. My focus is helping grow my flock, feeding and nurturing them, present design so that we work as a team to grow the church, and nurture them as we travel our journey. In a town of 508 it is hard to grow, and plenty of room for discipleship work with pastoral care. I am proud of my congregation for being open to learn and accept change willing to be and are the hands and feet of Christ in our community. We press on with Christ!
the issue isnt growth. Some churches cant grow numerically, but all churches can make disciples and help disciples mature. One way to destroy your board, and you need to, is to get the disciples doing what disciples are suppose to do – go out of the church to share the light of Christ. Once they do that they wont want to sit on a board.
The pastor is called to equip (give resources, instructions and help) and edify (to encourage, suggest, comfort and challenge) the people to do the work of the ministry. Every pulpit message/Bible study, etc. needs to perpetrate that phylosophy. The pastor must give ministry away to God’s people to do. There also needs to be opportunities presented for people to be involved. “We are blessed to be a blessing!” Some old ideas about pastoral ministry need to be dealt with. The church must understand Eph. 4:11,12. It takes time to develop a congregation into that thinking. We are starting to see it after 5 years. People must trust you big time.
you are so right on target. Keep up the good work
I’m not sure I’m understanding this article correctly. A few questions: What is your definition of disciples? Aren’t all Christ followers to take part in the great commission, not just pastors/elders? Why do you think that it is wasted time to take care of God’s people? Isn’t that what all Christians are called to do? What is your definition of a dying church? Why have you only taken one passage of scripture to prove your point, but left out all of God’s word that tells what a pastor/elder is called to do, say in I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus and other places in the Bible? I feel your frustration, but in a true church, no matter how large or small, people are being taught the whole council of God’s Word and are excited to share with others how Jesus has changed their lives and what they are learning about God through the scriptures. I agree that most “pastor’s” in America are wasting their time and other people’s time for that matter. They have not been teaching a true gospel message for decades. You have people trusting in their baptism, a prayer that was repeated once, their charitable works, church attendance, family association in the church and so on and so on, but have never had a true conversion. They are not trusting in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross. Ask 85% of church goers why they think if they died today that they would spend eternity in heaven and they would not mention Jesus’ name at all. I know there is a problem in today’s “churches”, but pastor’s abandoning their congregations, their church, the bride of Christ, is not the answer!
My definition of a disciple is “Someone who believes in Jesus and whose beliefs inform and transform their behavior.” and yes all of us are suppose to take part in the great commission so you just made my point. I didnt say it is a waste of time to take care of people, its just not the pastors job, its the job of the Priesthood of believers. Keep in mind that the Shepherd left the flock to find the one lost sheep. The only way he could leave is if he had trained the people to care for themselves.. Also, i said many times, you can take care of people and not transform them but you cant transform them without taking care of them. The people care for one another and the pastor/shepherd goes after the lost sheep. Jesus dying words were not take care of the flock but go make disciples. Hope this helps
I think this is too black and white.
Jesus is more concerned for who WE are more than what we do.
When we ARE found in him,…we will bear fruit. No?
Think about mother theresa…an extreme example for sure,…but she cared for people who would NEVER give back nor possibly even accept Christ.
The Desciples “appointed” others to take care of the needy and routine business of the congregations. A pastor’s job is to preach, and make more followers. Kudos to this writer.
How does He say to make disciples? By baptizing them. How many “pastors” don’t think baptism is necessary? Maybe we should discuss how we make disciples, because I’m tired of hearing people say we become a disciple when we “accept Jesus into our heart” or when we repeat a prayer that is not in the Bible.
that is the subject of our 2016 Conferences all over the country. you can find the info here. http://www.radicaldisciplemaking.com
In a nutshell disciple making involves everything from spiritual conversations to maturity. Most disciple making involves mentoring, transformational small groups, doing ministry and being evaluated, formal training usually done in the local church.
Making disciples is not informational; it is behavioral modification – putting the word into practice.
The only pastor wasting his life is the one writing this sort of refuse instead of proclaiming the unconditional forgiving love of God in Christ Jesus in word and sacrement not withstanding the viability of the venue. How sad that quantity seems to be the measure of ministry for so many in ministry.
Lutherans believe in the priesthood of all believers where all children of God have ministry of Christ as their call. This includes evangelism. Why do you believe that only pastors can bring people to Christ?
I didnt say that. I said it is their job and as they do it the priesthood might follow. If the pastor doesnt the lay people wont. The churches that are growing leaps and bounds are doing so because the laity are taking their faith to the streets. Ive been in dozens of Lutheran churches of all stripes and i’m yet to see the priesthood doing evangelism. It’s simply not in the Luther tradition or mission. You’re an immigrant church that has not yet figured out how or why to do evangelism. I dont mean to be critical but that is what many Lutheran pastors have told me.
Christ said to disciple all people by baptizing and teaching. But He also said, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” These might not co-exist strongly in all settings, but both are the work of the Church.
Yes, the are but they arent with most pastors because they spend 99% of their time on the congregation and not the unchurched. That was my point.
Interesting post, Bill. May have written myself as it expresses my own thoughts, and experiences, so accurately. As a retired UMC elder, my own sense has been that we now have a few churches, many chapels, and mostly clubs trading on the same brand name of Church. Any church doing other than what Jesus would do is actually wasting its precious time that they will never get back again. I have often lamented that pastor-killing churches and church-killing pastors so seldom find each other. They should. Otherwise, it would be best for churches to receive pastors and vice versa while chapels receive chaplains and clubs receive, well, those who rarely serve EITHER to afflict the comfortable OR even comfort the afflicted.
I am conflicted. On the one hand, I understand and even agree with the author’s reflections on pastoral care and discipleship, but the two do not have to be mutually exclusive, nor is it mutually exclusive for me to be inspired by music and worship and then live into that inspiration by being a disciple of Christ when I go forth. Of course the church needs to participate in the life of its community – of course its members need to go forth as disciples and work hard to make a difference and help people see a shining example of following Christ – but isn’t caring for those in need a part of that? How can we be good examples of Christ-followers if we do not care for those in need?
You missed my point. To many pastors never get beyond pastoral care. 99% of their efforts are focused on their congregations. I cant tell you how many churches ive consulted with where the pastor has never responded to a first time visitor even though they signed in during worship.
[…] First Bill Easum said that pastors of churches that aren’t growing are wasting their lives. […]
[…] Easum expounds on the matter in his blog post, Too Many Pastors Are Wasting Their Lives. Click here for this quick read and join the […]
Over the last few decades people have been getting prophetic words, visions and dreams about the reformation of the church. – especially western-style Christian churches.
I too, received a dream about how God is bringing down the modern church with its corporate structures and man-made systems and raising a vibrant, active body that can flow freely with the wind of the Spirit.
Marc Lawson shares an uncannily similar dream to mine:
I would like to respond to this article with a poem:
As a long time pastor I’d like to take my stance
I feel this article needs a bit more balance
Some are called to stay, while some travel afar
Some serve in the local church, and some in Africa
Quoting numbers and stats sometimes hurt
For they imply Christ is failing to build His church
But we know Christ will do exactly what He said
And will add to His body, for He is the Head
Is this pastor productive or is he wasting his time?
Is this church dead or is it alive?
Sometimes we think we’ve figured it out
And we spout off our opinions without any doubt
Yet our judgments are skewed by eyes of flesh
And the things of this life, only God can properly assess
I’m not saying this article is all wrong
I agree that many saints have been sitting for far too long
They need to get their butts out of the pews
They need to make a disciples, that much is true
But I’m not comfortable with you waving a sign
Stating that a high percentage of pastors are wasting their time
For that can’t be true of Pastor John, Roy or Todd
If they are actually fulfilling the will of God
Isn’t that the test of a man’s ministry?
If he’s serving where the Lord wants him to be?
With one last thought I’d like to finish
Little is much when God is in it
So in this fact let the servant of God rest
God knows what is failure from what is success
Remember 1 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse five?
We are to judge nothing (completely) before the time (the day of final assessment by God Himself).
Judging and speaking are t the same thing.
Dear brother Bill,
You do understand that I was trying to inject a bit of “humor” into this discussion via the poem I wrote. I meant no offense by it, and I do agree with your overall premise that many churches are like the dead sea, always taking in but never putting out in terms of actual evangelistic oriented service. But not all churches are like this, and we must caution against making blanket statements in our attempt to address legitimate issues. There are some ministries that may not outwardly appear to be worthy of continuance but are indeed critical and praiseworthy works. Of course, only God can make this assessment with absolute accuracy. I ended my poem with 1 Corinthians 4:5, which warns against “fully” and “completely” judging matters unto the Lord weighs in the affairs of this life. You responded by stating that “judging and speaking are the same thing.” Perhaps I don’t understand what you are saying, but I totally disagree with that comment. How can judging and speaking be the same thing? In fact, this is exactly what Paul warns against. He was saying that we need to be very careful in our assessment of matters, for our judgments are frequently skewed by our lack of understanding, or by our lack of knowledge, or by the fleshly impulses that will yet plague us until the resurrection strips every ounce of depravity from our being, etc. That’s what the text says: JUDGE NOTHING [completely, totally, absolutely] BEFORE THE TIME. It obviously doesn’t mean we aren’t to exercise good judgment based on the clear teachings of the Word of God, but it does warn us against the spirit of assertive dogmatism that is frequently fueled by pride and based in insufficient criteria. Anyways, I do find your article quite interesting and stimulating, although I feel it needs a bit more balance to it.
May the Lord bless you in all you do for Him and His kingdom. Thanks for getting us thinking about the
important and critical work of evangelism.
What you say resonates with me – Thanks!! I have made a decision, to burn every bit of paper that crosses my desk (after giving it a brief scan to see if there is anything in it to do with PEOPLE!). Jesus was totally under resourced (in human terms) yet he started a global movement. How? My reading is that he did it by: talking to His Father about people and then talking to people about His Father – I realise some “admin” and organisation of time is called for but the mainstream church in the west seems to have got it totally out of balance…
My concern is that my pastor has been gone for about two and a half months this year alone. I suspect that when this happens a pastor Ihas already made the decision to leave. I am afraid if I bring this up it won’t be well received. Nobody seems to want to discuss this. These are brothers and sisters that I love. We have found another church that really strives to make disciples. It is local and we get challenged with the gospel. My question is, when to leave and how to do it in a loving way?
Kris and I did a Church-Talk video on leaving a church that you might find helpful.
How to Leave a Church
Here are some additional points:
If you’re not being blessed by the church, you will not be a blessing to the church. In those cases, it’s time to leave. But do so by slipping beneath the surface so quietly and carefully that you leave not a ripple in the fabric of the church.
[…] indicate church membership across the U.S. has dropped 15% over the last 10 years, with nearly 85% of U.S. churches either declining or have plateaued. In my own denomination alone, total membership is down nearly […]
Bless You, I enjoyed this read and some of the comments that have been made. I agree with making disciples vs caring for those who can definitely care for themselves. However, I also believe that there should be a balance concerning caring and building disciples. The Bible says in John 21:17 if you love me feed my sheep, this can be a form of caring or should I say the right type of caring that God approves. To be honest because of the type of heart that I have I do go above and beyond caring for God’s people to the point I subconsciously forget the purpose as to why he called me and that is to make disciples. I believe every good pastor called or have accepted the call have the mindset to build disciples. However once they see the people coming in and people join I think we as Pastors go from a leadership mindset to a fatherhood mindset and feel like we have to care for everybody as if they were our own little children and that’s not the case. For we are all God’s Children that many have been called and few has been Chosen to fulfill the Great Commission that souls may be saved and disciples sent out.
[…] think back 30 years. Much has changed since then, but has your church changed at all? A shocking 85% of US churches are either declining or plateauing. A large part of this is the need for churches to adapt to a […]