Never Take a Job as a Pastor?

In the Vineyard, we have a relational-centric idea of authority. Well, ideally speaking, anyways. In that vein, Jac and I are starting to meet with the Bests and some other young leaders to bounce ideas off of each other, draw on the Bests’ experience in church planting and learn from each other in community.

There were a number of gems that came up last night, such as Gary saying that he doesn’t actually like the term “church planting,” although he hasn’t come up with a better one yet and he’ll keep using it until he does. We didn’t get into the why of that, but it was interesting to hear some of his process.

But here was the big one: Gary basically said, “don’t take a job as a pastor.” We were talking, of course, about being pastors. Thus far I’ve had the cliche attitude that, ‘I’ll do whatever God leads me to do.’ As far as pastoring was concerned, I thought that I would be just as happy planting a new church or coming on staff at an existing church. But after last night, I’m not so sure any more.

What would the attraction be of coming on staff at an existing church? Money and security, of course. But then you have to slog through the hell of trying to win spiritual authority with these people. You don’t know them, they don’t know you, and you have to earn their trust. This process will be very frustrating for everyone involved and ultimately won’t turn out that well in most cases. You’re going to be constantly faced with compromises in order to “win people over.” Blech. Of course, this wouldn’t apply in the same way if you actually became a pastor at a church that you’ve been a member of for some time. But that’s a whole other line of thought.

Planting a new church presents its own challenges, of course. You’ll need to get a job, as this fledgling community won’t have any money to pay you. You’ll be incredibly busy, but you’ll actually be involved in starting a community that won’t have nearly as many temptations to compromise. You’ll also establish early on that the church is about the whole community and not just about you as the pastor, because you’ll burn out otherwise. If the community grows to the point where it wants to pay you a salary to dedicate more time to it, so be it. If that never happens, cool. In either case, you’ve pioneered a community that didn’t demand that you check large chunks of your vision at the door.

Obviously this implies that I disagree with a pretty broad swath of how churches operate. I would like to add, however, that I’m not trying to assert my superiority over them. How to “do church” is never a concrete thing and I believe that God is at work in many churches that I would have a great deal of difficulty in being a part of. What I am asserting is that I have concluded that this is the path that I believe to be the best one. I believe that it best lines up with the priorities that I share with a large number of brothers and sisters that I hope to have the privilege of loving God and others with. I’m excited to be the church and to be a part of a community that stumbles into God’s kingdom in the particular context that He invites us into. It won’t be safe or easy, but I hope that it will be teeming with the reality of God’s kingdom.

3 responses to “Never Take a Job as a Pastor?”

  1. Hmmm, the thoughts make sense, but one also wants to believe that if God gives you a vision, that He is plenty big enough to accomplish that vision whether you have the battles prevalent in an existing church or the battles faced when planting a new church.

  2. Hey Bryan. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

    What you say rings true to me, and it’s why I used to think that I’d be OK with coming on staff somewhere. But I think that it might just be a blind cliche now. I’m not sure about anything here really, but I’m growing more certain that coming on staff at an existing church that I’m no part of is not something that I will do.

  3. As shepherds, we are called to look after and feed the flocks of the Lord… be it given to us (new church) or inherited (staff of existing church). Note that the flocks don’t belong to us, but to our Father in heaven to whom we are held accountable for their wellfare. In my oppinion, no matter which path you take, the challanges are bound to follow. I liked your original idea best, which lines up with Wimber’s comments… who said “I am loose change in your pocket Lord, spend me any way you desire”.

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