What good is a pastor?
When I asked the question the other day about big gatherings, Brian told me I’m putting my job on the line. If the church stops putting all its energy into the big gatherings that feature the pastor as the main event, what good is a pastor? I think this is a great question. The dominant story for me this past year has been the one in which Jesus told a couple of brothers, fishermen, to follow him. They dropped their nets (their livelihood) and followed him. Jesus did the same with a tax collector, who no doubt was making pretty good money. What if Jesus turned to a pastor like me and said, “Leave the paycheck and the church and follow me”? Would I? I hope that question answers itself. How much better off would we be if every pastor got off the professional track and stopped worrying about the paycheck. I think there will always be a role for a different kind of pastor, though. In the early days of the church, there were no Sunday services as we know them now. People met in living rooms, in circles rather than in rows, and yet some were still supported financially for the work they did in ministry. They had to get creative sometimes and find supplemental income elsewhere, but some were evidently paid a bit more for the type of work they did (1 Timothy 5:17). It wasn’t a career track, but we all have to eat. It’s not bad to be paid by a church, but it can never become the driving force behind what you do. Today, I hope churches will look around at the money they’re spending on buildings and big meetings and begin to ask some serious questions. I hope pastors like me will be the biggest questioners, even if it costs them. Maybe churches will continue with the big meetings, maybe not, maybe less often. But they at least have to ask the question. I also hope a new type of pastor begins to emerge, one who is less the institutional maintenance person and more of what Reggie McNeal calls an apostolic leader, one whose core competency isn’t working within the church, but “outside the church in the world that is not part of the church culture”; one who is less involved with satisfying the internal needs of the institution, but is focused on taking the kingdom beyond the walls and meetings of the church.