Helping a Pastor Friend


This last Sunday morning I had the privilege of filling the pulpit for a pastor friend of mine who is really going through some deep struggles in his attempt to move his congregation beyond the four walls of their building in order for them to engage their neighborhood incarnationally with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The success of his endeavor so far is best minimal.

Once more I found myself with a group of people who have been conditioned to the idea that the pastor is their hired servant that cares for their every need — physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s what many within the emergent church are calling the “Pastoral Church.”

Mike McNichols has written a wonderful article Abandoning the Pastoral Church.

He begins with a quote from a Jurgen Moltmann lecture:
If Christianity is to become aware of what it is, we must abandon the pastoral church which takes care of people, which is the usual form of the Western church. Instead, we have to call to life a Christian community church. Either we set about this church reform by ourselves, or it will be forced on us by the loss of church members. (The Source of Life, p. 96)

The church I spoke at along with many struggling congregations would do well to heed these words.

This realization came to me as I witnessed this congregation struggle through their prayer time by asking for requests. As I recall there were somewhere between twelve to fifteen requests voiced by the congregants, and all of them focused on someone’s physical need; both individuals present and those that were absent. Not one request involved anyone in their sphere of influence who might be in need of salvation. What a tragedy.

Here I was once again in midst of a group of dear Christian people who had forgotten how to get beyond themselves. More concerned with Aunt Martha hangnail than the lostness of their friends and neighbors. Yes, as I spoke, I graciously drew their attention to this deficit. But what is alarming, is the propensity of many of us within the confines of the western church, with the very same mindset. But what the heck, its the pastor’s job do that — isn’t it.

In this case, it occurs within a congregation whose primary mission is to keep the building open so they have a place to gather on Sunday mornings. Never mind that they lack the financial resources to pay the pastor adequately or keep the heat on in the winter. Just so long as they have a place to gather in order to focus on their own physical and personal needs, and of course have the pastor take care of them.

I just wonder what would happen (what God would do) if they begin to pray for the lost and engage their community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will probably never know. I left Sunday morning with a fresh impetus to pray for my friend who pastors this difficult congregation and yes, the congregation too.

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One Response

  1. Wow. Tough road for this man. Honestly, I question whether or not even the loss of massive numbers of members will be enough to move the “Pastoral Church” in the missional direction. Especially if the “traditional” churches are getting so small already. We could only hope.

    Where’s my hyper-links?

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