I’ve heard that a minister can be fired from a church because some of his congregation doesn’t like what he has to say. Is this indeed true? Do congregations really fire their pastors, because they don’t like what he preaches?
Is there a union for ministers? Should we start one? If you are familiar with any of the great preachers of earlier times, could you imagine a congregation firing preachers such as George Whitefield, D. L. Moody, or Charles Spurgeon? Of course, these men were very special.
I recently read of a prominent pastor being fired for his problem with alcohol. I realize that we rarely, if ever, know the true details of issues such as these, but it makes one stop and ponder a few questions. Do modern congregations give second chances in incidents such as the one I mentioned?
On a different point, would a pastor be shown the door because he preached an old-fashioned “fire and brimstone” sermon? I can’t say that I am smart about circumstances such as this, hence perhaps, my reason for addressing it here. There have been moments when I have wondered what it would be like to be a minister for a church.
However, allow me for just a moment to recall a time much earlier in my life. I recall several instances while in high school when several of my teachers suggested that I consider “teaching” as a career. As one teacher, in particular, was speaking to me about it, I couldn’t help but turn and look out the windows; watching some teachers circling the sidewalk carrying signs. “Ah, I think I’ll pass!” I thought to myself.
Getting back to the present; should congregations have to listen to their pastor regardless of whether or not they agree with what he says? I say yes; I think they should, but my opinion won’t get us very far, will it? Is it not a pastor’s duty to preach the Word of God? If a minister of a church isn’t proclaiming God’s message, why is he there?
I recently read some findings shared by LifeWay Research that shed a sliver of light on what normally might likely never be discussed openly among congregations. Their research shows that nearly half of the ministers “who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help.” They went on to say, “Having clear documents, offering a sabbatical rest, and having people help with weighty counseling cases are key things experts tell us ought to be in place.”
Are the expectations of today’s congregations unrealistic? While the church has been around for over two thousand years, the pastors and priests have not. It must be obvious to many if not most, that quite a bit has changed; not only over the past 2,000 years but just within the past few decades.
Could the real problem be that some modern congregations have unwittily followed in the footsteps of big corporations and their profit-hungry search for efficiency and unrealistic expectations?
Unfortunately, today we live in a very unbalanced style of living and working. Honestly, just like the old proverbial question says, “which came first, the chicken or the egg,” I wonder here which negative lifestyle fostered the conditions of today. In other words, which came first, the unrealistic corporate values or the unrealistic values of the individual?
Many of today’s corporations seek to “squeeze” the life out of its employees. They demand that one’s productivity quadruple and that one does the work of at least two others, in addition to their own. Are modern congregations imposing the same expectations on their pastors?
Since I am not the pastor of a congregation, it would be silly of me to attempt to answer such questions. It is out of curiosity more or less, that I bring more attention to these matters. While I indeed feel that I have been called to share the Word of God, I don’t necessarily envision myself as a pastor to any particular congregation. This recent research by LifeWay has helped to reaffirm any hesitation I may have had about seeking and holding a pastoral position in a church.
Another major concern for pastors, according to the same report, is that search teams “didn’t accurately describe the church before their arrival.” Also, over 20% of pastors said that the church failed to maintain “clear documentation of the church’s expectations of it pastor.” Therefore, in light of such things, how could any pastor meet or exceed expectations of their congregation?
At this point, I will again pose the question, “should pastors form a union, provided one does not already exist?” While I can think of many reasons why a pastor of a congregation should be asked to move on, I can also think of many for him/her to maintain their post.
Should congregations be even attempting to change the ways of their pastor or would it be more prudent to say that a pastor should be changing the ways of his/her congregation? There will always be some sort of division I’m sure. I once heard somebody say, “If you have two people (in a work environment) who always agree, one of them is not needed.”
I simply propose here that perhaps there are too many people attempting to lead the church. Perhaps more people should allow their pastor to be the “bible specialist” that he/she is and allow them to rightfully lead their congregation.
Can a church be led by one minister? I imagine not. A church like any sizeable organization requires a team in order to be fruitful. Someone needs to be in charge of finances. Someone needs to be in charge of membership. Someone needs to be in charge of general church activities and I’m leaving out many more things that require special attention.
Can congregations allow their pastors to be in charge of expounding the Word of God? I’ve heard (true or not, I do not know) that there are some churches that even require their pastors to run their sermons (topics) and messages past a sort of committee prior to presenting them to the congregation as a whole. Is this truly what the church has come to in our modern era?
Over 50% of the pastors surveyed in this research said they not only “clashed over changes they proposed,” but also, that “they experienced a significant personal attack.” The report even went on to say that nearly half admitted that “their training didn’t prepare them to handle the people side of ministry.”
I am honestly shocked by the overall implications of this research. For nowhere can I find in the bible any passage where God tells us to, “proclaim the truth of the gospel unless somebody objects.”
If a pastor begins preaching anything contrary to the bible and continues to stray, then this is indeed a reason for a pastor to be let go. Unfortunately, I see that there are many today that do preach contrary to the bible and yet these pastors lead some very large congregations.
If there is some sort of immoral behavior that a pastor fails to remedy, here again, is a valid reason to dismiss them. But for any pastor to be shown the door simply because a few in the congregation don’t like what they’re hearing on Sunday morning is unthinkable.
No church should be a “one-man show.” But it seems to me that for everything expected from a pastor, there should be some sort of guarantee or safeguard to protect pastors from questionable dismissals. Perhaps the church might consider the ways of political appointments. How well would it work for both church and pastor should there be a time limit placed on their post?
For example, would it be unreasonable for church and pastor to agree to a four-year post? I am quite ignorant of the hiring practices of churches. Perhaps such arrangements already exist. However, from what I’ve heard in recent years, this isn’t the way it works. I certainly don’t agree with lifetime positions but I would also like to see those who exalt the true Word of God is safeguarded.
I should clarify here that I don’t mean to use the term “dismissal” so loosely as that in most cases, the reasons I shared above, are what causes many pastors to leave a church willingly, and move on to other endeavors. Many times they, unfortunately, leave the ministry altogether.
For myself, I had an uncle who had been in the ministry for quite some time. He eventually left it to sell cars. Since this occurred in my childhood, I obviously know nothing about his situation and reasons, nor do I recall ever asking. Although I do recall asking for a car. Obviously, ministry work is not for everyone. However, I believe there are many different ways a fruitful ministry can be conducted.
I enjoyed learning about this study by LifeWay Research. It was not my intent here to offer answers to any of the points I’ve mentioned but I do think it is a conversation that most if not all churches need to partake in.
©2016 Clayton Moore