Thursday, October 29, 2009

95 Theses for the American Church, Part 4: The Pastorate

Day 4 in an annual reprint in anticipation of Reformation Day.

On the Pastorate in the American Church

58. The elders and pastors of the church, as ministers of the gospel, are charged by Jesus to feed the sheep.

59. The trend within the American church of orienting the worship gathering around seekers while simultaneously demanding sheep "self-feed" is therefore a sin in need of repentance.

60. Leaders in the church must watch their life and their doctrine closely.

61. Leaders in the church must not remove themselves from the community life of the church, as if they are somehow, by office or giftedness, above it.

62. The pastors of the churches in American have ceased serving as their church's resident theologian.

63. The qualities necessary for church leadership are clearly outlined in Scripture. These include self-control, ability to teach the Word, and gentleness.

64. The qualities most in demand in the American pastorate are frequently foreign to the qualities made most important in Scripture.

65. The professionalization of the pastorate is stunting the discipleship culture of the American Church. This is not to say that pastors should not receive pay for their service, only that the influence and predominance of professional business and marketing skills and "types" have overtaken the biblical office of church overseer so that the pastorate is more about management than it is about shepherding.

66. Churches should protect their pastor's livelihood and integrity by both providing for his needs and lovingly demanding he feed them the Word.

67. The pastors who direct the church are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

68. The pastor who preaches not the incarnate Word in the revealed word, who teaches the satisfaction of good works (or anything but Christ) is serving dishonorably.

69. If any pastor preaches no gospel or a different gospel, let him be accursed.

70. The American pastor must repent of ambition.

71. The American Church must repent of its idolization of the celebrity pastorate.

72. The American pastor is right to seek to contextualize the gospel, but he must repent of the idolization of innovation and technology.

73. The American pastor must pastor more than he programs.

74. The American pastor must trust the Spirit, not statistics.

75. The American pastor must repent of the idolization of numbers and results.

76. The American pastor must above all be faithful to Christ, passionate about the gospel clearly articulated, devoted to the Word and the sacraments, and motivated by what is right, not what is expected, popular, or even productive.

(Tomorrow: 19 theses on "purpose.")


mannaword said...

I just want you to know I check your blog now and again and am enjoying reading. I have not read all you have posted on this, so will do so in the next few days and then have something of content to say. I did, however, appreciate this list today. I will read the others in a day or so.

Rob said...

Hi Jared,

A good, thought-provoking series of posts here. #59 would appear to be a slap in the face for churches like Willow Creek, who said in their "Reveal" study that they realised one of their key mistakes was not helping people self-feed. Of course, I'm not trying to get you to diss Willow Creek – or any other particular local church – but just wanted to check whether I'm reading you right?



Jared said...

Rob, yes, I have grave concerns about the antidote my friends at Willow Creek are now promoting to cure the errors.

I honestly think Willow gets a lot more right than most places. :-/

I hear the self-feeding thing a lot, and it's usually from pastors too lazy to find the gospel in the texts and too proud to listen to the sincere concerns of mature believers in their congregation.

Most churches that function in this way are more like "conversion factories." We'll get you the entry ticket, they seem to say, but after that you're on your own. You are no longer useful to us; you're just in the way; this church is not for you.

That last one, of course, is something they actually say. I've heard preachers say it.

It's a shame.

I've written on self-feeding on this site a few times. A search for the phrase should bring some posts up. I find it disobedient to the repeated NT calls to feed the sheep.

Rob said...

Hi Jared,

Thanks for responding? I hear ya. However, to play devil's advocate a moment, surely it can't automatically be true that any church that encourages self-feeding is in disobedience? Isn't it legitimate for a church to try to teach its people to "self-feed" (for want of a better expression) to a certain extent, as well as being fed by the shepherd(s)? Mightn't this even be necessary in order to prevent the people from lazily relying on the pastor for all their sustenance rather than growing into mature disciples able to stand on their own two feet?


Jared said...

Yes, if we're talking about lazy people.

But the "Feed yourself" mantra is a catch-all. It is said from the pulpit to whole congregations. It is the standard posture of preachers who don't want to deal with concern about the food coming from the pulpit.

It's all backwards anyway, if you ask me. The seeker phenomenon puts Christian application out as the way to draw seekers and non-Christians, which is weird given that you'd think Christian application would be for Christians. And then nobody grows because nobody's getting the gospel or Scripture in context, etc.

It amounts to butts in seats many times. (I'm not talking out my own here :-), as I know from experience how it works and the reasoning behind it -- I did it myself.) And if you are preoccupied with butts in seats, you have no time or interest to grow people up. Therefore: "Feed yourself."

But that is not the community we see in the NT.

If you're asking about someone "owning their discipleship," sure I'm with you. (I'm writing a book right now about spiritual formation that can/should be read by individuals.) But I don't think many preachers are even thinking on that level. They just don't want to mess with discipleship or the versatility of the gospel in their sermons.

Discipleship isn't designed to be done alone anyway, though.

Rob said...


Thanks again for responding. I think I'm with you on all counts.