Pastoral Migration or Exodus?

I am trying to discern and see whether we are facing a pastoral migration or a pastoral exodus as we move into the fall of 2021. Now we have been expecting a bit of a migration because there was a lot less pastors moving in 2020 due to how things were restricted and slowed down. There are people I know who were going to move as pastors or retire in 2020, who decided to stick around for the sake of their church and just for logistical reasons, and that was a good thing.

But now as restrictions seem to be lifting depending on whether or not there is another wave pending, we’re trying to figure out whether we’re going to face a migration where pastors are going to move. If someone resigns and someone else resigns, is starts this kind of domino effect of pastors moving around. Or maybe we’re actually going to face an exodus.

In the world in which I work with churches in transition with a certain denomination in a certain region, we’re seeing a little bit of an exodus, not just the migration. In other words, we’re seeing pastors resign and not continue in pastoral ministry. And not just because they’re retirement age, but in many cases because they’re tired, and in many cases because they’ve come out of difficult situations.

Now, a lot of church situations are difficult. There’s ministry challenges no matter what totally apart from a pandemic. You throw the pandemic in and you have people in your church bickering over restrictions and masks and vaccinations, and a pastor finds themselves in the middle of all of that, it just adds to a load and can be really a life sucking.

I have a friend in ministry who had one of his elders exited from the church with a group of people and started their own group. I know that was repeated in many places, whether elders left or pastors left and took people with them. That’s a gut punch at the very best, and it’s really, really hard.

My concern is looking at the state of churches is that there was already a shortage of pastors. By shortage I mean, not a shortage of people wanting to get jobs in churches. There’s always people applying for jobs, whether they’re qualified or not, but there’s definitely a shortage of gifted called capable pastors, particularly in lead pastor roles, but I’m sure it’s across the board. I deal more with lead pastor roles, but I know there’s challenges in other roles as well.

There’s a shortage, and now we’re starting to see (this is anecdotal, not statistical) at this point, we’re starting to see pastors leaving their churches and not continuing in pastoral ministry. There’s some real concern about that and what’s going to happen and how churches are going to handle this.

There’s going to be churches certainly closing. There may be some churches merging or becoming campuses of larger churches. That kind of thing could happen, and there might be more virtual church happening, though a lot of people are just tired of that and other people are all over it. So there’s going to be some changes that way.

But just for a moment now, I just want to speak to you if you are considering either a move or maybe a move out of ministry altogether. These are some considerations regardless of which way you’re looking. Number one if you’re a pastor, don’t forget what the word means. It means shepherd and your decision-making has to be based on what is best for the body. Now, yes, there is self care. There are family issues for sure, but as a shepherd, one of your big considerations is the life of the body that you are called to shepherd and called the serve.

The other issue of course, is your calling. Have you been called to be a pastor? Are you gifted and called for pastoral ministry? If that’s the case, you need to be very careful about leaving pastoral ministry and not just pulling the plug because it’s been a tough season. There’s been tough seasons throughout history as well, and in tough seasons, the body of Christ needs pastors who will persevere.

Another consideration is how can you be most effective in being a disciple who makes disciples, regardless of whether you are a vocational minister or not. As a follower of Jesus, you are called to be a disciple who makes disciples. What is the best way you can achieve that? That should be a big consideration.

Your answer might be that you can best achieve that outside a vocational role, but at least ask the question and give some real thought to that because there are some advantages to working and serving in a local church context vocationally when it comes to disciple-making. It comes down to your gifts, the specifics of your stage of life and everything else. But think that through. How can you be the best disciple maker?

I would say that it’s really important if you’re facing a big decision, whether to leave a church or leave the ministry altogether, that there is some fasting and prayer going on. That you’re carving out some time to spend on your face before God, spend extra time in the word pouring out your heart and listening and resting. I would say this is also a time, as a part of that, to talk to mentors and people you trust, who know you and love you, who will tell the truth to you and ask for their input on what you’re facing.

And finally, I would say, when you do make a decision, and this is maybe hard to do, but when you do make a decision, do not make it from a place of fatigue, but make it from a place of rest. In other words, don’t just leave the ministry or leave a role because you need a rest. Get a rest before you make the decision.

I know in some churches, there have been a board of elders who’ve insisted their pastor take a break. That’s wonderful. I know another role or a pastor asked for a break and faced some backlash, but ended up getting a break out of it. Do what it takes to get some rest. Perhaps go bare bones on your ministry. Do what just needs to be done and carve out some extra time for rest, regardless of what you choose to do.

Again, I encourage you to make your decisions prayerfully and carefully with fasting and prayer, with other voices speaking to your heart and mind, and really revisit your call and your gifting and ask the question, “Lord, what is the best way for me to live this out in this time, this place in this season?”

Wisdom you. God bless, press on.

Reentry Resolutions

I’ve been thinking a bit about re-entry resolutions. We don’t get this opportunity very often. We get an opportunity every new year or really any day we want, but typically every new year or maybe on your birthday when you do some evaluating and resetting of your direction, your habits, and your goals.

But this one is a big opportunity because we’re coming out of over a year of disruption, broken routines and establishing new semi-temporary routines. Now we’re going back to what will be more normal-ish than this last year was, so this is an excellent opportunity to take a look at the pattern of our life and begin to make the changes we want to make that will be permanent going forward.

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Disciple Making

In my last post I mentioned that I had started another podcast called Disciple Making and I thought what I would do today is simply share the first episode of that with you. What you’ll hear is a bit of the story of my co-host’s journey of disciple making, which I think you’ll find interesting, and will give you an idea of what the Disciple Making podcast is all about.

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Is Church Broken?

The question of the day this, is the way we do church broken? Is your church broken? And by broken, I mean, is it accomplishing the purpose for which it is intended or is it doing something else?

I had a call the other day with a coach/consultant and I was talking about the challenges of pursuing alternative models of church life in such a way that wasn’t unnecessarily subversive, damaging to existing churches, Christians, pastors and didn’t discourage and undermine them.

I will share more in the future, but I’m currently pursuing alternative models of church life and have been working on an alternative model of church that you might categorize as house church, though it’s not. You might categorize it as missional community, though it’s not exactly that, though it probably leans more towards missional community than house church.

Actually, there’s a church that has agreed to partner with us in that in a kind of oversight way, which we’re so grateful, and our denomination, as well, is looking at a partnership that way. As I’ve been looking at what it means to pursue, to aggressively seek, to build a different kind of church, I’ve been wrestling with that question: how do I do this without being a jerk? I refer to this as “jerk free subversion”, because in a way, any alternative model undermines or challenges existing models, and how do you do that without being a jerk?

Anyway, I was chatting with this consultant who I highly respect. and I asked the question, how do you do this? How do we go about this properly without unnecessarily damaging and discouraging existing churches and pastors. His response, and I’m paraphrasing, was this. “We know that the traditional way of doing church is broken. It’s a broken model. We know it’s a broken model. We have lots of data to show it’s a broken model and any objective person would conclude that it’s a broken model. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent on this model with very little return from a kingdom standpoint and very few disciples being made.”

That really was the metric we were talking about, making disciples. We’re called to be disciples who make disciples. His point was that the way we do church is not generally effective in making disciples who make disciples, I have to agree with him.

I have to look at myself and say, how much of a disciple am I? How much of a disciple maker have I been in my pastoral ministry over the years? When you dig down and do the heart introspection, at least for myself, the answer is not terribly flattering.

Looking back at the churches I pastored, even the most effective moments in the lives of the churches I pastored as a regular pastor saw some people being saved, sometimes a lot of people being saved. But honestly, very few became people who actually were passionately following Jesus as a way of life and brought others with them.

A lot of times in my most effective churches, a lot of people were coming to faith, and that was kind of the end game. Praying a prayer, and maybe even truly repenting, believing, and being baptized. A few of them got involved in reaching other people, but the true disciple-making reproduction really wasn’t happening.

The multiplication and reproduction was happening where some people were getting saved and becoming followers, but the multiplication where someone who becomes a disciple creates another disciple who creates another disciple wasn’t happening that well.

So my question is, if you look at your ministry or the church you’re involved at, or yourself personally, is something systemically broken? Is there something going on that’s interfering with making disciples or is it just not even on the radar?

A lot of churches we know are optimized or were optimized around the weekend event, and doing a good, what we believe a good service with good music and good teaching. Maybe some true interaction after or before the gathering and some vision casting. They were great events for what they were trying to accomplish. But in a lot of cases, maybe if we’re honest it’s most cases, disciple-making wasn’t happening.

So that’s really just a question the mull on right now. Again, I’m wrestling with the issue of how do we honestly discuss these things without becoming unnecessarily discouraging and unnecessarily subversive?

Another part of the answer this fellow made in the call was because we know it’s broken, he no longer walks on eggshells around the topic. He said we just need to address it head on. So I’m wrestling that through even as I look at doing alternative kind of church working in areas and regions where there are existing churches with good hearted people serving God often at great physical, financial, relational and health costs.

I’m wrestling through how do we do this without being jerks and if you have any easy answers to that, let me know. I think we, at least on the personal level, need to be honest and evaluate our disciple-making or not, and begin to shift our lives and our ministries toward that, because that is the call. It’s a high call.

I look forward to sharing with you more in the future about some of the steps we’re taking to build that kind of a ministry. Wisdom and grace to you as you keep on figuring out what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples.

God bless, press on.

The Art of Plain Talk

Way back when I was a young pastor, I came across a book called “The Art of Plain Talk” by Rudolph Flesch. You might recognize the name Flesch from hearing of the Flesch Kincaid scale for reading levels that is used by speakers, copywriters and others to check the level of their communications. It’s also not a bad thing for preachers to use as well.

I found this book by Rudolph Flesch in a library somewhere. In fact, in my mind, I found a discarded copy, but I don’t have it on me now. It highlighted some of the principles of just talking plainly and clearly.

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