Today I am visiting with two churches that help to support my work here in Grinnell. As such, I am not here and the men here are filling in for me while I am away. Finding men willing to preach and teach in my absence has never been an issue here. For that I am indeed thankful. We have several men here who are willing and able to stand in the pulpit and share the gospel with you.
However, there are many churches that do not offer their preacher the same courtesy. The preachers are one man teaching crews that are responsible for all of the teaching that is done for the church. They are more than happy to sit back and let him do all the work. What ultimately is created is a single pastor situation. Not only do I contend that this is an unscriptural arrangement, I contend that it is also a dangerous one for the preacher and the church.
Having a single preacher/teacher was never apart of Godís plan
Sure, there were men who seemed to take the lead on this, but they were not the only ones doing the teaching and preaching. Paul, an apostle, and arguably one of the greatest teachers the church had ever seen did not take the pulpit all to himself. Men like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and Titus all took part in preaching responsibilities. Paul often left these men behind, sent them ahead, or even sent them back to churches to assure the churches were learning, growing, etc. Even the very first church in Jerusalem did not have one teacher (even though it is often assumed that Peter did that work). Acts 2:4 tells us that all the Apostles were preaching the day of Pentecost (Luke only records Peterís sermon). Later in the chapter, Luke records that the church devoted themselves not to Peterís teaching, but the Apostlesí teaching (Acts 2:42). Even when Paul appointed elders (or pastors as an elder was actually called - see I Pet. 5:1-4) he appointed a plurality of them in every church (Acts 14:23).
Having a single preacher/teacher places an unhealthy burden upon the preacher
When I first chose to preach the gospel, I learned very quickly that most preachers only stay in a congregation for about 2-3 years. After then he is moving on, looking for another church he can labor with. The leading cause of his moving on is burnout. What that preacher soon finds out is that in 2-3 years he feels burned out again and is looking to move on. Then 2-3 years later those feelings came crashing back and so on goes the cycle. The reason why the preacher feels burn out is as follows:
(1) He is the only one in the pulpit. He is preaching 1-3 lessons each week. He teaches 2 classes for the regular bible class schedule. He is writing bulletins. He may have a radio program, blogs he up keeps. He has home bible studies he engages in. Many also have youth groups, young adult studies, and/or menís studies that he prepares and teaches as well. Not to mention the need to do personal studies so that his vault doesnít run dry.
(2) He is often expected to do all the visiting as well. As if preparing and presenting numerous lessons each week is not hard enough, he is expected to visit the shut-ins. Contact visitors. Check up on those that have been missing services. And serve the church in whatever needs might arise. (I knew of one preacher that was expected to help saints, move, remodel, or play a round of golf at moments notice.
(3) He is expected to do all of this with 40+ hours in the office. I am not saying that a preacher can spent 40 hours preparing material to teach, preaching, read, mail, etc. (that really isnít all that hard). But some churches believe that their preacher needs to be at the building at normal business hours (whatever that means). Then when it is not normal business hours he had to do all the visiting, home bible studies, etc.
(4). He is expected to do all of this AND be a good husband and father too. I have known some known too many preachers that have watched their children fall from grace. In fact, I cannot count the number of times I have heard older preachers tell me what they call their most important piece of advice. Donít neglect your family. In the pastoral system it is not uncommon for the preacher to spend 80 hours a week doing all that needs done. How is he supposed to be a good father if he is never home? So that burn out. For many it is not a matter of moving on to another church. For many they just quit all together.
There are other dangers that need to be addressed as well as solutions to this problem. We will address these in future bulletin articles. -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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The Danger of the Pastoral System part 1
Volume 6 Issue 37