Why do pastors become pastors? While there is no one single reason—and perhaps even multiple reasons—the one I face repeatedly is that God called me. My ministry has been a struggle to make sense of God’s calling on my life. As I listen to other pastors, this theme comes up often. Most pastors I know work hard to fulfill—to the best of their abilities—God’s call for them and their ministry. At the heart of God’s call is the sense that ministry is about people, and about helping people grow, to move with them towards maturity in their faith in Jesus. At least, this was a prime motivator for me to become a minister.
New pastors in North American contexts are often frustrated when they discover that the most important thing they do—as far as elders and boards are often concerned—is administration with spreadsheets and strategic plans. Soon they find they are expected to be either CEO of a small business or a celebrity in a large business—neither of these fit comfortably with the calling to be a pastor. They are caught between leadership by charisma and leadership by consensus. In each case, these two ways of doing ministry are less than what they thought God was calling them to do. In the case of charisma, the pastors experience enormous pressure to perform excellently and consistently. In the case of consensus, the pastor is trapped by either group think or the lowest common denominator in the church body. (I’m indebted to Edwin H. Friedman, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue [Guildford Press, 1985], 224–28, for the categories of charisma and consensus).
How did ministry in the North American Church come to look like this? In a series of short pieces over the next three months, I explore how the church evolved from spiritual communities forming a distinct kind of person to a corporate entity that peddles religious good and services. Most pastors are looking for the former but living in the latter. Surely there is more than this.