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02/07 — A Church that Includes You
02/14 — A Church that Instructs You
02/21 — A Church that Involves You
02/28 — A Church that Invests in You
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Barry L. Davis
By Thom Rainer
I had no idea he was a former pastor.
He emailed me on a business matter. I noticed his email said nothing about his ministry, so I asked about his ministry in my response.
“I am out of the pastorate,” he responded. “And I have no plans to ever go back.”
From my perspective, this man would have been one of the least likely to leave the pastorate. Not only did he leave, he is adamant he will not return.
LifeWay Research recently released a study about pastors who left the pastorate before they were retirement age. You can read more about the study here, but I want us to look at six key issues from the study that are vitally important.
- Nearly half (48%) of those who left the pastorate said the search committee did not accurately represent the church. I have heard this information anecdotally, but I did not expect the response to be this high.
- More than half (54%) of the respondents said a church member had attacked them personally. Consequently, one of four said they left the church because of conflict.
- Nearly half (48%) of the former pastors said they had not been trained for relational and leadership issues. We hear this from current pastors and staff as well.
- Four in ten of those who left the pastorate said they had a change in calling. We hope to delve into this issue later.
- One in eight of the former pastors left for financial reasons. Many pastors are underpaid. Many pastors leave the pastorate as a consequence.
- One in eight of the respondents left because of family issues. Again, we have covered this issue several times at the blog and on the podcast.
How do we respond to these issues? How can we be greater supporters of our pastors and staff so they don’t feel like they have to leave the church? Let me hear your thoughts.
The online survey of former senior pastors was conducted Aug. 11-Oct. 2, 2015. The sample lists were provided by four Protestant denominations: Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and Southern Baptist Convention. Each survey was completed by an individual who has served as a senior (or sole) pastor but stopped serving as senior pastor prior to age 65. The completed sample is 734 former pastors. The study was sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, M.D.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on January 13, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
By Chuck Lawless
This week I’ve been preparing some lectures for my upcoming seminars in the DMin in Church Revitalization and Great Commission Leadership at Southeastern Seminary. For years, I’ve kept a running list of characteristics of pastors who lead effective evangelistic churches (that is, churches that are reaching non-believers rather than simply reaching other church members). Below are several of those characteristics.
- They believe the Bible is the Word of God. Consequently, they accept the truth that people who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus are without hope. The Word drives them to want to reach people.
- They take the lead in personal evangelism. They model evangelism, but not because they happen to be the pastor; they do it because Jesus is in their heart and evangelism is in their blood. These leaders would evangelize even if they weren’t pastors.
- They know the church’s numbers. They’re not idolatrous of those numbers, but they’re certainly aware of them. “A number represents a person” is much more than an adage to them; it’s a reflection of their focus on real people who need Jesus.
- They take personally any lack of evangelistic growth. That’s not to suggest, though, that they believe they can somehow create growth. It’s simply that they so long to see lives changed that they want to evaluate why when it doesn’t happen.
- They’ve led their churches to get ready for growth. They’re not always fully prepared for what God does, but their churches don’t take lightly their responsibility to disciple new believers God gives them. They have the “nursery” ready for babes in Christ.
- They know their community well – and they love that community. They can usually describe the general demographic makeup of their community, not only because they’ve studied the data but also because they’ve walked the streets. They’re glad to live where they live, and they hope to stay there awhile.
- They hold their staff accountable for doing evangelism. They may not always require written reports, but they’re intentional about asking for verbal reports during staff meetings. Typically, they’re hesitant to hire anyone who doesn’t have a strong evangelism record.
- Increasingly, they are more committed to church planting. Because these pastors want to see people saved, they’ve often joined the forces emphasizing evangelistic church planting today. They aren’t worried that everyone comes to their church, and they’re willing to send out some of their best to start congregations.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on 12/10-2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
By Thom Rainer
The conversation surprised me.
I was recently meeting with about a dozen members of a church that was on the precipice of closing. During their perceived “good old days,” the average worship attendance was in the 40s and 50s. Now the church attendance was in the teens. The church was on metaphorical life support.
I shared with them some items of urgency that might give them some glimmer of hope. So I was surprised when one of the members asked me a question that seemed to come from nowhere: “Will we have to sing from screens instead of hymnals?” she asked with a tinge of anger.
I never responded directly to the question. It was too late. The few members were of one mind about an issue so peripheral I had never anticipated it. I left saddened.
The church had chosen to die.
The Need and the Passion
It is my life and ministry passion to help churches, particularly struggling churches, to revitalize. One of the greatest needs of churches today is to choose to live and to thrive.
Unfortunately, many congregations are choosing to die. For certain, they are not calling a business meeting and making a motion to die. Their choices are more subtle and, often, more incremental. But the end result is the same.
Churches are choosing to die.
Five Deadly Choices
So what are churches doing specifically that leads to their demise? Here are five of the more common choices.
- They refuse to face reality. I was in a dying church recently. The congregational average attendance was 425 seven years ago. Today it is 185. I could find no one in the church who thought the trends were bad. They were in a state of delusion and denial.
- They are more concerned about greater comfort than the Great Commission.Church membership has become self-serving. The church is more like a country club than the body of Christ. People are “paying dues” to get what they want in the church. It’s all about their preferences and desires.
- They are unwilling to accept responsibility. It’s the fault of culture. All the new churches in town are to blame. If someone wants to come to our church, they know where we are. People just don’t want to come to church anymore. Excuses and more excuses. I have never been in a community that is nearly fully churched. There are many people to reach. Excuses preclude obedience.
- They are too busy fighting and criticizing. If we could take the energy of church critics and antagonists into reaching people with the gospel, our churches would become evangelistic forces. Unfortunately in many churches, members expend most of their energies criticizing leadership and others, and fighting over trivial issues.
- They are confusing non-negotiables with negotiables. Almost ten years ago, a couple of men who live near me asked to visit with me in my home. They wanted me to consider visiting their church. One of the men told me their church was one of the few in the area defending the faith. I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that the faith was one particular Bible translation and traditional hymns. I wasn’t sure what happened to the bodily resurrection and substitutionary atonement. The church died within seven years.
Choosing to Live Rather Than Die
Most churches have choices to live or die. We use the word “revitalize” because it means to live again. I hope you will join me in this passion to see unhealthy churches become healthy, to see churches choose to live.
As one way of being a part of this movement of revitalization, I have teamed up with Revitalized Churches in Florida to offer the best resources we can to help in this cause. They are once again offering the resource that has helped hundreds of churches move toward revitalization.
Those churches have chosen to live.
Such is my prayer for your church.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 4, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
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