The Dangers of Pastoral Ministry

Posted on April 28, 2011


I have served as an Adventist minister for over six years.  In that time frame, I have had good and bad times.  Learning how to interact with and lead the Adventist “saints” has been a life changing experience.

One thing I have learned is that “change” is a six letter, dirty word for most churches.  Most church members desire numeric growth, but few are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.  I have heard these words spoken in many different ways, “This is the way we have always done it and this is the way we will always do it… and we don’t know why we are not growing.”  I will tell you why… you are afraid of change.

Instead of equipping and empowering our ministers with the tools needed to be effective, we handicap them with a slow moving, lukewarm bureaucracy.

BUREAUCRACY: “The purpose of a bureaucracy is to successfully implement the actions of an organization of any size, in achieving its purpose and mission, and the bureaucracy is tasked to determine how it can achieve its purpose and mission with the greatest possible efficiency and at the least cost of any resources.” (From Wikipedia)

Our Adventist bureaucracy is killing off pastors left and right.  We want energetic ministers who have passion and a vision for mission, but do not give them tools or freedom to bring about the changes needed to help awaken our churches.  Instead, we throw our ministers into spiritually dead or lukewarm churches who are crippled by a few hardheaded elders, patriarchs, and matriarchs who have no desire to let go of their unhealthy power.  These church leaders know that if they do not like their current pastor, all they have to do is complain to the conference and be patient, and within 2-4 years there will be a change in pastoral leadership.

Many pastors have sat through board meeting after board meeting, just hoping and praying that the key leaders would accept certain ideas that would help bring about healthy change, but walk away disappointed time and time again.  Many pastors know what it takes to turn an unhealthy church into a vibrant body of believers, but have their hands tied with a bureaucracy that does not work.

For example: The church family nominates their favorite friends or longtime leaders to be on the nominating committee.  The nominating committee then votes their family and friends into leadership positions.  The church board and elders are included in this process… the very ones that must work hand in hand with the pastor.  The pastor has little say in who is voted into the church offices and usually ends up working with a dysfunctional team.  And we wonder why our churches are unhealthy and not growing (not growing = unhealthy).  FYI – If your church does not have a church planting goal and never plants a daughter church, then it is probably unhealthy and needs to recommit to God and the mission He has given us.

The time has come for us to equip and empower our ministers with a healthy bureaucracy (system).  When the president of the USA is elected, he is able to hand pick his leadership team.  The president selects leaders who want to be on the team and are willing to work with the “mission” goals.  This type of team building allows for the creation of a healthy team who can effectively work together.

Our Adventist ministers need to be allowed to do the same. 

  1. Before a church receives a new pastor… the pastor should first communicate his belief system, worship style, and mission goals to the church family.  If the members like what they see and hear and agree to be led by the pastor, they should commit to following him in ministry. 
  2. The new pastor should then be able to create a church leadership team that desires to work with the pastor and the mission to grow the church (kingdom of God).  Once the pastor has selected his leadership team, he should then submit the names of the team to the church for a formal vote (maybe telling the church why he selected the key leaders).       

This type and leadership system would help create healthy and functional churches.  The pastor would be working with people who desire to work with him and the church would have a minister they believe in. 

If you are in a position of influence in our Church, please help me cast this leadership vision.  Jesus is coming soon and we do not have time to mess around in our churches.  There are millions of people who need to be introduced to Jesus and now is the time to recreate our churches into visitor-friendly, family-focused, spiritually-balanced, and mission-driven ministries that effectually proclaim the good news everywhere.