Monday, January 02, 2006

Pastoral Migration

I recently had the opportunity to write a paper about Paul's theology of Pastoral Leadership from 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. I will not bore everyone with the paper itself, but rather a thought that came to me during its writing.

My paper was centered on the necessity of the pastor to defend the protect and promote truth, to develop strong leadership, etc. However my question was not really centered on any of those things.

Why is it that Pastors move from church to church so often in our modern era?

The reason usually given has something to due with being called, etc. I do not want to discredit that because I do not know the heart or what God has done in their lives. However, there are usually a lot of coincidences that go along with the calling. I.E. more responsibility or a bigger salary, flexibility, etc. In reality for this discussion those things don't matter. The main question for me is when you are called to a church can you be called somewhere else?

As far as I am concerned there really is no precedent in the Bible for someone to leave a church as a pastor to go to another church somewhere else. When you think of Titus you think of him ministering in Crete, Timothy is usually associated with the church in Ephesus, some think Epaphroditus was the pastor of Philippians (see 2:25-30). There is no mention of their moving from church to church to accept a new "pastorate". So why do pastors move from congregation to congregation so frequently? Why is the average stay of a pastor less than 4 years?

I think some church denominations like this. The PC(usa) will not let someone be a Sr. Pastor of a church that they grew up in or attended (although they can be an associate). This denomination likes moving people around when there is openings or needs in other areas. It seems as if a person is familiar with a congregation that is a bad thing... When someone applies for ordination they must accept an internship at a church other than their own. Usually the denomination will also make sure that if you came from a liberal church you go to a conservative or a big church to a small one and vice versa.

Are we really called to be this "iternarant"?

The shape of the church has changed in the modern era. People move around, they bounce from church to church, they need to think of taking care of their family. A lot of this probably has to do with worldlyness creeping into our thinking and our church life. Look at how churches are structured, more often than not they resemble a corporation. With that, there is head hunting and different "packages" that are presented to pastors... greener pastures.

I was approached at one point by a pastor in San Jose who told me to keep my options open. This was after a discussion where he alluded to possibilites in the future. I told him that I felt called to the students that I was currently ministering too. It is true that more money, a 401k, better benefits, etc. are inticing.

You see churches in the early NT time taking care of their Pastor's needs. So are our needs being met. The reality is that more money is inticing, but I right now in my life I am doing ok... in reality I could probably get by making less. In the future this may change. When I start having kids I will probably need to make more. But that will be the responsibility of my church to step up.

This led me to two conclusions...

1. If you were called to a specific church at one point and they are taking care of the needs of your family then you shouldn't leave. The world and the idea of making more and climbing the coporate ladder has already creeped too far into the modern church. If someone feels called to a different church then that is between them and God. But, they should first examine if there aren't any ulterior motives.

2. If a church is not meeting the needs of you and your family... then you should first let that be known then if it is unresolved then you should move on. The church should be responsible to take care of their pastor. However, one should exaine if they are living above their means. Often those in church ministry live pretty good lives. I admire people who sell everything they have to fund their ministries or mission. I admire those who live that "war-time" lifestyle. It definitley is not easy to do in a land of flat panel lcd monitors, ipods and faster cars.

I guess I just do not think pastors should move around as much as they do in the modern age.


Sungkhum said...

I really think the church is suffering because of all this moving around - and I do feel you are right that many people do feel comfortable when there is always someone new in the pulpit.

To be honest, that is something that is widespread here - not exactly the same, but I think for the same motive.

People don't like having a spiritual leader who knows them because their sin will be revealed. If the spiritual leader doesn't know who you are then you're safe.

Here in Cambodia there is this, "I won't tell if you don't tell" kinda thing. It is normal for friends to know bad things about each other, to know each others secret sins, but no one is ever confronted, because by their knowing what the other has done, it keeps the other quiet (a little like blackmail) and so they live in peace, knowing, that even though everyone knows what they are doing, no one will ever say something and call them on it. But there is never any thought to the final outcome of it all.

We are often so short sighted.

BTW - good to have you on the blog :)

Adam Winters said...

This isn't related to the previous post. (This Blog looks good though.) This is a response to a question by sungkhum. I wanted to email it to you, so feel free to delete this if you want:

Thanks for your letter, sungkhum. It really forced me to spend some time in thought and study. I don’t know if my conclusions will satisfy your question, but I will give you my best effort.

First, to answer your question: “was the sacrifice not made FOR all of Israel?” I believe you have in mind Leviticus 16, where the specific requirements for the annual Day of Atonement were commanded. On the tenth day of the seventh month, the high priest (after making a sacrifice for himself and his house) would enter the Holy of Holies and make a sin offering for all the people of Israel. So, you are correct on that point.
However, I think it is a stretch to make old covenant Israel equivalent to non-elect (I hope this word isn’t offensive) gentiles. Yes, the Day of Atonement was for all Israel, but in order to be an Israelite of the old covenant, each person had to fulfill stipulations of their own. All Israelites were responsible for obedience and making their own sacrifices throughout the year. To be an Israelite meant to be under Moses’ Law and to be in a covenant with the Lord. But I don’t think we can say that the unsaved gentiles live in any kind of covenant with God. Yes, the world is condemned because they suppress and rebel against the knowledge and natural law of God that exists in creation, on the heart, and in special revelation (Romans 1:18-20, 3:19-20). But no where in Scripture can we say that the unsaved Gentiles are in any sort of covenant with God.
When we say that a sacrifice was made FOR a group of people, we imply that the sacrifice was made ON BEHALF OF those people. The Israelites understood that the high priest represented them on the Day of Atonement and made a sacrifice on their behalf. In Hebrews chapters 8 and following, the author asserts that Christ has become the high priest that makes the ultimate once-and-for-all sacrifice for all that believe in Him. Christ sacrificed Himself on behalf of all those who are destined to believe in Him unto salvation. If we way that Christ died FOR everyone, then we end up in the difficult position of saying that Christ died for the advantage of those who do not receive the promise of eternal life.

Secondly, we need to answer the question of what group of people the author of Hebrews was referring to in the passage you cited. It appears that you assume “the one who has trampled under foot the Son of God” (verse 29) is a non-elect gentile. If I am reading you correctly, I suppose that you reason that if a person goes on sinning willfully (unto his own death) then Christ’s death no longer becomes “a sacrifice for [his] sins” because this unbeliever dies without accepting the free gift of salvation (under this opinion, Christ’s death was always sufficient to cover his sin but never became effective for him because of his lifelong unbelief). At the end of this unbeliever’s life, he will endure furious judgment reserved for the adversaries of God.
After my reading of this text, I don’t believe that the people in view are merely unsaved gentiles but, instead, false Christians who formerly gave the appearance of being saved but eventually proved themselves to be apostate. While for a time it may have appeared that Christ’s death was a sacrifice for their sin, their apostasy makes it clear that this was not the case. Let me make clear that I do not believe that any true Christian can lose their salvation. Hebrews 10:26-29 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 are two passages which are challenging to my conviction, but I believe they can be harmonized with the biblical doctrine of assurance (I hold strongly to the good news of 1 John 4:13-17 and similarly 1 John 2:3-6). In Hebrews 10:26 and 2 Peter 2:20, the Scripture speaks of a “knowledge” that has been received and by which certain men have escaped the world’s impurities. But these same men who became enlightened by the knowledge of truth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ eventually turned away from the faith and returned to their former carnal living. I believe that these types of pseudo-brothers are the group that Jesus described as “the ones on whom seed was sown on rocky places, who when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:15-17, NASB) These fair-weather believers are revealed to be frauds when their earthly comforts are at risk on account of the gospel. But the author of Hebrews goes on to say that those who are truly born of God will give testimony to their salvation through their works of faith. (note the famous “hall of faith” chapter 11) and persevere till the end because of their devotion to the promises of the heavenly life to come.

Finally, let me say that the reason for my writing the original blog was reactionary. I think Dr. Jack Graham and other faithful preachers may ridicule the doctrine of Limited Atonement because they mistakenly believe that one cannot preach the gospel to all people if one does not believe that Christ died for all people. This simply isn’t true or historically supportable; the vast majority of Reformers, Puritans, and Baptists who have held to the doctrine have been passionate about calling all of their hearers to repentance and faith. It is the duty of all people to respond to the preaching of the gospel by surrendering their lives to God and yielding to the Holy Spirit to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their life. We might not be able to say “Christ died for YOU” all the time, but we can certainly say, “Christ died for all sinners who turn to Him for salvation. So, come to Christ today!” I suspect you and I are in agreement that this never comes about through effectual calling of the elect. But, I also concede that the terminology of “limited” atonement has been one of the most debated of issues even among Calvinists for good reason. Is “limited” a better term than “particular atonement” or some other term? I’m not sure, but if I am pressed on the matter, I have to say that they both mean the same thing.

Thank you for your thoughts, and I hope my response is worthy of your inquiry. I suspect that you and I already agree on all the important issues at stake. Any disagreement we might have is merely a matter of what is the most proper way to articulate the Biblical truths we both affirm.

Adam Winters