“ I would like to see seminaries such as SEBTS begin to recognize that the majority of their students will minister in small churches, whether established or newly planted, and provide courses which will equip them to minister in the small church culture which is a completely different environment than is found in megachurches.”
The high turnover rate of Pastors in the vast majority of Southern Baptist Churches, and the damage it causes to the witness of Christ and the work of the local church in our communities, is something that I feel very passionate about. I am told that the average tenure of a Southern Baptist Pastor is around 2 years… (If anyone has the precise numbers on this I would love to have them posted)
If this inexcusable number is even close to being correct (and I believe it is) then it is a clear indication that we have a deep rooted, unhealthy, and systemic issue within our Southern Baptist culture of accepting as normal short term/unstable leadership in our small Southern Baptist Churches.
There are many factors contributing to this sad condition and I make no pretense of being in any position, or possessing sufficient wisdom, to address them all. However, there is one thing that that I believe to be ‘the’ major contributing factor in all of this, and that is the practice of most small Southern Baptist congregations of calling absolute “STRANGERS” to pastor their church.
Here is the comment I posted on Les Puryear’s blog that gives my basic argument on this issue:
Thanks for this post!
This gives me the perfect opportunity to vent about something that I am very passionate about… and that is that this whole modern system of calling a “stranger” as your pastor is completely unbiblical.
Can anyone give me just one example in the Bible where a congregation called a “stranger” as their pastor? Yet 99.9% of the time in Southern Baptist Churches, no matter how careful the search committee is, and no matter how long they take, that is exactly what they do. They wind up calling a complete stranger to fill the most important position in the Church. Would anyone dare propose to their congregation that they need to look outside of their own body for Elders, Deacons, Teachers, or general officers? I think not. So why do we do exactly that for the positions of Pastor, and then get all offended when they don’t work out, or move on to bigger churches? There is a real simple solution to the problem of small churches being used as stepping stones… “Stop calling strangers as your Pastor”.
Can anyone explain to me how any search committee can affirm with any certainty that someone from outside of their own local community actually meets the qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:1-7. How can they know if this handsome young stranger with the good looking resume and the perfect wife and 2 little children on the front row, is of a blameless reputation or is nothing more than wolf in sheep’s clothing? In truth they cannot, but if he grew up in this community, or lived there for a few years they would know. They may actually check the references listed on his resume, but does anyone truly expect to uncover anything that would disqualify someone by asking the people listed on a resume? No, not really, so they usually wind up never asking any questions whatsoever about the man’s qualifications. You will notice that 1 Tim.3:7 says that he must have a good reputation of them which are without (in the community). How can a “stranger” possibly meet this requirement?
Ok… I could go on and on, but I think you get my point so I will shut up now :-)
“Greg, I have never heard that perspective before.”
I know this perspective cuts against the grain of our accepted practices within our Southern Baptist culture, and as I said above I could go into a much greater defense of this position… But what I really would like to know is what some of you think about this issue?
We discussed this issue at length during our Bible Study time at our Wednesday night services last night, and one of our Elders made the comment that the church is to function like and be modeled after the family and no family would ever seriously consider going out and bringing in an absolute stranger to be their “Father”. I thought that was a very insightful comment.
So, what say you?