All conflicts in a church involve the pastor, either as the root of the problem, or as the resolver of the problem, or as the mediator of a problem between two groups.
The relationship between a pastor and the congregation is much like the relationship between a man and his wife. When a new pastor is elected there is a honeymoon period, which lasts from six to eighteen months, when everything seems great. Early during this time people brag about how much they like their new pastor, they take him and his family out to eat or invite them into their homes. They lavish them with praise and give him gifts on his birthday, wedding anniversary, and pastoral anniversary. They send him cards telling him how happy they are to have him as their pastor, and encourage him to take care of his health.
During the early stages of the honeymoon period people are operating in an unreal world because they really don’t know him and they are projecting into the new pastor all the qualities they would like for him to have. Perhaps without realizing it, some people are endeavoring to woo the pastor into their camp, or simply trying to curry favor and get on his “good” side. An ideal pastor will be aware of these things and will be a good friend but will maintain a balance and seek to eliminate “camps.” But the pastor is only human, not deity, and usually the people fail to realize this. Everyone is wearing a giddy smiley face.
Later on in the honeymoon period people notice that the pastor has feet made of clay like everyone else and that perhaps he doesn’t have all the qualities that they had thought at first. Though no one has voiced any discontent, some people are starting to have second thoughts. The camp that threw out…oops…I mean… affected the former pastor’s resignation, are feeling their power base eroding.
As time goes on most of the people, being made of flesh will have varying degrees of discontent. Those who seek to have the preeminence will be crouched waiting to pounce upon the pastor at the first instance of “wrongdoing.” It may be as simple as the pastor taking it upon himself to order pencils with the church’s name imprinted, without having taken it before the whole church to vote on it. Or perhaps someone saw the church van parked at McDonald’s, and this is allegedly a misuse of the church van. The complaints will buzz around the telephone circuits until the next business meeting. Then the “Diotrophes” camp will pounce. In view of this, why on Earth would anyone want to be a pastor? A wise old preacher said, "If you don't like the smell of sheep dung then you ought not to be a shepherd."
Do pastors have mid-life crises? Are they human?! Yes, of course! Occasionally a pastor will fall victim to temptation just the same as any of the rest of us. When this happens many people will have their faith crushed, not realizing that they had deified the pastor and had been worshipping him instead of the Lord. Some people will never believe that their pastor is guilty of any wrongdoing so they abandon their church and follow their pastor and worship him wherever he goes.
Never put your complete trust in any man! The Lord will never let you down, but sooner or later a man will always let you down. Remember this!
Rarely does a pastor stay at one church long enough to retire. Retirement from a church should be the norm. Why is it that we harangue marital divorce but not much is said about the church-pastor divorce rate? A man should only be the pastor of one church. If a man resigns his position as a pastor should he be barred from ever pastoring another church? A man may be the associate pastor of a church, but when he becomes the pastor of any church he should stay married to that church until he retires.
Now having said all this about church-pastor divorce, let’s look at the real world. Matthew 19:8, “He saith unto them, Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament) because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning (before the fall of man) it was not so.” There are times, because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, that a divorce is necessary. For example, if the pastor insists that adultery is not sin then he will draw the church into sin. For you to maintain your separation from sin then the church must separate itself from that pastor. On the other hand, if a pastor repeatedly preaches against some sin that the people would rather continue committing, then the people will vote him out. A divorce under these circumstances is unavoidable.
If you have a pastor with whom you are not content, go speak to him first. Do not call around and get a consensus from the other members first. Matthew 18:15 says, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Galations 6:1-3 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” If he doesn’t repent of the situation, that you alone are aware of, then you should take it before the church.
However, if you’re discontented simply because of his preaching or the song service, don’t accuse the pastor, it is you that have the problem. Do not call around to others sowing discord. If you don’t like the preacher's style or the singing, and you want a change, then you should attend the services at some other church where you do like the preaching and singing. Romans 16:17 gives a warning, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions...” And Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things doth the LORD hate:… he that soweth discord among brethren.”
Do not be a Diotrophes! III John 9-10, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” Make sure you are not a Diotrophes! Keep your divorce rate down.
Another thing that causes a high church-pastor divorce rate in some churches, is a church constitution that requires the pastor to stand an annual vote-of-confidence. Most such constitutions require unrealistically high vote percentages. A vote-of-confidence is good under two conditions: 1. The percentage vote must be only fifty percent and; 2. Each of the church officers must stand similar votes of confidence at the same time. Seek to work out your differences with the pastor, keep your divorce rate down!
The idea that a pastor may outgrow his church and thus move up to a bigger and better church is not scriptural. Another thing, after he retires, the members will be running to the retired pastor to get his opinion on everything the new pastor says. The retired pastor should warn the people not to do this and sharply rebuke those who do; otherwise, the pastor emeritus should join a different church.
Eventually, because of retirement or because of resignation, a new pastor must be searched out. Notice that I said searched out, I did not say called. God does the calling. All saints are called, but we all have different “callings.” I Corinthians chapter 12 speaks of the fact that we all have different callings but one body. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but we are all called.
Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Some are called to be pastors while some are called to be carpenters and others are called to be truck drivers. For a Christian it is a calling, there is no difference between the secular and the sacred. For a Christian it is all sacred. So when you drive that truck do it with the same Christian dedication that you would expect of your pastor in his calling.
When you search out a new pastor, step one is in I Timothy 2:1, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;” Pray and ask God to send the right man, the man that God wants there, not necessarily the man that you want there. Ask God to help you in your search.
The second step is similar. I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
Get the word out that you’re looking for a pastor. The best references are recommendations from other people, especially other pastors. Call all the pastors you know, and have your other members call their contacts.
Contact the placement services for reputable Christian Colleges if you want a novice. Occasionally, a man right out of Bible College will make a good pastor, but this is the exception, not the rule. Sometimes a church will want a man right out of Bible College on the grounds that he will be cheap. Sometimes this will work out, but, have you ever heard the expression, “You get what you pay for?” If money to pay the pastor is a problem, remember, no good pastoral candidate will be motivated by money, rather a good man will follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. So will the church also…if it is any good.
A good source is men who have until now been associate pastors and are now seeking a senior pastorate. When reviewing resumes check the man’s “divorce rate” from previous churches, he may have a problem. Bear in mind that all potential candidates will be checking your church’s “divorce rate” too. A heavy turnover of pastors indicates that there is a problem in the church. This makes it hard to get a good man, so it behooves a church to not be hasty in getting rid of pastors.
After you have received a number of resumes, select a few promising looking ones and call around checking their references. The potential candidate will give you some references, call them and expect to get glowing recommendations, but then ask these references for the names of his former deacons. Calls to them may reveal problems.
One would not consider marrying a person that they had only just met once or twice, the same is true when choosing a pastor. Narrow the list to only one man. Then pray, that this will be the man that God wants for your pastor. You should have him come and preach for you for a full week, at least seven preaching services. You give him the preaching topics* that you want to hear him preach when you telephone him to come and candidate. Pray that this is the man that God wants to be your pastor!
When he comes have him stay at various members houses so that many will get to know him more personally. Have a carry-in dinner after one of the services. After seven services you should know him well enough to vote on him. Do not hear any other man before you vote on this candidate. The process should not become a beauty contest where you have several candidates come and preach and then you vote on the prettiest one. Rely on God!
The Bible gives the qualifications for a pastor. I Timothy 3:1-7 says,
1. This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5. (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The book of Titus, summarized, says that a pastor should be:
1. Blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
2. As the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
3. A lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
4. Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
5. Speak the things which become sound doctrine: Not an heretick.
6. Sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. Sober minded.
7. Good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8. Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
9. Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity
10. Subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
11. Speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
12. Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law.
One message on sin.
One message on eschatology.
One evangelistic message.
One message on church government.
One message on the errors of Calvinism.
One message on your church’s statement of faith.
One message on love.
Keep your divorce rate down!