The Pastor’s role in the age to come…what will it look like? The most important thing I have ever heard about a Pastor came from John Stott, he said the ultimate role/goal of a Pastor is to serve. It is not about getting to a role where you are respected and feared, many times unapproachable. No it’s all about serving. Jesus left his glory and his lordship to come not to be served, but to serve. As the paradigmatic shift occurs rapidly in culture and the world, this post-Christendom age is finding the church no longer relevant. Churches are closing by the thousands across the country; an estimated 1500 Pastors are losing their jobs a month, so how can a church that does not exist change the world or be relevant? What does the new Pastor look like?
For too long the role of the Pastor has been too overemphasized, as if he and his sermon are the culmination of the service. No and always no. Jesus Christ is the culmination and should be of every service. Jesus changes lives, Pastors do not. This overemphasis on the role of Pastors has led to a consumeristic church culture, shopping Pastors (churches), and left many in a large congregation serving Jesus merely in a low percent tithe, and living a hypocritical lifestyle the rest of their week…what happened to the days of the early church, where Pastors/Leaders were Empowering others to continue the mission and not just the Pastor. I tithe to my church and my Pastor reaches to the unsaved so in part I do too, right? Really? Is this the great commission? When church liturgies and expressions have been so focused on a hierarchical (top-down) method combined with modernity so focused on preaching (if the Pastor knows it, and he speaks it, and the people hear it, then they will do it), the outcome is a bunch of unhappy consumers. The rapidly changing world that we find ourselves immersed into today does not need packaged Christianity, they need real tangible life change, solely found in Jesus. So the question remains what does our future world see or have in store for our future Pastors?
First and foremost I see the paradigm shift altering from full-time paid Pastors to bi-vocational co-led churches. The days of one head Pastor are soon coming to an end, biblically speaking this has never been a good model anyway. The New Testament times the shepherds/disciples were sent out two-by-two. And Paul’s apostolic ministry is also identified with patterns of another leader alongside him. Why this return now in our day of age?
With churches closing, and economy failing, this is one of the greatest responses. Where before one church would pay one Pastor; now one church with same money coming in or less can pay multiple Pastors, who have a balanced income supporting themselves with some type of tent ministry. This pairing of Pastors is really also connected to the perichoresis (Communal God-Father, Son , Holy Spirit as one), where shared responsibility and accountability are fleshed out in co-community leading/guiding a church together. This eliminates hierarchal leadership, and allows for mutual accountability. These co-Pastors will be focused not so much on sermons, but on structuring community within the church. Some of these expressions will be clearly communal groups, missional communities, and house churches. Though these are not the only place for community to take place, they are a tangible expression of community. This leads into my second paradigm shift.
Churches are closing the doors nationwide, and church plants are beginning to take their place. However these plants are not your typical buildings and mega churches, they are an organic variety of different displays based on their cultural setting. The one thing they have in common, is the percent of tithe that goes to these fellowship structures is far below the churches that are now closing and that will be in the near future. This paradigm shift will allow the return to tithing primarily going to the poor. With Pastors having a balanced income and church costs down, this allows a widespread increase into caring for those in need. Hopefully modeling after apostolic church age “where no one was in need,” and they were adding to their number daily. Israel time and time again went into captivity/slavery often due to their lack of care for the poor and hungry. James 5:1-5 also shares some scary thoughts on neglecting those in need. Maybe these gigantic structures and smaller ones are closing for a reason, and in part it’s due to their tithes going so much to super structures and super-Pastors, instead of the poor and hungry (James 1:27).
Thirdly I see a shift from traditional seminary and schooling being redirected and re-run by the church. With a failing economy and overwhelming numbers of Pastors out of work, this is inevitable. Can we continue to ask young students to go away to school, Bible/Seminary, get lots of debt and then return and expect to be paid hardly anything/nothing or not find a job at all? This system that modernity has put in place is crumbling…it is failing ever so much and forcing Pastors with 100,000 dollars of debt in some cases or more, to find jobs with real pay so they can lose their debt to finally be freed up for ministry. This merry-go-round of debt incursion from all sides of the world is why economically we are where we are. Coinciding With Dave Ramsey and clear Biblical passages that are against debt, why do we force students to do this? Because churches and seminaries say so…but these establishments are closing and will continue to lose their luster and power for stating what degree makes you valid. I believe it’s Gods call, not some seminary or bible college diploma. And education is free from numerous sources and with little invested many can read the same materials that seminaries and bible colleges offer without incurring debt. The paradigm seems to be continuing to shift back to churches training future Pastors, with mentoring from others and studying in a group where Socratic methods can take place. The Berean schools, and a new movement called Antioch are just some that are retaking education back into the church. I cannot say that seminaries do not have their purpose, but the system they find themselves in now, cannot hold in an economy of tomorrow. The paradigm is already moving and at work.
This is just a brief outlook, but the future Pastor of the world of tomorrow is clearly coming soon, and though many of them who are already at work doing church in a new paradigm seem strange and in some cases outcasts at the moment, the trend is coming their way.