I’ve been pondering this for many years, but recently have been reminded how unhealthy the American model of church ministry really is. I’m not bashing the church, after all Jesus said, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, I’m bashing the American Model of church. Over the last thirty years or so, here is a common scenario of how someone becomes a pastor and how the church operates.
Often the person will be someone who comes into church and develops a relationship with Jesus Christ. I know enough now to know that all of us have our issues. Those issues don’t go away because you become a Christian! Everyone needs affirmation and approval. Many times people who become pastors find out they can get many of those needs met by helping other people. It feels good to be needed, especially for people who are needy themselves. The personality types who make it to the stage are generally outgoing, fairly driven (which is not a healthy trait, driven is when you are trying to meet some deep unmet need of your own) and bold. Many, unlike the general population, like the stage, the spotlight and enjoy entertaining and teaching the audience by public speaking.
Now, take that person who, most of the time, their gifts are greater than their character development and put them at the top of an organization and weekly stage time. The entire church is built around their charm and personality. They are viewed by the church as the person who has life figured out. They teach the Bible, teach you how to become like them! There is one major issue. Pastors are still human. They have absorbed dysfunctional patterns of behavior and relating to others just like everyone else.
Who does the pastor talk to when he is overwhelmed, depressed, or battling with some old habit? How can a pastor teach the truth about life vulnerably, relating he is one of us, when to do so in most churches means you will get fired? How does a pastor handle it when he is compared to the top and very visible handful of super gifted pastors who are on TV, writing books and all over the Internet? How does one handle it when your congregation compares you to their favorite media darling?
The American model of ministry really is terribly unhealthy and sets pastors up to fail. That is why thousands of people leave the ministry every year. My next blog will begin looking at some options for solution.