I love what’s happening with the replanting arm of our North American Missions Board. One of the great tenets of their ministry is that a replanter must be a visionary shepherd, finding a balance between having a God-entrenched vision for His church and a love for His people.
Sadly, those two aspects can be off-balance. You can love (or fear) your people so much that you do not lead; or you can love your vision so much that people get in the way.
Here’s what can happen:
1. A growing misdirection of their love–it goes more toward self than those whom they are called to shepherd. If pastors love their vision more than the people they are called to serve, they may betray an attitude and their heart that shows they really love themselves more than they do they’re people.
2. A growing disgruntlement against their people for not understanding the ‘rightness’ of their leader. Many pastors enter into the ministry with false expectations and ideals. They see themselves as the resident experts and rescuers of a problem church, rather than ones who are rolling up their sleeves to serve alongside people that they truly care about.
3. A growing disillusionment to the ministry in general, and to their church in particular. As a result, many question they’re calling in the ministry, or leave ministry all together.
4. A growing division with the influencers and leaders in the church. Those influencers have been at those churches for longer than those pastors and could well be there when the pastor leaves. Pastors need long, productive talks with their leadership to understand the culture of the church, then to provide a mutual sharpening. The vision then becomes a result of the collective rather than just the pastors. Plus, this shows they love those with whom they serve.
5. A growing despair on the homefront–after all, no pastor ever lived who didn’t take all they carried (good and bad) into their homes. Sadly, pastors often talk about their issues in front of their children. As a result, PKs associate church with pain and trouble.
6. A growing disenchantment with Christ for putting the pastor with this condition in such a situation. Many pastors may ask, Lord, why did you send me to this church? They don’t get my vision, they don’t appreciate my gifts, etc. But again, the problem is a love of self over and against a love of the people to whom Christ sent them, which means they love self more than Jesus.
Dear Church, pray for your pastors. Selfishness is a cardinal joy stealer. Pastors like anyone else are prone to the love of self. Pray that God would provide people in their lives to keep them humble and to invest in them as needed.
Dear pastors, shepherd the flock of God. Love your people as fellow pilgrims in this world. Treasure the value of the local church with all its warts and wrinkles. Believe me, your church may well treasure you with all your warts and wrinkles.
Matt Perry serves as the Lead Pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado. He earned his M.Div and D.Min from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.