Leadership in the church: dealing with the “hireling” mentality!

Two months ago I wrote a blog as a reaction on the article in Dagen about the fact that pastors were encouraged to become part of a union to secure their rights and jobs. My first blog was semi-seriously written (check it out here). However after today’s articles in Dagen (here and here) I want to add my side of the story.

The problem I see is that most pastors are regarded as employees of the church that they serve. The reason for that is because most pastors are hired by churches in order to fulfill a particular job description, much as is done in the business world. The way we look at this “job” might or might not be in line with the Biblical perspective on what a pastor is meant to be / do. In such situations a pastor is more inclined to compromise with any unbiblical expectations of his employer otherwise he/she might loose their job.

I know of numerous pastors in both small and larger churches where there are issues in regards to the application of Biblical standards within the congregation. The churches in Sweden acknowledge the pastor mainly as a “hireling” who is supposed to yield to the decisions being made by the eldership and/or board.

It is not uncommon that the established laymen leadership (elders and board) has allowed certain unbiblical practices in the church among lay leaders, themselves and its members, thus setting up a potential division between the new appointed (hired) pastor(s) and the congregation. It is not unusual that congregations seek to recruit for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim.4:3). The fact is that most established churches don’t want any new pastor to rock the boat; they want peace and rest, maintaining what is going on in the church by strengthening the present and maybe making manageable changes to embrace the future!

“The hireling mentality” as I described above however, also exists among pastors.

This becomes clear to me when pastors look for promotion opportunities rather than to grow and develop on a long term basis with the church they are called to serve. Some actually are self-interested, showing greater concern for their compensation package and the earthly security it supposedly brings than ministering to the body of believers they are called to serve (Jn.10:12,13).

The practice of regarding pastors as employees has not been the norm through the church’s history. Historically, pastors have not been considered to be employees, but bond-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they are slaves of Christ, not slaves to an employer.

My family and I have during 15 years lived and ministered without a regular salary. A couple of years after we started New Life Church (where I presently still am serving as a pastor), we received for the first time a part-time salary which as time passed has been raised and is a full-time salary today. Our church has well taken care of us although I for one, have been opposed to raising my salary at times because I preferred to use the money to provide support for other workers so that we could form a team. I consider myself a bond-servant to Christ and not an employee first of all (although legally I am in that position within the context of the Swedish society). So, in essence I am saying that you as pastor have to make a decision whether you are a “hireling” or have been “called” as a pastor! If you cannot exercise the gifts God has given you, or cannot minister as a pastor you might have chosen the wrong place to minister. (By the way; did you take the employment because a job was offered when you needed it, or was it a CALL from God?!)

Let’s face it; some pastors need to get rid of their hireling mentality, but so do some churches!

I have friends in churches where they receive very little support and encouragement from the congregations they serve. They experience that they have minimal impact in the direction of the church’s ministry and often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful criticisms. Others are inadequately compensated and feel little appreciation for the important work that they do on behalf of the church. Expressions of discouragement and unhappiness are not uncommon, and for some, ministry is no longer a sense of calling from God nor a source of joy and satisfaction in their life!

Do members understand the concept of being a people of God?

Much of how we relate to our pastors depends on how we as individual members understand our relationship to the life of the church and its ministries. Are we essentially religious consumers who see ourselves as being receivers of ministry, or do we understand ourselves to be part of the people of God who partner and who have a vital role in helping to fulfill the church’s collective ministry? Do we see our pastors as employees who are paid to serve to congregational customers or as spiritual leaders whose ministries of the Word of God and their leadership enables us to better fulfill our ministries of service and proclamation in the world?

Our answer to those questions makes all the difference in the world when it comes to determining our expectations of the pastoral ministry and those who are called to serve within it. Our pastors are neither self-made nor self-maintained.

They need to be supported, encouraged and affirmed. And when we neglect that important work, we pay a very heavy collective price. I’ve never known a church whose spirit, enthusiasm and commitment to ministry exceeded that of its leadership. I’ve never experienced a vibrant, flourishing congregation whose pastor wasn’t also receiving generous amounts of prayerful support and encouragement from its members!

Remember, it’s not simply a matter of getting the kind of leadership we deserve. It’s more a matter of receiving precisely the kind of leadership we choose to call forth and then support.

That’s the Way I see it,

John

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2 responses to “Leadership in the church: dealing with the “hireling” mentality!

  1. John!
    I recognize much of what you say about churches seeing the pastor as “hireling” – I have had that feeling as well. But I have also experienced another side, as it was meant to be – the leadership and the pastor together moving ahead in leading the church. I must say that I have been able during my years to give direction to work on different levels, not by dicate but within the democratic structures of our church. I have the feeling that different models of leadership are possible, and they can fall out well (with the Lord) or wrong, whenever God is banned from the decision-making.
    See my blog http://gerardw.blogspot.com/2008/06/do-we-need-union.html

  2. Pingback: An invitation to Sven-Gunnar Hultman and Erik Bryskhe « Synergetics

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