Pressures on the Pastor—Excerpts from a Dissertation

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Pressures on the Pastor—Excerpts from a Dissertation

With the acceptance of the operating principle of the historic importance of preaching, it will do well to briefly address other pressures on the preacher. In a chapter entitled, A Pastor’s Job Description, counselors Frank Minirth and others succinctly summarize the modern pastor:

To fill the job description of today’s pastor sounds like a job for Superman. A pastor is expected to make house calls as willingly as yesterday’s country doctor, to shake hands and smile like a politician on the campaign trail, to entertain like a stand-up comedian, to teach the Scriptures like a theology professor, and to counsel like a psychologist with the wisdom of Solomon. He should run the church like a top-level business executive, handle finances like a career accountant, and deal with the public like an expert diplomat at the United Nations. No wonder so many pastors are confused about just what is expected of them and how they will ever manage to live up to all those expectations.  Frank Minirth and others, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary  (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 165.

There are many potential aspects to the job description of the modern pastor, and this essay will not attempt to canvass them. Rather, it will establish the fact-in-principle of the bloated job description. Of interest, pressures on the minister are abundant in Protestantism and Judaism. Margaret Harris of the Centre for Voluntary Organisation, London School of Economics, describes the shared pressures in her work about church and synagogue:

The impact of unclear and multiple goals is felt especially by ministers of religion as they try to prioritise their work and implement their roles. At least eight possible functions for ministers of religion can be derived from the accumulated literature on their roles: religious celebration, preaching or ‘prophecy’, education, pastoral care, community leadership, public representation, administration and managerial leadership. Not surprisingly, rabbis and clergy face numerous different expectations about how they will select priorities and implement their role—from their peers, from their denominational structure, from lay leaders of their church or synagogue, from active volunteer helpers, from potential members, and from the local community. The minister has not only to cope with the volume and breadth of the expectations, but also with conflicts between them and the consequences of inevitable failure to meet every demand.   Margaret Harris, Organizing God’s Work: Challenges for Churches and Synagogues (London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1998), 34.

There are many goals for the modern day pastor and the pastor is struggling to meet the expectations. Speaking to the modern day church leader, Marshall Shelley writes of another set of pressures:

With individualism and isolation increasing, the need for community is stronger than ever. Pastors assumed a greater role in maintaining corporate life, or put more crassly, ‘running a church’—recruiting, motivating, administering. Put positively, this merely extends the role of ‘organizer of nurturing relationships’ who tends to the health of the community. The downside is that a pastor may feel more like a manager of church business than a shepherd of souls. And surrounded by a decreasingly Christian society, the need to evangelize the world at the church’s doorstep is unavoidable. ‘Missionary to our own neighborhood’ has been added to the pastor’s role.

In light of the many functions and needs given by Harris and then by Shelley, if one person tries to fill all these needs, Minirth’s invocation of the Superman title is accurate. Of importance for this essay is the relationship of pressure on the pastor to the historic importance and centrality of preaching. The ever present surveyor of the American church landscape, George Barna, asserts: “Leadership, for most pastors, is just one of those unfortunate duties they must endure as part of the deal that allows them to do that which really turns them on—preaching and teaching.”

Read the rest of this chapter from David Fletcher’s dissertation: Pressures On The Pastor

By | 2016-10-12T11:01:28+00:00 December 5th, 2012|Church Uniqueness, XP-SP Relationship|

About the Author:

For over 35 years, David has served churches from 1,000 to 8,000 members. As well as being a pastor, David is a spiritual entrepreneur. He founded XPastor as a global ministry tool for leaders of churches of all sizes. XPastor provides a website, an XP-Newsletter, the annual XP-Seminar, workshops, and online courses.