Friday, January 8, 2016

Is Pastoral Turnover in the NT?

I have been a director of missions in my association for 2.5 years. During that time, I have seen or am seeing twelve pastoral changes. We have 26 churches in the association. A couple of those turnovers have been the same churches, so not quite half the churches have switched, but nearly. Can this be good for a church? Maybe; each situation is different. Pastors and churches are like a marriage, the relationship has to be based on commitment, not just love. Sometimes pastors aren't very lovable, sometimes churches aren't either. Also like marriage and divorce, it seems that pastoral turnover is increasing in its frequency, and I can't help but worry about the health of our churches, and the harm to our shepherds and their families.

To answer the question that I provocatively asked in the title: I don't know. The evidence is fairly inconclusive. Paul speaks about false teachers leaving the faith. Jude speaks of the false teachers creeping in unnoticed, and the implication is that the church should beware and remove them.

However, the apostles never changed. No evidence that the elders in Antioch ever changed. The elders in Acts 20 seemed to be the same ones that Paul left on his previous ministry after starting the church. Our healthy churches (for the most part) have longer pastorates. Always seemed like to me that Paul trained Timothy, and told him to train others in Ephesus.  He also told Titus how to set up the elders in Crete. Before seminaries, pastors were trained up within the congregations, as they are now in places devoid of seminaries. Home church people tend to have relationships already established, they are not going anywhere, and they know the church.

I realize that all those factors don't necessarily apply in the same fashion, but it just burdens my heart for the turnover rate that I see. And maybe I am the biggest hypocrite of them all, because before I was 37 years old, I had left two churches in 11 years. My plea is for church members and pastors to have mercy and patience, bearing one another's missteps, and offering much forgiveness. Let's turn the tide toward longer pastorates.

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