On a mission to fill empty pulpits
DENVER — Low pay and benefits. Overly demanding leaders. Unrealistic expectations.…
Churches of Christ don’t have enough preachers to fill all the open pulpits in our fellowship.
That’s no secret, as news stories in The Christian Chronicle note.
The big question: Why don’t more young Christians aspire to become ministers?
Sacred Calling: Read all the stories in the series
Just a few of the reasons:
• Lack of money: Many small congregations — the majority of Churches of Christ — can’t (or won’t) support a full-time minister. Who wants to choose a vocation, even a sacred calling, where you can’t afford to buy groceries?
• Lack of faith: Many adult Christians have lost their heart for the Lord’s work, and their children can see it. Why would anyone expect those kids to view ministry as a valuable pursuit?
• Lack of unity: Doctrinal differences — large and small — characterize the nation’s 12,000 autonomous Churches of Christ. Who can pass the litmus tests imposed by many congregations? (And who wants to try?)
But perhaps the biggest factor — and the saddest — relates to the lack of respect afforded preachers in our fellowship. We don’t honor them or hold them in high regard.
Way too often, we treat ministers in harsh ways that must make our children and even strangers in our communities shudder.
In a Christian Chronicle survey, we asked ministers to cite reasons for the preacher shortage. Many of the responses were offered by ministers who asked not to be identified. Their experiences broke our hearts.
Among the on-the-record insights from ministers speaking in general terms, not about their own situations:
• Glenn Newton, Agape Church of Christ in St. Johns, Fla.: “Elders can unintentionally make it impossible to do what God called you to do. Many elderships have become a board of directors. Therefore, people are leaving ministry in droves — some even leaving Churches of Christ and some abandoning their faith.”
• Paul Cartwright, Webb Chapel Church of Christ in Farmers Branch, Texas: “Lack of support for ministers is a contributing factor. This lack of support manifests in the form of low wages, ministers being made to be the scapegoat for all the mistakes of the church, and the members of the local congregation seeing ministers as employees and not as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“For those fully invested with their hearts on the line, it can be crushing to then receive rejection from those you love and serve.”
• Jared Mayes, Southside Church of Christ in Rogers, Ark.: “I believe the mistreatment of ministers is one of the largest factors. Ministry can be brutal on the mental health well-being of a minister and his/her family. People often do not realize how brutal their comments and opinions can be for those in ministry. For those fully invested with their hearts on the line, it can be crushing to then receive rejection from those you love and serve.”
Let’s be clear: Many churches treat their ministers exceptionally well.
On the other hand, we frequently receive reports of servants called into meetings with elders and abruptly fired — with or without severance.
In a majority of cases, the terminations seem to have much more to do with the leaders’ whims and egos than sincere concern for the Lord’s work.
Related: On a mission to fill empty pulpits
Related: On a mission to fill empty pulpits
Why are Churches of Christ facing a shortage of preachers?
One minister recently summoned into a meeting like the one described above told us: “Churches of Christ, by and large, acted like they could mistreat preachers in every way possible and still hire one who would be new and shiny anytime they wanted. The bill for bad behavior is now coming due for our fellowship.”
“Churches of Christ, by and large, acted like they could mistreat preachers in every way possible and still hire one who would be new and shiny anytime they wanted. The bill for bad behavior is now coming due for our fellowship.”
The time to repent and do better is now.
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
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