When God called me to be a pastor I resolved I would never view the pastorate as a career ladder to be climbed.
Growing up I had seen and heard people talk about how some youth pastor had now become an associate pastor, with the implication being that someday he would be a senior pastor. Or the similar idea was to move from a smaller to a larger church, and the really successful would become mega-church pastors, or at least staff pastors at a mega-church.
But with many in my generation of a pastors and ministers (I’m 36), dissatisfied with the church growth movement and its lack of growing mature disciples, I didn’t want to think of pastoral success in terms of butts (in seats), bucks, and buildings. I wanted to think in terms of faithfulness and longevity wherever God called me to serve.
And so I, like many others, had given up on worldly dreams of influence and success, and settled into a “long obedience in the same direction.”
Or have we?
While it is true that in the circles I’ve been part of there is little ambition to be a mega-church pastor, I’ve begun to see something that might be analogous: the desire to be a church consultant/coach.
Over the last 10 years I have seen an increasing trend of those who talk about and then implement a “side business” of church consulting and coaching. I saw this initially with those connected to mainline churches (probably because they have an established infrastructure for such things), but now more so within evangelical circles.
Certainly there are a variety of reasons one would become a coach: because you were asked, because you feel you have something to offer, you need a little extra income.
But I think there is also a more subtle ambition at work here. It is sometimes expresses in words like “I feel God is calling me to lead leaders…” “I think God is calling me to greater influence…to influence the influencers…” “I want to pastor the pastors…”. I have heard these and similar sentiments as justifications for becoming a church coach, which often entails an exiting of local pastoral ministry.
The trouble is, this is exactly how mega-church pastors talk about leading their churches, and how they justify the conferences they speak at. Have we really come so far from climbing the pastoral “career ladder” when we sound like those whom we criticize for building their own kingdoms under the banner of building God’s church?
Read the rest of this post over at Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed“.