The Church Supporting Pastors

6 Apr

greenchurch

In a day and age when many flocks are shepherd-less, new ways of supporting pastors and teachers may enable local congregations to be taken better care of, and serve as a means of drawing the Church together in closer unity.  

For the past year, I have had the opportunity to serve as a pastoral intern at First Baptist Church in Pekin, Illinois. During this time, I have had the privilege of preaching to God’s people (you can find an outline of my sermon here), training leaders for various ministry opportunities, serving the needy in our food pantry, visiting widows and shut-ins, and currently teaching a Sunday evening series through Exodus.

I have had this opportunity for one reason: the support of the Church.  By “the church” I mean First Baptist Church and its willingness to extend to me an internship, but also the Church Universal.  For, I have been able to be on staff at FBC because of the faithful financial and prayerful support of believers in various congregations; people in St. Cloud, Mankato, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as East Peoria, Pekin, and Green Valley, Illinois.  And as I have thought more about this, it has led me to believe that this may be a way of providing shepherds to flocks across our country for the continued work of Gospel-ministry and building up of the Church.

We oftentimes hear of organizations that support–by the giving of churches and individuals–pastors in countries around the world.  One example that my wife, Christina, and I have been able to partner with is Serve India Ministries.  It is exciting to think of the ways God is working to enable trained national pastors shepherd the small village flocks in this country.

Yet, when it comes to North America, the general way men who have trained for pastoral ministry can serve the Church is by job hunting and competing against one another.  And while seminaries are valuable assets to the Church, equipping men for the work of vocational ministry, they are oftentimes seen merely as necessary resume builders to prove a candidate worthy of “a job” and saddle men with large amounts of debt.  Some churches jump at the first person who comes along, regardless of their theology, experience, or character, and others reject faithful, capable candidates because they do not possess an M.Div.  Churches with large staffs continue to add shepherds, while others struggle for years to find one.

So the question is: What do we do?  I think the answer, in part, lies in local churches joining together in prayerful and financial support of pastors so that many more local congregations may be cared for by those who have been called to vocational ministry.  Just as I have had the opportunity to serve at FBC in Pekin due to the support of people in six different congregations, perhaps pastors and/or candidates could be enabled to serve on the basis of such support.

This is not a fully teased out thesis, but rather some thoughts on the future of vocational ministry and pastoral care in North America.  And while there are many things that could be discussed, I just want to list three benefits I see that could come from such an approach:

1. More passionate, faithful, trained ministers serving the Church for the building up of believers across our country/continent (alleviating the burden on the shoulders of many small/medium sized church pastors, and providing ministers for shepherd-less flocks)
2. Churches helping churches, uniting the Church to the glory of God (those with financial resources helping to supply those without)
3. A way for churches to engage in a national outreach and ministry outside of church planting

Let me know your thoughts on this, as well as other approaches that can be implemented for the building up of God’s people, for God’s glory, and for their edification and joy.

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