Posts Tagged pastoring
Last year, Rob Bell wrote a controversial book on who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Then he resigned his role as teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church.
Now, his successor Shane Hipps is resigning because the megachurch is falling apart and the board has decided to reorganize, placing the teaching pastor under the executive director. Hipps said, ” [I] knew instantly my internal shape did not fit the role they created.”
As much as he would deny it, Mars Hill Bible Church was built around Rob Bell. He was a controversial lightning rod who amassed a following, first as a popular teacher under Ed Dobson at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and then at Mars Hill. Bell was hip, latching onto the new media of DVD Bible studies and unusual, if thought-provoking, books with titles like Velvet Elvis and Jesus Wants to Save Christians.
When Bell resigned last year, Hipps was already handling much of the teaching pastor duties at Mars Hill. Bell was busy traveling on speaking tours and filming his NOOMA videos. He was essentially the rock star of the emergent movement.
Now, the congregation is struggling to make sense of things and to replace Rob Bell’s replacement.
This is the danger of a congregation built on the cult of personality.
It is something I know that Rob Bell worked hard to avoid and prevent, but it was bound to happen. He was too charismatic and too unusual for people not to be drawn to him personally rather than to the work he was trying to accomplish.
I have no doubt that Mars Hill Bible Church will sort through things, restructure and press on; but I will be very surprised if it ever reaches the levels of success that it achieved when Bell was the pastor.
This is a lesson we all need to learn. You can build a following or you can build a congregation. They can even coexist for awhile but the two will eventually come into conflict.
I don’t know the statistics, but there are a lot of churches looking for pastors. Since the average tenure of a pastor is around two to three years, then the average church will go through a search three or four times every decade. Since there are tens of thousands of churches in North America, of which a healthy proportion have some kind of congregational voice in the calling of a pastor, there is a lot of searching going on.
I am the son of a pastor who served fourteen years at his first congregation and is in his nineteenth year at his second. As a pastor myself, I have served in the same congregation for six years. I say that to point out that my personal experience with pastoral search committees is very limited. That being said, I have heard some horror stories from congregations and pastors.
When Moody Publishers put Chris Brauns book When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search on their review list, I knew I had to read it. To me, the idea of the Word (the Bible) dictating how you choose a pastor seems to be quite obvious, but I know that many churches choose a pastor for all the wrong reasons. They base their decision on a man’s age or education or they listen to a sermon or two and find him acceptable.
Brauns’ book is exactly what it purports to be – a manual for biblically, carefully discerning who God has called and gifted to be the pastor of a congregation. It is written primarily for churches who have a CEO-type pastor – a single elder who is supported by the congregation. In this type of polity, it is absolutely vital that a congregation make the biblical choose of pastor since they grant him a great deal of responsibility and authority in the congregation.
(As I have written before, we do not have this style of leadership among our congregation. I serve as a vocational elder and share the leadership of the congregation with several other Godly men.)
If your congregation is seeking a new pastor, Brauns’ book is a resource worth picking up. He walks you through the biblical precedence for a pastor. He then shows a biblical process for selecting which pastor is the man God has called and equipped for your congregation. Of particular usefulness is his list of “Frequently Asked Questions” at the back of the book. A search committee would benefit greatly from the book.
Personally, I think the book is also a great resource for congregations with elder leadership, especially when calling additional vocational pastors. Churches of all types drop the ball when calling assistant pastors because they take unqualified men and give them inflated titles with very little responsibility as elders.
All around, this book is worth putting on your book shelf.
A copy of this book was provided to me at no cost by Moody Publishers.