In the United Methodist Church, pastors are moved every 2-5 years. It is expected. As a result, pastors generally do not purchase homes but live in provided housing. This used to be a common state of affairs in most denominations. Pastors rarely owned homes, instead living in a church-owned property. This is how my father’s churches always provided for him.
But times are changing.
Increasingly, especially among Baptists and non-denominational churches, pastors are identifying with a single congregation and serving there for extended periods of time. My father has been at his church for 17 years; my friend Anthony has been at his for 12. In Anthony’s case, the church owned a parsonage which he lived in for several years and then purchased a home, leaving the parsonage for one of his junior pastors to occupy.
My friend Steve just started his church two years ago, but before starting it, he purchased a home. I bought a house before we had stayed in town more than a year – that was 4 years ago.
Today, pastors are increasingly viewed as professionals with commensurate pay scales and benefits. (This is not necessarily a bad thing!) They work in individual churches and thus put down roots. I use the parsonage vs. house ownership thing as an illustration of a larger thought.
The existence of parsonages, or manses, was necessitated by the nature of a pastor’s calling. A pastor was called to serve THE CHURCH at large. He was not necessarily called to a locale but rather to the ministry of the gospel. His training was geared toward this; his thinking was gauged this way.
In the modern evangelical church, pastors will generally talk of being called into a location – like missionaries who say they are called to this field or that field. I know this was my experience; and I made a determination – ONE LORD, ONE WIFE, ONE CHURCH. When I became a pastor, I was going to ‘KNOW’ God had called me to a specific place.
I cannot yet decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing or indifferent. I do know that I want to identify with the cause of Christ more than with one geographical location. I do know that wherever I go, I want the gospel to be my creed and message. What do you think?