This is a couple of years old. Since this was written I have been called as an Associate Pastor, got a stipend and wrote a book. But, this is good reading for someone considering the ministry. If it scares you or depresses you then don't become a pastor. Where Are All The Pastors? In a Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage article, Ron Rose asks, "Where are all the pastors? That is exactly the question I heard in 1977 when I surrendered to preach. In a morning sermon, my pastor had stated that in our fellowship alone there were 121 churches without a pastor. He asked, "Where are the men that will go?" I had been seeking God's will for my life and this seemed as good as any call to me. There was a need. I enjoyed teaching, witnessing, and loved people, so I said, "Here am I. Send me" make me a preacher. So, in 1978, I loaded up my family and went off to Bible College. I experienced the same financial hardships and other pressures as many that do the same thing. I had my GI Bill and at times, worked three part-time jobs and still God had to provide miraculously for me at times. Along with a full academic load and a church ministry, I was a husband and father of two. I had initially enrolled in the five-year program, but three years into it switched to the four-year degree. I owe it to my wife that I did not quit. I had heard in chapel that I was not to worry about making a living while I was here building a life. However, in the finance office, I heard cash on the barrelhead and that we run our business office like the world. It is a little hard to heed the chapel message with a different message being told in the business office. I had no problem with tuition money except for the way the GI Bill is dispensed. I had discussed this with the business office before I left the military and was assured that this would be no problem. Yet, every year I was threatened with expulsion or not being able to attend classes or take tests whenever that government idiosyncrasy reared its ugly head. My senior year, I pointed to three years of paid bills, but I did not even receive the consideration that a secular loan company would have given me for such a record. Had not my pastor asked me if I had a need, I may well have been expelled. Ah, grace, grace, God's grace, but none without a dead president's face. Many would be pastors drop out because of such financial pressures that also cause family problems. I had one friend who dropped out in the spring semester of his senior year because his wife could no longer take it. Another one, lived in the dorm because his wife would not leave Virginia with the children, I could give you a long list of reasons why we should return to an apprenticeship for pastors, but that is something I will save for its own message. Yes, maybe some of them were not truly called or their wives would have not handled the stress of the ministry, but not all of them. It is easier to counsel and weed out up to a dozen perspective preachers in the local church versus thirty in a class on a campus of hundreds or more students. I am not sure that God desires such stress in a learning period. It is a man thing. After graduating with honors, I started my search for a full time pastorate. I do not know where Bro. Rose surveyed or gathered his data, but I found five Baptist preachers under every bush. I have candidated or sent resumes to numerous states. No one that I have ever asked has heard of Minooka, Illinois, but when I sent a resume to a church there they received 125 resumes!!! In Arizona and Colorado, they received over 400 resumes with mine. A shortage of perspective pastors does not seem to be valid. I was tickled for the chance to be grilled and I even came in second from time to time. The problem really seems to be with the leadership of the churches that do the hiring and firing of the preacher. Many of them have no clue on how to call a pastor and many of them do not even use biblical criteria. They have talent shows where five or men come in to speak on succeeding Sundays and then have a popularity contest vote. Let me explain how that one worked for me in one instance. I was number three of five. In my interrogation, I was asked if I would leave my job, live in the parsonage, do door-to-door evangelism, and what I would do to get the youth into the church. I answered in the affirmative to the first three and with anything that was Scriptural for the last. They seemed pleased with my answers and my preaching. The next two lads came in and then they voted. I called the deacon that I had stayed with the day after the vote to see how it went. I had come in second. I was disappointed, but asked about the lad they called. Well, he had answered no to the first three questions and admitted he was not good with teenagers. The deacons said that he was the last one to preach and they sort of remembered me best after him. Another time, that I was rejected was because they were looking for an older man or so they told me. I was 32 at the time. I understood that because they were mostly 40 and above. I said that I would be glad to fill in if they had an open Sunday, but I had a friend that lived a lot closer to them. A month later, I found out that they had called my friend. He was indeed older than I was by two weeks. He and I were almost identical in every way, doctrine, degree, style, version, age, number of children, etc. In fact, it so bothered him that he asked why they had not called me since there seemed to be no difference between us. I had been asked where I got my son's name. I laughed and said, well, when he was born I will still pretty much a hippie and proud of my German heritage therefore I gave him a name that would always remind him of that heritage. Ah, that was the death knell. They were afraid that with that pride in my heritage that I might be dictatorial! Oy vey! A dictatorial hippie, now that is a combination. The age thing is a problem. When I graduated at 30, they wanted men 35-50 with a proven record of accomplishment hopefully of 15 years. Hmm, is that a sales rep or a pastor that you are looking for? Isaiah had a bad record of accomplishment by our standards, but God used him greatly. And about that math, if the minimum age you will take a guy is 30, he would have to be 20 to have 15 years of experience, but you won't even look at him for another ten years. Well, there went Timothy who was only 21 when he pastored the "First Church of Ephesus." Of course, now that I am nearing 48, churches are looking for younger men. Fickle, fickle, fickle!!! What was that in Ezekiel about unequal ways? I was too fat to be a Christian Education director at one church. It was a Baptistic church in doctrine, but the preacher did not like the Baptist name because Baptists are too legalistic. I could agree somewhat with that. We do have some folks in the camp that would fall into that category, but I have found over the years that we have far more loose as a gooseites than legalists. Anyway, I went to their winter youth camp only to find that I was to give a short meditation every few hours and would be preaching two chapel services that weekend. Yep, I got off the bus and received that information. Well, praise the Lord, I was able to pull that off with no time to study because I was involved in all the games and such between my devotions. Then we get back. He calls me and invites me to lunch at Burger King to discuss what the church or more likely, only he was thinking. They wanted to hire me, They were very impressed with the way that I handled the kids and that I could preach or teach at the drop of a hat. When you shoot from the hip, that is pretty easy really. C] }|> There was only one condition. I had to promise to go on a diet. Holy Moses McPherson!!! This was the lad spouting all that stuff about legalism!!! I asked him where he had read, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, weigh 130 pounds and thou shalt be saved and able to serve!" Man, he had just cast D. L. Moody and Charles Spurgeon into outer darkness. As politely, as I could, and it took a lot of grace, I informed him that while I agreed I could lose some weight I did not see any biblical premise to make it a condition of service. To top it off, if he felt that bad about my weight why invite me to lunch at Burger King instead of Salad King! I'm still waiting for the passage to justify his terms. I was taught expository preaching, but to some of my more bombastic brethren, I was too deep in the Word and they called expositors dry. I was still young in the Lord and ministry, so wanting to be teachable, I tried to preach their way at the next church that I was to candidate. I had no idea where this church had gotten my resume. It's name sounded Pentecostal and I was fer sure a Baptist, but nonetheless I went there to preach anyway. I never turn down an opportunity to preach. If Jesus could preach to scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and hypocrites then who was I to turn down an opportunity to give a message to someone who needed it be they Baptists, Charismatics, saved or lost or unsure? It turned out that they were a Sunday School class from a mainline church that had been saved from watching some of the Rapture and Revelation movies. When they could not get anyone else in their church to be interested in salvation, they started their own church. Well, I threw in a few more stories than usual and maybe a joke or two and I was swamped with hugs and even a couple of kisses at the door after service! This was definitely different than what I was accustomed to and I was glad that my wife was seeing that I did nothing to encourage any of that from the women. Sunday night, they showed up in halter tops, shorts, and flip-flops which was something that I had never seen before. I did not blast them as the manner of some is, but allowed that they were baby Christians and would be led by the Spirit and good teaching in time to be a tad more modest at least in the church house. Again after the service they all grabbed and me and told me that I had to come back. I said that was up to the pulpit committee. I called them on the day that they (the pulpit committee, not the people) voted because I had a job interview the next day. They told me to take the job. I asked wherein I erred or lacked. They replied that while I had kept their new converts and teens on the edge of their seats they believed that I was just too shallow! Sounds like some of those "elders" should have stayed at the other church. Well, there you go. I have been too deep, too shallow, too bold, not bold enough, too young, too old, not educated enough, too educated and on and on and on. One man was just hanging up after making an appointment to candidate when the deacon asked him one more question. He was asked if he wore glasses. He said no and asked why. The deacon said that they did not want a pastor with glasses. I was proud to hear that the guy said, " Then you do not want me either and hung up! " I sent a tape to a church and there was a three-deacon pulpit committee. When they had heard the tape, I asked the one deacon what they had thought. He said that he thought that I was a fine bible teacher, but the one guy did not like me and the other had no opinion either way. I have more of a problem with the apathetic one than the other two. That was fifteen years ago and I wonder if they have ever yet called a preacher with a group that diverse in opinion. I never once heard that I did not meet the qualifications of 1Timothy 3 or any other Scripture contesting my doctrine. Of course, as I have come to find that might be because many of the leaders and the congregations are not that well versed in Scripture. They are well versed in their opinions and business. Too many have turned the calling into a career field and want a CEO, not a pastor. They want someone that will bring in the people, yes for the Lord's fold, but also for their billfold so they can build a mega-church. A politician instead of a preacher would suffice many churches. Imagine a church where the majority of the congregation is moderate to very Conservative. The moderate pastor resigns and as he leaves the "board" calls a vocally Liberal interim pastor. During his last service, the departing pastor does something that the wife of a Conservative Elder has real problems with though there is no Scriptural principle being broken, but it is contrary to her tradition. However, she has no problems with some things that had been done over the years that have clear Scriptural teachings to the contrary. Tradition usually wins over truth. The same woman did not bat an eye at calling the Liberal. The controlling Elder who would most likely call himself a Conservative loves the Liberal because he has charisma. Doctrinal issues never entered the picture. He talks good, looks good, and might draw a crowd. The Elder had business shrewdness, but poor discernment. Many churches live in the past and woe be unto the man who candidates at a church where the pastor had a long tenure. I once candidated at a church where they had a pastor for fifty years and then one every year for the five years he had been dead. They still printed his poems in the bulletin and talked like he was on vacation. So much for, "Moses, My servant, is dead. Hear ye Joshua." That was a few years back and I would love to know the record length of stay for any man they called. One church I recently spoke with has not had a regular pastor for several years and the congregation is down to twenty. The neighborhood has changed and highway has blocked them in and even made it difficult for people to get to them. However, because they are called the "First Baptist Church of _______," they think they should be able to draw a ThD and a crowd. It is not going to happen and they would be better off to turn the facilities over to the Hispanic church that shares the building. That will not happen until the last old guard dies. A similar church is down to twelve, but God provided several hundred thousand dollars to repair their roof so they think they are doing well. Ah, yes as long as we are paying the bills, we are fruitful and in the will of God. I do not think so. They have a 60+ "interim" pastor that has been there longer than some that come as the "regular" full time preacher. They should sell the facilities and put the money into some work that is still alive. Shoot, I bet that work would even build a room for them so that they can reminisce about the good old days until they come to the end of their days. By now, someone is screaming, "Sour Grapes!!!" Nope, if these were only my experiences then I would say that maybe I should rethink my call. However, such things have happened to men that I consider far better preachers than myself. I currently serve in a church that not only has a fantastic pastor, but we have a man who is currently between pastorates. He is way out of my league, as is the pastor. He could tell you some tales even worse than mine. I have an evangelist friend that would make you cry when you heard about his experiences as a pastor. Duke University may have something going with their Demon Deacons motto. Fortunately, none of the deacons where I am now ever went to Duke. They are very good men and they are a very rare group. Let's see, how about doctrine? I once received a questionnaire with a load of questions with only Yes and No responses available. None of those issues were clean cut issues. A chance to clarify my position would have been good. I felt like some teacher had made this up and had a template to check off their desired answers and only those who received an 85% or above were asked to speak. Others have sent me doctrinal statements that I know they must not have read in awhile. I may have been on target with their paper, but during the grill, they would ask questions and show that they were not in agreement with their own doctrinal statement, which leads to a few thoughts about education. Common folks likely founded most of the churches that I have been at and their preacher may not have had any formal theological education or a minimal one at best. In fact, the Bible does seem to teach that the highly educated in the world's estimation are few in the Kingdom. God even used the most educated apostle to write that. Ah, but the world likes degrees and so do the churches. I was thrilled to hear that the pastor of a very prominent church in my area said that all the paper did for him was get him an interview at that church. He said that they had little to do with preaching or calling. Amen to that! We have some of the most educated clergy in the world and our people seem to know less Bible than they ever have in our history. I love it that D. L. Moody's assistant was Dr. R. A. Torrey. Moody was the shoe salesman called of God and trained by the same. Torrey was trained in the finest European universities, but he had no problem being an assistant to Moody. Try to get that combination today! With all his education, his sermons were down to earth. A brother in Christ recently let me read the testimony of a man that had studied all the languages for forty years and he summarized all his findings down to the lyrics of "Jesus Loves Me." Contrast that to the four-inch thick doctoral thesis by one of my professors on the problem with the amillennialist's position in the "a" portion of one verse in Revelation. Education is fine, but what usually happens is that a church calls a lad in that has all these cookies to share, but he keeps them up on a high shelf. He has a pretty jar and the cookies are fine, but everyone starves to death because they cannot reach him. Mind you, I have a Bachelor of Religious Education, and I have been considered excessively deep. When I spell check my sermons, I am usually not above a seventh grade level. This treatise is currently at 6.9. Imagine if I had a ThD what they would think. Actually, I have enough credit hours that if they were all in the same discipline I would have more credit hours than many folks with doctorate degrees. I just took a long and winding road to the ministry. I am always studying. Another one of my professors often told us that he did five years at our college and then went off to five years of seminary to learn again what he had already learned. That struck me as a terrible waste of time effort and resources. Besides, what I have seen coming out of seminaries both in doctrine and men make me happy that I did not go. Most of it is flimflam, foolishness, and apostasy. If that is what it means to be "learned," please allow me to die in ignorance! That is why many of the seminary-trained lads cannot survive in the real ministry. They go there to learn to be the CEOs that the churches think they want only to find out that they really need to be pastors. All the demographic charts and financial planning seminars cannot prepare them for what they find outside the cloistered walls. When all of their formulas and programs fail, they take it all personally and quit. I had to learn one thing to survive. If you keep it biblical and simple, do not take it personally when growth does not happen. Every congregation is a mixed multitude. You have everything from tares to saints with all the variations in between the extremes. Twenty percent of the people are going to do eighty percent of the work. It does not matter if a host of angels were to materialize in the back of the church and amen everything you said. It will remain the same no matter what the numbers of people are in your church. It is not about you. It is about the Word, the Lord, and the Holy Spirit working among that group. A pastor is only required to be faithful to the One, who called him and let Him work it out. Do it any other way and you will burn out and become bitter. That flushing sound you hear is you, your family, and your ministry going down the tubes because you thought that you were "the man." Of course, since many of the people just want a paid priesthood, it is easy to take on too much and get a bit over confident if the Lord moves. There are two basic "doctrines" that people believe in about pastors. One is that he is on this huge pedestal and he can do no wrong, which leads to dictators and egotists that fall and take their followers down with them. The other I call the "Bounty" towel philosophy. That is where you expect him to be the "quicker picker upper" of the mess and if it is more than he can take, you just chunk him in the trash and take a fresh one from the seminary dispenser. We have plenty of dispensers! Of the making of books and building of seminaries, there is no end. In my area, I can think of at least three seminaries off the top of my head and a couple of Bible Colleges. More seem to be created every day from the traditional to the web based training mode. We crank out more and more reverends every year and in the process create more John Marks than Pauls. In this area, we usually have forty-five to sixty-five churches without pastors. That is just one group of Baptists. There are a few more groups in the area. They are not that way due to the lack of men. They are pastorless because of the reasons that I have outlined. They have poor leadership, poor discernment, unrealistic expectations, and the poor attendance to match all that. Most of these churches need a viable bivocational pastor rather than an interim that stays three years or longer. Again, they cannot see this and demand a "standard" pastor and will close the church if they have to before they will consider a "part-time" pastor, If the former pastor had trained an apprentice they would not have so may problems with finding one no matter what their size. Apprenticeship is the only way to go. It is cheaper, biblical, and maybe even a guard against bad sheep ruining a good pastor or a bad pastor tearing up a good flock. Seminary training is an apprenticeship of sorts, but it fails because men go to places they know nothing about and try to implement what they learned from men who succeeded in another area with programs that may never work where the apprentice ends up serving. Some may be asking why do I keep ministering after all the hoo-ha that I have seen. Well, there is not much else you can do when you are called. I have been like Jonah and ran. I have said like Peter, "Forget it I'm going fishing." It just does not work. I consider myself an unworthy second class tract passer, but I cannot leave it behind. I am not happy except when I am ministering. Somewhere, there is a church that I am to lead. We just have not hooked up, yet. I figure that I had a lot to learn and maybe they do as well before they can accept me and we can get on with the Lord's business. They may have to dump their leadership, since so many of the common folks have loved me. I just cannot get past that committee. If I could have gotten to some congregations, I would have been pastoring long ago. Until then, I just do guerilla warfare and hit the devil where I can. Maybe the question should not be where are the pastors, but rather where are the congregations that really want one instead of a CEO? The pastors are out there. I have known a lot of them and I am pretty sure that I am one as well. Ring our bell. We will answer!