Thursday, April 11, 2013

In It For The Long Haul

Rick Warren once said: "Most healthy large churches are led by a pastor who has been there a long time".This has always been our dream and we are so thankful the Lord has given us the desires of our heart for long term ministry. We have been pastoring the same church for seven years and we have no intention of calling it quits now. 

Seven years may not seem like a long time to most people, but to pastors, it is longer than most last. Most pastors leave the church they are pastoring in less than four years. I recently read a study which said that: 

"Senior pastors in the 25 largest Wesleyan churches have been serving in their position for an average of 17.8 years!  The previous pastors of these same churches had been there an average of 15.2 years.  And 4 of the churches are being led by their founding pastors, who have been there an average of 18.2 years".

 Isn't that incredible?! It has been proven that if you stay into the sixth or seventh year, you will likely begin to experience unsurpassed effectiveness and fruitfulness.  Once you get past year seven there’s a good chance you’ll want to stay much longer.  I agree with Roger Parrot, who says: “Lead as if you’ll be there forever!  Imagine that the organization and position you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life”. 

As I said before we have been here seven full years and after June will be beginning our 8th and we have seen the first five years be a time of building relationships and trust and the last two years being a time of spiritual growth. But it has been this past year where we have seen tremendous increase in people wanting to work for the Lord. We are in an exciting time. People are taking the initiative and stepping out in faith. They are taking on new ministries and truly becoming lay leaders. We are so blessed to be a part of it. 

Often, in a church, a pastor's first few years are ones of building trust. The hardest people to build relationship with are usually the ones who had been close to a previous pastor. They have been hurt and disappointed by having a pastor/ friend leave them and vow never to become that close to another pastor again, because in their minds 'pastors never stay very long'.

 Maybe you're one of those people. Maybe you've put up walls around your heart and you're not willing to allow yourself to become close to your current pastor. There are several problems with that plan of action: what if this pastor has a vision of long term ministry and is the last pastor you will ever have? What if he stays in your church for 30+ years? You would have wasted all those years you could have had a close relationship with your pastor. That would be a shame and a loss on both sides. 

Let me encourage you pastors to be in it for the long haul. Troubles and stress are going to come your way. Satan will try everything he can to get you to quit because he knows that the most effective pastors are those who have been in the same pulpit long term. So weather the storms and know that the Lord, Himself, is in it with you. Charles Arn has complied the following list for pastors and I want to share it with you today:

If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s good advice for most pastors, but…” don’t let these excuses masquerade as reasons to move:
• More money.  Human nature is always dissatisfied, however much we make.
• Conflict.  Another characteristic of human nature: conflict is anywhere there are people.
• You’re getting stale.  Commit to being a life-time learner. It will keep you and your church in touch with today’s issues.
• Greener pastures.  See Philippians 4:12.
• Boredom.  To quote Rick Warren, “It’s not about you.”
• Burn-out.  Whether you have reached that point or not, take time to retreat and renew.
• An exploratory call.  We all like to be liked. But just because a church is calling doesn’t mean God is.
• You’re out of sermons.  If that’s your reason for moving, I suggest you shouldn’t be in the ministry.
• Too much pressure.  So your next church will be without pressure?  If your motivation to move is to avoid pressure, see the response above.
If you are a lay church leader, the next time you look for a new pastor, make intended longevity a criteria.  If you are a denominational leader, encourage pastors to remain faithful rather than abandon their church in difficult times.
I believe there is a relationship between the three following statistics:
1.  A pastor’s most productive time usually begins in years 5, 6, and 7;
2.  The average pastoral tenure in Protestant churches is less than 4 years;
3.  Nearly 85% of today’s churches are not growing.
It’s sad that the vast majority of pastors miss potentially their most fruitful—and enjoyable—years of ministry.  Remember the Apostle Paul’s wise counsel:  ”So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.  At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.  Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10 The Message).
Pray for your pastors. Encourage them. Support them. And grow close to them because they just might be in it for the long haul. God bless.

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