A friend of mine recently shared a post of an opening for a “pastor” in Colorado. Yes, the quotes are intentional. You’ll see why in a minute. Here is a snippet from their job posting:
“When you watch a sermon from Craig Groeschel , Andy Stanley or Steven Furtick. You feel like you were fed. Why cant we have that in a church with out playing the videos from the above pastors?
Here is our concept. If a worship leader can take a song from Chris Tomlin and play it just like the album and that is 100% excepted in the church why can’t you as a pastor copy or do word for word of a sermon from Craig Groeschel ? Sure add 10% of your own style to it just like the band does. This concept would work great mixed with your own sermons about 20% of the time.”
For those of you that don’t know, I recently felt God’s call on my life to be a pastor. Needless to say, I was stunned when I read this listing. Even people on Twitter and Facebook are questioning if this was written by Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site.
I did a little digging and after finding their website, I fear that it is real.
This seems to be a church plant in Colorado that had a few services in 2017 with the video sermon model and then suspended services until they could find a “pastor.” Yes, I’m going to use quotes every time I use this word in their context.
Because their definition of “pastor” is someone who can come in and parrot another pastor’s words, with the option of adding 10% of their own style just like a worship band does with a Chris Tomlin song. What this church actually wants is an actor or a proficient public speaker, not a pastor.
If you think the sum total of a pastor is what you see for 30 minutes on Sunday mornings, you need to shadow your pastor for a week. I recently preached a 30-minute sermon (Note: this is not the normal amount of time that seasoned pastors take to write a sermon. I have been assured that the longer I write sermons, the less time they’ll take).What the congregation didn’t see was that I put about 35-40 hours of study, writing, and living that sermon. The agony that goes into these things should not be overlooked. I take every sermon very seriously as I want to make sure I am faithfully exegeting the text and intently listening to the Spirit so that I can say what needs to be said.
Apart from preaching, there’s a whole aspect of pastoral care that this church isn’t addressing. The real work is what happens outside of the sermon. The visits that happen in homes and hospitals. The joy shared at weddings and baptisms, the shouldering of grief that happens at funerals. The counseling of a wife when her husband is an addict and she doesn’t know where to turn.
During these times, the congregation doesn’t care how good your sermon was. They care about whether you’re able to care for them or not.
Since I read this job posting, I have gone from being outraged to feeling sympathetic for this church. Little did they know when they created this listing that it would be picked up by Relevant and posted on Twitter and Facebook for all the world to see. I admit that I have been quick to judge them, but then I wondered if they actually understand their error.
Do they understand that they are actually close to deifying these celebrity pastors they mention? Perhaps not deifying the pastor themselves, but definitely their words. Their words do not carry any more power than a country preacher in a tiny town in Texas where there’s no cell service.
The Spirit is what carries the power.
Most books on preaching will tell you that a sermon is a specific word to a specific set of hearers in a specific time. Part of the joy I have in preaching is the sermon preparation time. I love getting knee deep in the text and living with it for a while, brooding over it so that it sinks deep into my pores. The Spirit never fails to open up the text in a way that I never saw it before. I struggle with crafting each sentence in a way that allows the hearers to see the text in a new way. To try and make the text applicable to their lives in this time and place.
I just don’t see how this can be possible if all you’re being asked to do is memorize and say someone else’s words.
I have reached out to the church to start a dialogue. I am truly interested in understanding why they think this is what a pastor is. I want to be able to talk to them and see if I can get them to understand that there is infinitely more to being a pastor than the 30-minute sermon on Sundays. To get them to understand the Spirit’s work in the sermon preparation and delivery time. To help them to understand that they deserve better than a “pastor” that will come in and simply memorize and deliver a speech on Sundays.
Here is my letter to them:
Hi. You may or may not know that Relevant Magazine has posted an article about your job listing for a pastor. There has been much discussion on both Twitter and Facebook about the posting, with some even suggesting it is satire. I am currently in seminary studying to be a pastor and I admit that when I first saw the posting I thought it couldn’t be real. The reason for this is that you aren’t actually looking for a pastor. You seem to be looking for an actor or a dynamic public speaker. A pastor is so much more than this.
Pastoring is congregational care. Someone to visit homes and hospitals when someone is sick. Someone to do baptisms, funerals, and weddings. Someone to counsel a wife when her husband is an addict and won’t get help. This is all done during the week, outside of the 30-minute sermon on Sunday mornings. Without this aspect, you have little chance of maintaining the health of your congregation.
I’d also like you to see that the sermon is also part of congregational care, not just something meant to create shallow, emotional reactions in people. Being a pastor includes understanding the struggles and needs of your congregation and crafting a sermon that meets those needs and speaks to those struggles. If you have someone simply memorizing someone else’s sermons, you will have members of your congregation that will be left thirsting for more.
I want to tell you that you deserve more than a public speaker for your congregation. You deserve someone that is called to and has a passion for preaching. Also, someone that will care for your congregation as it grows. Someone that will listen to the text and Spirit as they both speak to her or him. Are you going to get some sermons that aren’t “blockbusters?” Absolutely. When I sit down to write sermons, I fear that I’ll end up with a dud. But if you find someone that is a faithful student of the Word, the Spirit will work far and above anything that she or he will have to say. And because you have a pastor that truly cares for you, you’ll find that you’ll be a healthier congregation for it.
I would love to speak with you more about this if you’re open to it.
I’ll post updates as I have them.
Peace and Hope to you.