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[I came across this instructive article by Scott Postma at and thought you’d be challenged by it as I was.] Continue reading . . .

[I came across this instructive article by Scott Postma at and thought you’d be challenged by it as I was.]

It’s not a secret the church has been in decline for a number of years and for a variety of reasons. You can read some statistics and views on why, here and here and here. Everyone has their opinions.

Abuse, apostasy, and irrelevance are just a few of the words that keep coming up in the search for reasons for the decline. There are a variety of compelling opinions and I even have a few of my own.

But I suggest there is another area of decline more significant and perhaps much less obvious—and one that certainly contributes to the church’s decline in numbers.

And I think it’s likely a careful analysis would implicate the church’s leadership for this more significant issue.

In other words, I’m concerned about pastors and the role they play in the church’s decline.

By saying so, I’m not suggesting this pastor has it all together. Nor am I trying to cultivate (or ratify) some dishonest skeptics’ hate for the church. Rather, I’m hoping to raise some concerns in a conversational kind of way.

Further, I’m not claiming to be the expert in all church issues. However, I have been in some form of pastoral ministry for the last 19 years and feel I have some measure of insight about the issue.

So in an effort to pursue this conversation in a healthy way, here are 10 pastors I’m concerned about.

(1) I’m concerned about the pastor who is better at managing church programs than he is at making disciples of Jesus. Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger addressed this topic somewhat in the book Simple Church, but I’m not sure how many pastors paid attention to the message. The church is not better because it has more programs. It’s quite possible for programs to hinder its real mission.

(2) I’m concerned about the pastor who attracts people with fancy self-help sermons instead of teaching people to be students of the Bible and theology. Sure topical sermons can be helpful teaching tools when used appropriately and in moderation. But to pique interest in the unchurched, church-growth pastors have promoted episodic sermons ad nauseam and to no avail at effectively grounding deeply committed disciples of Jesus, as the statistics provided previously demonstrate.

(3) I’m concerned about the pastor who is a chief executive instead of a contemplative sage. The pastor is called to a contemplative life of prayer and study of the word (Acts 6:4; cf. Ephesians 4:11-16). From that life his ministry flows to the church. The pastor was never called to be a rock-star communicator or bench-mark business leader. He was called to model redemption and shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-4; cf. Acts 20:28). Perhaps pastors should consider putting away their John Maxwell and Nelson Searcy books and picking up the Bible and the church fathers.

(4) I’m concerned about the pastor who uses the pulpit to milk members instead of minister to the saints. It was the angry atheist, Richard Dawkins, who asked Ted Haggard (back in the day) why he needed a multi-million dollar sound system that paralleled that of MTV to teach people about God. I think that’s a question that deserves an answer. Why do pastors need to build bigger and better on the backs of God’s people? I think the answer may be rooted in the human heart. Francis Chan seemed to have caught that vision when he was still pastor in Simi Valley. And if we think we need to build bigger barns, perhaps we should pray about church planting as a viable alternative.

(5) I’m concerned about the pastor who makes growing the church the goal instead of glorifying God the goal. There is no biblical mandate for growing the church. Sure there is one for propagating the gospel and making disciples. But the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. There is nothing in Scripture, except pride, that drives pastors to drive the flocks they are supposed to be tending.

(6) I’m concerned about the pastor who builds his ministry with people instead of building people by his ministry. It seems I’ve said this already, just differently. But here I’m speaking to a philosophy that often underlies many of the abuses in the church. For example, a well-known mega-church pastor once advised me to think of people in seven-year terms. He explained that people generally burn out after seven years. And if I wanted to build a big ministry for God, I would need to leverage those seven years. Funny, I don’t recall God asking pastors to leverage his people for the pastor’s dream of building a big church for God.

(7) I’m concerned about the pastor who cultivates a culture of dependency on himself instead of cultivating a culture of community within the church. Of course, I’m not denying spiritual dependency on Christ is biblical. But the pastor is not the people’s savior. He’s a just man who will burn out and fail himself given enough time and responsibility. Christians should be taught to depend on Jesus as our Savior, the church as our sanctifying community, the Bible as our word from God, and the Spirit as our parakletos.

(8) I’m concerned about the pastor who reads and teaches the Bible literally instead of literarily. This is not to suggest the Bible is not important or any less God’s word. It’s to say the Bible is literature, divine literature to be sure, but literature nonetheless. That means it needs to be read and understood as God’s word to us (or for us) in the context of its literary genre. Not all the Bible is prescriptive; and none of it was written to be used as a random list of verses cherry-picked capriciously to beat people up or defend our personal ideas and beliefs. The Bible is the holy canon which reveals God to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Pastors who mishandle God’s word are extremely dangerous.

(9) I’m concerned about the pastor who contributes to the culture of consumerism instead of combating idolatry. Pastors who pander to the consumerism in the church are no different than parents who give their kids everything they want to keep them from throwing a fit or to get them to reciprocate love. Christianity isn’t a smorgasbord where people get to pick and choose what they like or don’t. It’s a community of believers on a journey and mission of faith who live in communitas with others for the glory of God, the blessing of his people, and the advancement of his kingdom.

(10) I’m concerned about the pastor who sees the church as a stepping stone instead of seeing it as a custodian of Christ’s kingdom. Certainly, God moves people. And certainly pastors have a right to pursue other ventures as the Lord leads and gives liberty. But the church is the primary agent for the stewardship of the gospel and the redemption of the cosmos. It’s the integral institution for advancing Christ’s kingdom and for shaping culture and society. It’s not God’s second-hand agency. It’s not his “Plan B.” Jesus died for the church and it is significant.

These are a few of my concerns about pastors. What are your concerns?


Perhaps the job wasn't meant for one man?

  And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elderS of the church (Acts 20:17).

Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensampleS to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).

1    Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishopS and deaconS (Philp 1:1).

I wonder what would happen if a mega church shut down all programs cold turkey, locked the door and left a message on the door, "Find some people to worship with and go become the church?"

Yes, it seems America is flooded with pastors who have a "head knowledge" of God, but not a "heart knowledge". Seminary, an M Div or ThD do not pastor make. And while it is easy to judge, the more prescriptive challenge is to be Jesus to/for them. I, personally, have been blessed to have found a John 7:38 pastor after years of pastors from whose belly flowed a never ending stream of Cola. No wonder the health of the American church is as it is.

I wholeheartedly agree with the article but poor leadership is only part of the problem. The church is struggling because it does not realize the season it's in. We are in the day of 2 nd Thessalonians chapter 2. God has chosen at this time to remove the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit through the church because the historical biblical values that have kept the nations in check are no longer producing an environment that the gospel can flourish in. The kindness and mercy of God is no longer having a positive impact on the nations as governments are being overthrown at an epidemic rate, the likes of which we have never seen. Like Joshua the current expression of the church does not know how to finish its mandate. The evangelical position we’ve held for the past seventy years must give way to a more accurate representation of God. It is evident in that the Holy Spirit is moving upon Gods people to abandon the religious attitudes that currently have her wandering aimlessly. Looking for ways to become more relevant than being holy, the church is embracing godless positions as society redefines God in its own image causing an increase in lawlessness. This will ultimately create a separation of those who will take a stand for righteousness and those who will not. At this time the goats are being separated from the sheep and the true church will be revealed and become the salt of the earth, a light on a hill, a perfected bride. The great apostasy is upon us and the spirit of lawlessness is at work in unprecedented ways. It’s time for us to get serious about what we say we believe saints.

I certainly share your accurate concerns and am confident that a revolution is upon us... God, by His Spirit, is raising the dead!

beware lest you become like some who make merchandise of the gospel, and advertize their great gifting abroad for lucre,s sake. Having said that how about foolish leaders who buy into every wind of doctrine, including the church growth cult, and the chrislam blasphemy, etc. every demonic doctrine, in the name of MONEY, as satan lures the immature soul with fleshly gratifications. indeed, the body of Christ becomes just as shallow and materialistic as those they follow.

I am concerned about the pastor-teacher that does not take 2 Tim 3:16, 17 seriously, substituting personal experience in the name of "contextualization" for faithful exposition of Scriptures and reliance on the Holy Spirit to apply it to the hearts of their members.

Excellent. Well said!

Dr. Storms,
Thank you so much again for such a great mentoring post. As a lead pastor in rural Washington state that has been transitioning a church the last year from all kinds of stuff (primarily, a sudden resignation of the founding pastor 4 years ago) which includes moving away from, WOF doctrine etc etc.. ( I am a Calvinistic, charismatic, christian) you have been a great help to me and to our local church. Blessings!

We moved out of OKC this past summer to Ohio and have been attending a recent church plant from a Bible church (not sure what that is); however, it has been a challenge to sit during sermons. There are two pastors, an older gentleman and a young buck not long out of seminary school. The elder will never go deep into scripture during corporate worship, pushing that practice onto the weekly community groups and the younger blatantly avoids difficult passages of scripture while centering his sermon on his own personal story (i.e. changing the baby's diaper, or receiving a live snake as a gift). What the elder does misses the opportunity to whet the spiritual appetite of visitors or those not involved in a CG. And to sit during the younger pastor's sermon feels like a giant waste of time. My responsibility is to pray for them. I don't do it often enough. I started again after reading this article and was re-aquainted by the Spirit's involvement through prayer; he can change my heart toward these men.

Sam, I appreciate your thoughtful, Pastoral perspective. I think you hit the nail on the head- particularly with #5, 6 &7. Given those, my increasing concern is with the "Celebrity Pastor" -type and the cult of personality it creates!

Sam, thanks. I see myself in a few of these "men".

I concerned about the pastor who doesn't find balance in his ministry. For over 20 years I attended a church that I felt was balanced. There were a lot of programs, but the programs were actually a means of teaching the word. I grew in my faith and felt like I was part of a family. Introverts like me need programs at times to direct us to interact with others. For various reasons, our family left that church. We are now in a smaller church that does a good job of keeping the main thing the main thing. There is a lot of opportunity for prayer and Bible study. The building is pretty basic. The staff is small. And I am almost as lonely and disconnected after being there for four years as I was when I got there.

general, encompassing all above, yet the essence of concern (for us all): not committed to surrender to the Lord, to operate in the Spirit of the living God

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Gal 5

I'm concerned about the pastor who incessantly beats the drum of "do more, try harder" and rarely mentions the gospel or grace.

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