Have you noticed that most Pastors don’t stay where they are for long? In the congregation I serve, only one pastor has stayed for more than 10 years in the last 100 years, and the average is just over 4 years. Compare that to the ministry of T.B. Condit who was the pastor here for 44 years (1837-1881, up to his retirement.) Is it any wonder that our parishioners never trust us to “stay put?” As I was interviewed by the PNC (and later by the Session) of the congregation in Stillwater, I told them (and I meant and still mean this) that they shouldn’t hire me unless they were ready to work with me for the rest of my years in ministry. I believe that the Lord has called me to be here, and I plan to honor that call. Understand, that I may not be the best person to say this…in my past ministry positions (early on they were youth and associate positions) I only once stayed more than 3 years. I have grown up since then. I realize that most of my moves were motivated by a lack of faith in God’s provision. If the congregation I was serving wasn’t willing to “pay me what I was worth,” I would move to one that was willing! That was a shallow understanding of my call to ministry and God’s work of provision.
When a pastor moves every 3 to 5 years, the congregation begins to look at him/her as simply a “hireling” and the pastoral authority diminishes. Now I don’t say this because I feel that a pastor needs to be the “ultimate” authority (especially since we all know that God is the ultimate authority!) Instead, I say this because there is (or should be) a reason that we are called to a particular place. The reason God calls us to a certain congregation is for the strengthening of His kingdom. As pastors, we have a responsibility to shepherd the people of God in both the easy times and the tough times. What good is a shepherd to the sheep, if the shepherd runs away when the sheep are in trouble? If the shepherd stays when the grazing is good and the dangers are non-existent, but flees at the first sign of trouble, he/she really isn’t much of a shepherd. Jesus told us that the shepherd will give up his life for the sheep. It is time for pastors to again take up the challenge—to be willing to lay down our lives for our congregations. It is only when we as pastors have the best interest of our congregations (and not our own personal interests) at the forefront that we will truly be the “shepherds” the Word of God calls us to be. How about it? Are you ready and willing to take this challenge? I believe that as pastors, if we are not ready to do this, then we are doing a disservice to God and our congregations!