Why should I pastor the same church for a long time?

I continue to observe a disturbing pattern that exists among my generation of pastors.  The propensity to feel called to be the shepherd of a congregation and inside three years find they no longer feel “called” there anymore.  Let me first say, I recognize there are many good and understandable reasons for a pastor to leave his church, even after only being there a short time.  Nevertheless, the most common reason I have observed is an unrealistic expectation that exists in that pastor’s mind of what they think should be accomplished in the first few years.  When that is not achieved, they get discouraged, think the church is hopeless, and leave. 

I received an email this week from a man who had been discipled by Curtis Thomas, a man who pastored 50 years who I quoted in an earlier post.  May this man’s words about Curtis’s enduring and faithful pastoral ministry combat that desire you may be feeling as you evaluate your church at the 2.5 year mark and you are ready to call it quits:

Brian,

It was great to run across your blog.  The posts that I read show a true shepherd’s heart.  Curtis Thomas not only showed us the way of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, he discipled us.  He held me the day I was born.  He was with me when I killed my first deer.  He pronounced my wife and I to be married in the sight of the Lord.  He was with me when my (6) children were born. He stood alongside me as my father died, and we both preached the Gospel at his funeral. And I had the privilege of teaching and evangelizing with him in south-east Asia.   All this to say;  be a shepherd like him.  The impact on three generations of my family is absolutely the most profound influence we have received aside from God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.  Truly making disciples means a lifelong commitment, and I am just one example.  So I encourage you, as you pastor, to imitate this type of disciple making with your people.
 
 
Dear brothers and friends, let us heed these honest and profound words from this brother who represents the divine fruit of a long, faithful, and enduring pastoral ministry.  May you be challenged, encouraged, and inspired as I was to “Be a shepherd like him.”
Posted in Discipleship
12 comments on “Why should I pastor the same church for a long time?
  1. John says:

    Brian,

    I recently came across your blog and I love the insightful posts you write. They are a blessing.

    In regard to this post, I agree with what you are saying, and I see the value of learning from such great examples as this. I am currently ministering with two men who have both been at our church for over 25 years. I was also deeply impacted when I read about the life and ministry of Charles Simeon. We need to be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to follow men like this as much as they followed Christ, the True Shepherd.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Jeff Meyers says:

    You should read Pastor Rob Rayburn’s extended argument for long-term pastorates. You can download it as a pdf file here:

    http://providencestlouis.com/storage/Rayburn_MinistryGeneration.pdf

  3. Paul C says:

    Brian – thanks again for yet another encouraging post. I am young and involved in a slow church plant and I the temptation to restlessness is there.

    Yesterday I read this post which helped me along and might help your readers as well: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/glory-plodding/

    My pastor (www.themidnightcry.com) just finished celebrating 30 years of ministry in a single location. That type of steadiness through fair and stormy weather is admirable and, as you say, reflects a true shepherd’s heart. Wonderful.

  4. Pat Park says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I was discipled by a dear brother who has been in the same pulpit for over 40 years. Now as I begin in the ministry my prayer if to be able to serve long and faithfully in the midst of a world that doesn’t always see that as success anymore.

  5. The Lord recently moved me and my family to a different church ministry after pastoring in one church for 18 years. I would love to stay where I am for 18 years or longer if that is the Lord’s will. The reason God moved us from that church was that I really wanted the church to move forward, and I felt like God was telling me that I it could not move in the direction it needed to with me as pastor. We left a lot of wonderful friends and family behind, but it was God’s timing.
    Thanks for the examples of men who invested their lives in their church family. –Richard

  6. Rob says:

    Why does this post need to be written? Why is it necessary to convince pastors to pastor? Is it because of restlessness? Is it because of fickleness within the congregations? Is it because the Church’s current system of calling/employment severely flawed? These are just some of the questions behind the NECESSITY of this blog post. I know the answers to the questions are “yes.” But to expand on the recognition of the problem may be beneficial to the body of Christ. Absolutely, in no way is this a criticism of anyone, merely trying to get to the roots of the issue; and I mean it, I really want to know.

  7. Mark Dever (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist) once said that when he left the seminary to come be the Pastor, he and his wife bought grave plots in town. Now that’s intentional planning to pastor a people, long term. I want to be that kind of shepherd.

    great post, thank you!

  8. helen VanDyk says:

    What an encouragement! What makes me so sad is that in our congregation we have such an unrealistic expectation of the pastor. Seeds of discontent have been sowed by several and are producing fruit rapidly. So much so that our pastor has had to ask for 6 month leave of absence. I pray the Lord will forgive and grant restitution!

  9. eve says:

    My response is in line with Rob’s as well. This blog post is quite encouraging but it’s saddening that it’s necessary. Each of us, including elders, evangelists, deacons, hospitality folks, teachers … all of us are critical Body parts, critical parts of our local church families. There shouldn’t be a local church where you have a CEO pastor and most of the other members simply sit there week after week, looking at him. Unfortunately, such is the environment in various local church families and only in such an environment can the *mentality* of a pastor being a church-hopper take place. Biblically, there’s worth in supporting a pastor financially and bringing him on full-time. But the professionalization of it, like it’s a “job,” leads to the notion that he’s there to do a job and quit when he likes … rather than the reality that like others in the Body contributing to the edification of the Saints, he shouldn’t just pop up and leave every two years: he’s part of a local family of believers. Similar to the way a youth minister or video ministry worker shouldn’t pop up and leave his community every few years to serve elsewhere, neither should an elder.

    Something is terribly wrong when this type of blog post is needed. We need a biblical paradigm shift.

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