Prophets are not welcome these days. We want preachers who can hobnob. We don’t want preachers who are holy. We want a guy who can play golf, but not a guy who knows God in a deep way. They sing “Rescue the Perishing” and call people of other races by derogatory names. They take up missions offerings, but never want anyone of another race in their services. They say they believe the Bible, but only if it’s THEIR preferred translation. They sing “Victory in Jesus,” and the only victory they talk about is controlling the pastor and the budget. The budget and church constitution are their doctrine, and they believe them to be inerrant.
You would think a dying church would look to the Great Physician to find some way to resuscitate the body. Even as these churches die, they refuse to change. They go through pastors like candy. They are sweet for a while, but when the pastor gives them a little toothache, they want him gone. Some of them don’t even make it to the wedding night before the honeymoon is over.
The pain of the prophet is too much to bear. They want preachers who will tickle their ears, not prick their hearts. They don’t want sound doctrine. They don’t want to hear, “Thus says the Lord.” They want church to start at eleven o’clock sharp and end at twelve o’clock dull. Back in the 1950s, Southern Baptists had a slogan, “A Million more in ’54.” Vance Havner said, “We didn’t need a million more of the kind we already had.”
I’ve had churches call me and ask me to recommend a pastor to them. A few things I ask them is, “Why should I recommend a friend to you? How did you treat the last pastor? How long do you normally keep a pastor?” I’m not interested in helping any church that has a reputation as a preacher killer. Charles Stanley once said, “Any church that has fired two or three preachers, the problem is not the preacher, it’s the church.”
Far too many churches are just looking for someone to fill the pulpit, but they have no intention of doing what the man in the pulpit calls them to do. Visitation? Are you kidding me? Service in the nursery? I raised my kids already. Step down and let someone new serve? Are you threatening me?
These kinds of churches call new pastors every year or two, and the honeymoon lasts about as long as the ketchup from the food pounding. Then they pound the preacher and his family through gossip, backbiting, and undermining until he finally leaves or is dismissed. They have meetings after the deacon’s meeting to undermine what the pastor just said. They say one thing to the pastor in a meeting and then vote against it in the business meeting. It’s enough to make an angel puke.
I’m broken and wearied by the unbelievable number of emails and calls I get from pastors wounded by parishioners. They seem to have no recourse. I know, I know, there are some pastors who probably deserve it, but they would be in the minority. Most of these men are called of God and are giving their lives to that calling.
It means living on a small salary while others take nice vacations and buy new cars. It means living in a glass house, while the membership demands that you stay out of their business. It means putting up with deacons elected by popular vote, which has no basis in Scripture. It means putting up with committees who vote to do nothing and insist that nothing be done. You wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to be in ministry! Nero treated the early Christians better than some church members treat their pastors.
So, I’m proposing that pastors form a union. Here’s my reasoning:
First of all, it would draw national attention to this issue. Imagine how a union would help us get on the news and talk about the committees of our churches that are hindering progress, limiting wages, cutting benefits, and demanding more productivity. I know the unions are driving jobs overseas, but the lack of a union for preachers is driving preachers into an early grave. Pastors could have their own committees to decide if a church is worthy of having another pastor. They could demand no cut contracts. Then we could demand health benefits.
Secondly, we could all boycott. Let’s form a union, leave the national convention meeting, go back to our churches, and say, “We won’t take this mistreatment any longer. We demand that every church in this denomination operate under the authority of the Word of God. Failure to do so will mean that our colleges and seminaries will put out a list of churches to boycott. We will not let you brutalize, beat up, demean, or destroy one more pastor. We will make sure no one ever comes to this church again. You can grind your teeth and shake your fist, but your days of running over preachers is over!” Imagine the power of a united front.
We could list in our state papers all the churches that have repeatedly fired pastors. We could have a section in our book of reports at the annual convention of churches that we will rename, “Ichabod.” Paul named the troublemakers in Philippi, why can’t we? We know the names of Nehemiah’s critics, why can’t we use our publications and annual reports to print the names of jerks?
Thirdly, we would be following the principle of shaking the dust off our feet. If they will not receive the Word, they shouldn’t have a pastor. It’s time many of our churches just closed their doors. They are an embarrassment to the cause of Christ, a shame to the kingdom, and a black eye to the good news of the gospel.
Finally, we could then focus on increased funding for church plants. I’m all for helping a new church start. I’m not for trying to fix a body that won’t admit it’s broken. We could start churches with clear guidelines and standards set out in Scripture. We could, as a union, say, “No more deacons who think they are to act as a board of directors. No more committees for everything from flowers to missions. You have to justify your existence by whether or not you are fulfilling the Great Commission. No more organizations that are not contributing to the expansion of the gospel and the discipleship of the saints.”
If someone or some church wants to have a business meeting, I’m sorry. We believe the business of the church is prayer—the one meeting most church members never show up for. We could pray about planting a church in a community full of Ichabod’s and invest in young, creative, passionate, Bible believing gospel preachers who are longing for God to use them. They wouldn’t be bogged down in bureaucracy. They would be free to be the men of God (Acts 6).
It’s just a thought. A crazy thought maybe, but you have to wonder what would happen if every preacher, every college and seminary student would “just say no” to these churches run by carnal, lost, ungrateful, mean-spirited people. Let them eat their young, but let’s not let them devour anymore preachers.
It’s not easy. It’s probably not practical. But it sure was therapeutic for me to write this on behalf of all the guys who can’t.