With over 2,000 years having passed since its founding, why hasn’t the church taken the whole world for Christ by now? And, in spite of a virtual plethora of books and articles on church growth and how to make it happen, why haven’t churches at large grown substantially, instead of there simply being a few mega-churches?
Instead, to say the least, in general, pastors and churches in America are struggling. One online report reveals: ”1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches, 4,000 new churches start each year, but over 7,000 churches close, and 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a living.”
Another account astoundingly reports, “Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity.” It adds, “At the turn of the last century (1900), there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared to the close of this century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America!”
A Charisma Magazine article entitled, “Why Are So Many Pastors Committing Suicide?” reveals: “There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend.”
The article continues, “The Schaeffer Institute also reports that 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within five years.”
Why? Among many possible reasons, one overriding cause may contribute significantly and perhaps even be basic to this bleak condition. Let’s take a look at it.
Probably every pastor senses—persistently and probably strongly—that he is to build his church. That sense is likely justified by the largely unspoken expectation of religious schools and colleges, church members and adherents, by almost everything written and taught on the subject, as well as even by society at large. Successful pastors build their churches! That’s what defines a successful pastor! That’s simply what they do!
But do they? Should they? Should they even try? Should that even be a consideration in their overall focus and day-to-day work?
Surprisingly, the Bible answers with a resounding, “No!” That is not their Scriptural assignment. Subtly but successfully, the enemy has caused us to miss it, and for generations the Scriptures succinctly stating who actually bears the responsibility for building the church and also defining the pastor’s responsibility have gone almost completely unrecognized although they have been read countless times.
While a desire to build the church is laudable, it is simply misplaced. Pastors are not only not mandated to build the church, they are unable to do so. Imagine how freeing it would be to pastors to realize they don’t have to do what they can’t do anyway!
So, whose job is to build the church? It is Jesus’ job, and He said He would do it (Matthew 16:18)! Psalm 127:1a reveals the utter futility of pastors trying to do it: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” And, as revealed in Acts 2:47 as happening to the early church, it is the Lord Who adds to the church “those who were being saved.”
With a shepherd’s heart, the pastor’s job is, in short, to “equip the saints” (Ephesians 4:11-13) so Jesus can use them to build His church. “Equipping the saints” is what pastors can and are to do, while relying completely on Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Contrary to what has been historically and commonly believed and taught, churches are not “hospitals for sinners,” nor are they “soul saving stations” nor even places for “broken people” (although sinners and the broken must always be lovingly welcome there); they are equipping or discipleship centers!
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SOURCE: Christian Post, James Henning