9 Marks Ministries has started a new blog featuring a number of guys I know from Southern and Clifton. Anyway, a friend, Dee Reju, just posted a great article arguing for pastors to commit to churches for the long-haul. He points out in the article that the average tenure for a pastorate is 3.5 years. I've shared with several people that my desire to root myself in one place is a big reason why I decided to plant a church. I strongly sensed God wanted me to serve in a college town where I could pour myself into training and sending out leaders. Now, if I would have followed the course the "system" laid out for me, I would have served in a small church for 3.5 years, jumped to a bit bigger church shortly thereafter, and finally ended up in Columbia, or a similar city, when I was 50 or so. Since I don't really have a megachurch personality, it probably would have taken me longer. Then, I would have likely had the downhill phase of my ministry in the context I really loved.
I refused to play that game. I remember talking to pulpit committees, as I was wrestling with God's will for us, that demanded five years of senior pastor experience. And these were churches that were extremely small-- less than 100 in attendance! They were reeling from having their pastor leave, and they couldn't see that their hiring practices were ensuring that someone else would abandon his church, and that they would be looking for another guy in 3-5 years. I remember pointing this out to a nice man out in California who seemed to get it, but from whom I never heard again. Can you blame sinners from climbing the corporate ladder if you're building and maintaining the ladder?
I'm a sinner like everyone else. But one thing I have refused to do is use churches to build a career. I didn't want to be another basketball coach, climbing up the coaching ladder, leaving downtrodden players and recruits and programs behind. Of course, most coaches aren't ready for division I when they're young. And maybe I wasn't ready for this city. But, in God's grace, I will die trying. I'm in the city I love. And I plan to buy my burial plot in Columbia, Missouri.
Read Dee's post here.