Wednesday, February 20, 2013
How long should a pastor stay?
My answer often has 3 parts.
1) I believe long-term (think 20-30+ years) pastorates bear great fruit in a local church and a local community. (Classic examples: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther. Modern examples: John Stott, John MacArthur, John Piper, James Kennedy, Tim Keller, etc.)
2) I believe individual churches (like individual Christians) are always pressing on toward ever-greater maturity until glory or death (yes, some churches need to die). A lot of this maturing occurs through the ever-deepening maturity of a pastor and the community that is formed together through seeking the Savior together.
3) These ideas put together make me think I'll be serving here for a long time unless the LORD calls me overseas or another assignment. (I also hope it challenges other pastors to serve a church for a long tenure working toward ever greater maturity in themselves and their churches.)
I found a paragraph in Tim Keller's new book Center Church that reflects well the kind of maturing I hope to see in the church I serve over the next few decades (plenty of work to keep a pastor feel like there is always a bit more to be done):
"A church that truly understands the implications of the biblical gospel, letting 'the word of Christ well in [it] richly' (Col 3:16), will look like an unusual hybrid of various church forms and stereotypes. Because of the inside-out substitutionary atonement element [of the gospel], the church will place great emphasis on personal conversion, experiential grace renewal, evangelism, outreach, and church planting. This makes it look like an evangelical-charismatic church. Because of the upside-down, kingdom/incarnation aspect [of the gospel message], the church will place great emphasis on deep community, cell groups or house churches, radical giving and sharing of resources, spiritual disciplines, racial reconciliation, and living with the poor. This makes it look like an Anabaptist 'peace' church. Because of the forward-back, kingdom/restoration aspect, the church will place great emphasis on seeking the welfare of the city, neighborhood, and civic involvement, cultural engagement, and training people to work in 'secular' vocations out of a Christian worldview. This makes it look like a mainline church, or perhaps, a Kuyperian Reformed church. Very few churches, denominations, or movements integrate all of these ministries and emphases. Yet I believe that a comprehensive view of the biblical gospel... will champion and cultivate them all. This is what it we mean by a Center Church."