5 Important Issues Pastors Face Today

Monty Hale

Monty Hale is the director of the Bivocational and Guidestone office of Pastoral Ministries at the South Carolina Baptist Convention. His duties include assisting pastors and churches in transition, developing projects and initiatives to promote healthy leaders, and assisting churches with effective conflict resolution. Prior to joining the SCBC staff in April 2005, Hale served as Leadership Development Specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, and as a pastor for various Baptist churches.

The issues that face pastors today are enormous. I personally think being a pastor is one of the toughest jobs in North America. Many men have gone into ministry with the goal to win the world for Christ only to crash and burn within a few years. I deal with them every week. Many come to my office and pour out their lives all over my desk and office chairs. The need for focus and solid priorities are at an all-time high. Pastors need to identify what is most important to them and spend their lives focused on those things. Let me name a few, and since I am a preacher they all had to start with the same letter!

1. Trust
Pastors must learn how to trust. They must create an atmosphere where people are willing to trust openly and where they can do the same. Without trust, the church will implode as will the life of the pastor. It begins in the heart of the person serving as he trusts the Lord. He then must transfer that trust to the people he serves.
This is difficult when the pastor has trust issues in his life, family of origin, or in his immediate family. The Holy Spirit has to indwell the heart if the pastor is really going to make it in the area. We are in the trust business and the place of ministry that has little or none will not be what God intends it to be.

2. Territory

Many pastors are threatened when they are approached to begin new ministry in their own backyards. That’s why many have little problem leading people to go off to the other side of the world, but cannot allow others to come into their ministry area. Early in my ministry I was approached to help start a new church just a few miles from the place where I was serving. We were struggling and my territorial hackles came up immediately. I have since learned that there are more people that need help than my one church could ever reach. To understand a pastor is to understand that most are not open to a ministry or church being planted in their area unless their church would benefit from it.

Most of this territorial threat comes from the increased pressure placed on pastors to grow the church. While it may be unfounded, it is still deeply ingrained. A Kingdom perspective is the answer, but territory is still a problem.

3. Tradition
This area is very important. We war against one another over contemporary or traditional forms of music. That is a mere symptom — the real problem that faces pastors is the deeply ingrained desire on the part of most church members to keep everything the same. Change management is a real issue in the hyper-changing world of the 21st century. There is no doubt that the church needs to constantly change its method and leverage the technological resources at her disposal, but how that takes place is a slippery slope.
Slow and easy is my advice. With trust, and respect for territory and tradition, change can and will happen, but you cannot command it.

4. Tension
Never before has so much conflict been present in the church. For the first time in church history, five or six generations are present and they all have a different worldview. Increasingly, the problem comes down to the issue of who’s going to be in charge. The churches with the most conflict are those who have not clearly defined who is the head of the church (Jesus) and how the church is to be organized and run. We need to once again agree to disagree in love and not be disagreeable. Love must conquer in this area. If you love someone, you overlook their faults and you see them through the eyes of love. “More love in our churches Lord, more love in our churches,” — that should be our prayer.

5. Transformation
Someone said, “We don’t have much trouble with conversion…it’s transformation that we struggle with.” Conversion is a onetime experience, but transformation is ongoing. The biggest issue that faces our pastors and our churches is the issue of making disciples. That takes transformation and a lot of time. Pastors must reprioritize in this area, but they cannot if they are constantly putting out fires and smothered with the minutia that is in the North American church.

These are just a few of the issues facing pastors today. I believe they are major ones. So, what do we do about it? FOCUS! We must ask what things I must say no to in order to take care of these. In fact, make it a priority to develop a “Stop Doing” list. That’s what leadership is all about.

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