I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.
To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.
All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.
Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.
- The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
- Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
- Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
- Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
- Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
- Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
- Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
- Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
- More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
- Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.
These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.
But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.
Posted on May 1, 2017
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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