Fame! Pastors aren’t going to live forever--and should act like it

March 18, 2014 | by Ronald Keener

I grew up in a congregation of about 1,000 members, at its highest point, and for that denomination it was a “mega” church of its day and faith group. True, that was in the 1970s, light years away from today, its social media, and the publishing industry that church and faith has become.

I was fortunate to have interviewed the pastor back then, an individual who grew the church while being bi-vocational; his day job was as an EVP for a local bank. At 3:00 pm he would walk the three blocks to the church and put his tremendous energy into the church on late afternoons, evenings and weekends.

I asked him why he did not seek (or accept) high office in the denomination, and he reply was, in his church “the work was never finished.” He could have gone elsewhere, climbed some ladders, but he was first a local pastor, and that was sufficient for him.

Sometimes I wonder about all these pastors who are busy writing books and responding to media interviews and pounding out the latest blog. Are they sufficiently focused on the local parish for which they have been called to fulfill first?

So along comes Mark Driscoll, that busy and loud Seattle pastor, successful by the numbers by any account, saying (according to Christianity Today Direct) he plans to reset his life.

One must think that some of these book and blog publishing pastors would do better for their members to just “go local” not global or glocal (with apologies to Bob Roberts).

Says CTDirect: “Driscoll will likewise do ‘much less’ traveling, speaking, and writing in order to focus on being a local pastor. ‘I don't see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor,’ he writes [on Twitter], ‘and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.’”

Ah, a great confession. And if we could duplicate those words by a hundred fold among clergy generally, the church at large would be better served. Fewer books (as helpful as many are), fewer blogs and tweets, fewer speaking at conferences, fewer contributing magazine articles, fewer talking to media and embarrassing themselves with foolish statements. The church would be better served, and stronger, if those pastors became “local” again.

CTDirect again: “Driscoll says his ‘angry-young-prophet days are over.’ He plans to ‘reset my life,’ starting with quitting social media for the rest of 2014 (and maybe longer). ‘The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time,’ he writes.”

Driscoll has had a 17-year ministry, growing a 13,000-people church, worshipping weekly in 15 locations in five states, writing more than 15 books. Isn’t that enough for any one person to manage?

It must have been Willow Creek that first coined the term “train wreck.” Bill Hybels has learned the hard way, and corrected his course, and I seldom hear about Bill or Willow in the public prints. He seems (and I could be wrong) to have studious avoided the limelight in recent years. Driscoll says in the CT Direct report: “In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God's grace.” Mars Hill Church has made “significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church," he says, and Driscoll is trying to repair relationships after major staff departures. Driscoll says he will now focus on only four things: Loving his wife and family, preaching the Bible, training male leaders, and planting churches. Now if just a few more pastors would do the same, the Christian church would be better for it.

Topics: Church Growth , Fellowship , Leadership , Ministry , Vision , Worship

Ronald Keener / Ronald E. Keener was editor of the national business and leadership magazine, "Church Executive," for eight years, and writes from Chambersburg, Pa.

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