Chaplains and Ad men.

Posted: 06/12/2011 in American Civic Religion, Christianity Today
Tags: , ,

Mark Galli at Christianity Today has posted a nice article on the need for “Chaplain” rather “Catalytic” pastors in the church. He cited a study on church growth which praised the Catalytic pastors for their charisma and bringing in new converts. Chaplains are not so good, because they focus on “healing souls” and do not grow a church numerically.

If you feel this is backwards, then you will enjoy the article.

It has been years since I spent time with future youth ministers and pastors (many are just regular ‘pastors’ now), but I remember there was an old saying among evangelicals: “I’d rather have a small ‘on fire for God’ church, than a large lukewarm one.” What people meant by that is that they did not want to be involved in a church that measured everything in numbers.

The mega-churches love big. Whatever gets more people in the door, is the right thing to do. This is why Easter Sunday is “leveraged” to get more members. What if the demand for “growth” overshadows a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ? Also, Isn’t a little weird for a leader of a megachurch to use words like “advertise” and “promote”? Mega-churches are primarily concerned about numbers. The pastors act like the ad-men.

What happens when churches grow? Most people think that it is a good thing, but it has dark side. Mega-churches over step their bounds as they get more attention at a national level. Why should a handful of “catalytic” leaders in Colorado Springs, Orange County, and Seattle speak for rest of us? Besides, when churches get that big, you have to wonder what really drives that growth. A professional advertiser says “millions of satisfied customers [so the product is good].” A catalyst pastor says, “Our church has thousands of members [so God is with us].” Is it the Holy Spirit that drives the growth, or a clever leader who has created a self-perpetuating system of social proof?

The ministers and pastors I appreciate the most aren’t catalyst pastors. Most of them lead small to mid-size churches and are fairly anonymous outside their congregations. Their typical duties are not leading a great new sermon series under a spotlight. Rather, you’ll find them officiating a baptism, or delivering a mercifully short, yet effective, sermon to remind Christians how to best be Christians. They likewise want to connect people to Jesus Christ, but do not see explosive numerical growth as a necessity. These are the chaplain pastors that seem to be getting poor reputation. Yet I find it much easier to work with -and trust- these anonymous pastors than any mega-church poster child.

What kind of pastor do you trust the most?

  1. Stacia says:

    I think it depends more on the level of accountability to which the pastor is held rather than the size of the church. I’ve been connected with small, mid-sized, and mega-churches, and have seen pastors fallen and ineffective (and effective) in all three categories. There will obviously be a level of relationship that pastors of small churches can enjoy with their congregation that becomes impossible as the numbers creep up.
    It seems that larger churches’ pastoral staff focus on equipping and discipling a larger group of people who then in turn pastor small groups.

    I trust my pastor (of a mega-church, as well as the pastor of global ministries, my small community within the church) because he is very vocal about who he regularly meets with, and I know several of the pastoral staff that help keep him accountable.

    I would hesitate to discount a church because of its size, or automatically assume that pastors are all about numbers once their congregation spreads to thousands. Sure, that might be the case, just as with a pastor of 40 people.
    Doesn’t every pastor want everyone to be hungry for God and going to some kind of Christian community, whether it be theirs or another?
    It seems that God is working in the very small and the very large.

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