by Beverly Kay
One of the congregations in our region recently went into transition. When the pastor came here, his family had to find accommodations because this local church had felt the need to sell their parsonage at one point. Churches without a parsonage are no longer an unusual situation. Actually there was a season when pastors were strongly encouraged to buy their own homes so that they had some equity when they came to retirement. Fine, but this is now one more thing for pastors and their families to consider when in the process of seeking God’s direction for their ministry and life – the sale or rental of their house, carrying a mortgage.
Okay, so maybe that is life in the 21st century. And I will grant that with or without owning one’s home there is always risk and an element of faith in picking up and moving, trusting God to meet all one’s needs in the process. And it is true that pastors are not the Levitical Priesthood who were not to have an inheritance of their own land, but were to receive the LORD God Himself as their inheritance, trusting the provisions for their needs to come from the rest of God’s people. But somehow in trying to make sure that we rightly provide for the retirement years of our pastors and missionaries, I have this feeling that we have been too easily motivated by fears rather than faith. Often choice seem to have been birthed out of old hurts and resentments, rather than out of a life fully surrendered to the good and perfect will of God for our lives.
There seem to be more things that have snuck in to keep a pastor’s family from openly and honestly seeking God’s direction for their ministry and that of their congregation. I have often heard concerns about where children are in their education and an unwillingness to up root them. I have seen some refusing to leave a position yet because of a spouse’s great job with benefits and pension they weren’t willing to let go of. Others have looked to move to a particular region because of a desire to be closer to aging parents. Where is the faith factor; the willingness to forsake all to follow whenever and wherever God leads us, trusting that He will supply all our needs and those of our family? Aren’t we called, as Disciples of Christ to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, not worrying about the things that the unbeliever chases after? Aren’t we called to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him? Aren’t we encouraged to throw off everything that hinders (along with those sins that so easily entangle) to run the race set out before us (not the path we have chosen) while we let Christ be our leader, our example of the fully surrendered life?
How can we have healthy, fruitful churches if our spiritual leaders are tied down by earthly bonds? How can we disciple others to follow after Christ if we are following our own goals and dreams, rather than submitting them to the Father’s will? Maybe we need to return to letting the Bible dictate how we lead rather than common business practices of our day. Just some thoughts as I wrestle with where we are at as Pastoral leaders in this post-modern era.