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Pastoring in the Consumer Era

I love pastors.


Been there, done it, got the proverbial t-shirt. It’s a tough gig.


The job of pastoring is broad simply by definition and the “shepherd” metaphor: the care, instruction, protection, direction, and correction of the sheep. A shepherd’s job is singular in attention but complex in execution.


But that classic job description doesn’t cover the expectations.


Because of the explosion of social media, 24-7 information streams, and the politicization of everything, the pastor’s job has broadened exponentially because he or she is expected to have a well-thought-out and formulated opinion on, well, everything.


And then throw in the rest of the job.


Pastors are now expected to have a stance not simply on theological and doctrinal matters, but a position on our high-speed societal shifts, have clear but understated political opinions, track pop culture trends for relevance-sake, have leadership/managerial skills, be up-to-speed with counseling/psychological developments, have at least a more-than-rudimentary grasp of current technologies, be accessible for emergencies in the wider community, along with availability for funeral and wedding duties, translate the profit-and-loss financial equivalencies for a volunteer-driven organization, have an exemplary personal inner life, be engaged in a small group themselves, take part in and model outreach, and, lest we forget, present a cogent term paper every Sunday morning that magically relates to everyone in the congregation.


It’s no wonder that 51% of the pastors in a survey funded by Lilly Endowment in 2023 said they had thought about quitting their jobs compared with only 37% two years earlier. And interestingly, younger pastors were found more likely to entertain this thought.


The span of topics that pastors are expected to be fully versed in is wide, to say the least. The expectations of congregants today are unbelievably high in our consumerist-soaked culture.


I would suggest that pastors have at least some considered responses in their back pockets for inquiring congregants. Let’s start with this one:


“I really haven’t formed an opinion on that.” Period.


Or maybe even, “Hmmm. I don’t know.”


The reality is: if you do have a formed opinion on a particular issue for some parishioner, express it with humility. And rest in the fact that you’ll never please everyone. Ever. In this highly polarized world that has leaked into the Beloved Community—the very Body of Christ—the most important thing you can do is teach the Kingdom, the Kingdom practices, the Kingdom ethics, and submission to the Kingdom’s King. And I would start with the last…because it all begins with that. Submission.


I’ve written about this before: Submission means that our personal agendas, our personal missions, what we want in life, must be beneath God’s mission. The prefix sub simply means under. For example, submarine means under water. Our desires, our mission, have to be under the King’s mission.


We must teach our followers that first and foremost. If we don’t, we’ll feed the consumer-beast before we grow disciples.


Dave Workman | The Elemental Group



Every healthy organization is marked by four essential traits: Integrity, Passion, Servanthood, and Imagination. With a practitioner perspective, author Dave Workman offers common sense guidance and tools to maximize leadership. Filled with insight, humor, and reflective exercises, this is an indispensable exploration of these four universal values. Check out Elemental Leaders: Four Essentials Every Leader Needs...and Every Church Must Have


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