the weblog of Alan Knox

People and Pastors and the Will of God…

Posted by on May 1, 2007 in community, elders, fellowship | 17 comments

I know at least three people who are currently praying about opportunities that would require them to move to other states. All of these people are part of the church. They are all friends of our family, and they are all important members of the body of Christ.

One is praying about moving to San Francisco for further education. He and his family believe this is God’s will for them, and they are making arrangements to move this summer. We have been praying for them as a church for several months now.

Another is praying about moving to the northeast. They are planning to work with family members in an area where there are very few Christians. They believe this is God’s will, and they are waiting for their house to sell before they make a move. This decision has moved fairly quickly, but we are praying for them as a church.

The third friend has been contacted by a college in another state. The college has asked him to consider teaching for them full time. They are praying for this, and they have asked the church to pray as well. If they decide to accept a position on the college, they would move in just over a year.

This third example is my close friend, Mael (from “The Adventures of Mael & Cindy“). Mael asked the church to pray for him and Cindy as they try to discern God’s will in this (please, take the time to read his letter in the post “Deciding in Community“). I am very proud of Mael and Cindy for telling the church about this and for asking us for prayer. It was not an easy decision for them, and telling the church was a decision that many would counsel against. You see, Mael is one of our elders/pastors.

In many Christian communities, pastors keep this kind of thing secret from other people. Pastors generally do not tell the church that God may be moving them to another city or state. We expect people to ask the church to pray for God’s will in making decisions, but when it comes to pastors, things are different. I blogged about this a year ago in a post called “Are Pastors Part of the body?

So, consider this: if a pastor thinks that God may be calling him to move to another state, what should the pastor do? Should he keep it to himself? Should he share it only with people who are outside the church? Should he share it only with a few people in the church? Or, should he share it with everyone in the church? What are the pros and cons of a pastor sharing this and asking the church to pray for him and his family?

Think about your answer. Does your answer show that you would treat the pastor the same or different from other members of the body of Christ? Why?


17 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-1-2007

    I think he or she should ask God who to go to for advice and prayer and I would say the same thing to any person. I definitely think if a pastor were to decide, in human reasoning, that asking the church where the pastor shepherds would be foolish for fear of job loss or a similar issue, then they are exhibiting unbelief in the goodness and lordship of God. However, I also think there are times when God may lead us to only reveal to certain people and not an entire group of people.

  2. 5-1-2007

    I think that in 90% of churches – maybe more – such an action would be disastrous and do more harm, though the pastor must follow his conscience because to disobey would cause more harm.

    Also, I would add that I think it is unfortunate that so many pastors relocate. I say this in humility because I am young and inexperienced, but as I consider a call to a local church in the near future I am viewing the relationship between pastor and church as something permanent. Obviously the plurality of elders makes the departure of a pastor less traumatic upon a church, and I’m not saying that anyone who leaves a church is wrong. I’m just saying that maybe we are to quick to think it is God’s will to leave a place. Of course, the cost of seminary, tradition, etc… have professionalized the ministry to the degree that this is natural.

  3. 5-1-2007

    Bryan,

    I appreciate that you have included pastors with other believers in the church. I agree that there may be times when decisions should be shared selectively. However, since the church should be a family, I would expect those times to be rare.

    Matthew,

    I agree that a senior pastor leaving can be devastating to a group of believers. One of the things that I appreciate about Maël is that he is teaching by example that believers should not rely on pastors, but they should rely on God.

    I also agree that pastors should be part of the community – not brought in from outside the community, or see the believers there as a stepping stone to a better position. However, we know that God moves people (any people, not just pastors) from one community to another all the time. We see this often in Acts. In the post, I’m suggesting that we treat pastors who move (or who feel that God may be leading them to move) exactly like we treat other believers who move (or who feel that God may be leading them to move).

    I think the problems related to pastors moving has more to do with employment than anything scriptural (as Bryan pointed out above).

    -Alan

  4. 5-1-2007

    The answer for me is based on community. What is it? Real church- as opposed to human institutions we call church- are to be places where we share with one another and grow with each other up into Christ. But too many human institutions which are larger than a community that you can have real fellowship with could not handle this kind of information. Matthew is right. It would harm them. Why? Because trust- which was already a tenuous thing- would be broken. I would council a pastor to share with his community. Hopefully, a pastor- even of a large institution- has a community that he relates to and trust. This is the community he can share freely in- and in this kind of community all of us can share freely.

  5. 5-1-2007

    Alan,

    I had been part of a church community for many years before being called by a church to minister as their teaching pastor.

    As a deacon, and later as an elder, I saw the politics that can occur because the decisions by pastors, regarding their current situation, and future, were being kept private. Rumours take on the flavour of truth.

    There is no doubt that being open is also going to be used by some as an opportunity to do damage. Ultimately it becomes a test of whether we believe we have a sovereign God.

    When I became the fulltime leader of a church I had a strong resolve to practice absolute transparency. I learned that was the best practice over-all. There are obviously personal things which must be kept private, but if a group of people are to develop mutual trust, it must be modelled by the leader.

    I have never regretted the decision to be fully open on matters which affected the community of believers,of which my wife and I were a part,although some used the information for their own purposes.

  6. 5-1-2007

    Strider,

    You are correct. The kind of transparency that Maël demonstrated is shown best in community. I think many times people confuse the organization with community. They can overlap, but they are not usually the same.

    Aussie John,

    Thank you for the reminder. We cannot let the actions and attitudes of others affect the way that we treat them. That is one of the reasons that I’m proud of Maël for being open and honest about this. Some will not understand his intentions or motives, but he is showing us by example what it means to be open and honest with friends.

    -Alan

  7. 5-1-2007

    Good post and conversation. I think there ought to be openness to share. The goal is to try to ascertain the mind and will of the Lord. And really nothing else. And the Lord can speak through his Body. Or give the Body a sense of what or how he is leading, surely.

  8. 5-1-2007

    Ted,

    You said: “The goal is to try to ascertain the mind and will of the Lord.” This should certainly be our goal… and we should listen to God however he chooses to speak to us, especially through other believers.

    -Alan

  9. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  10. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  11. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  12. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  13. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  14. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  15. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  16. 5-2-2007

    Alan-
    After having been part of another church a number of years ago, I saw the hurt and confusion that resulted when the “solo” pastor, who had been teaching on plurality of leadership for some time, chose to leave to serve another congregation. Instead of seeking counsel and prayer from the other elders (as they would have expected), he simply announced his decision one Sunday to the entire congregation. That left the rest of the body in doubt as to the trustworthiness of their elder-leaders. As a result, those elders eventually left the church after division of understanding about their future role.
    What had seemed to be a vital opportunity to practice what he preached became, instead, a politicized opportunity for division.
    God is not handcuffed by our failures, though, and I trust that we have all grown as a result of that unfortunate situation.
    Kat

  17. 5-2-2007

    Kat,

    I think many times pastors do things that they think protects people – such as not telling the people that they plan to move. However, as you said, this ends up hurting people more in the end. I’m glad to hear that you are growing in spite of this bad example.

    -Alan