Many denominations practice calling someone from within the congregation to be their pastor. This “home-grown (SMP, DELTO, list your favorite acronym here)” is also in the LCMS. First, there are examples in the Scripture of men who are appointed as pastors in towns (Titus 1:5), so this article is not about condemning the calling of home-grown pastors. There is an account which needs to be considered concerning the “home-grown” pastor concept. It should serve to caution us and season those men seeking to be and congregations seeking to call a “home-grown” pastor.
For your consideration: Matthew 13:53-58 and its parallel Mark 6:1-7. These are the accounts of Jesus’ return to Nazareth to minister there. These texts provide a cautionary backdrop for anyone who desires to be a pastor in and around his hometown or even his home congregation. The texts speak clearly about the difficulty in doing any ministry in an area that is “home” before being a pastor (or perhaps “buddy pastors” too).
At Nazareth, Jesus preached and taught in the Synagogue, and even performed some miracles there (Mt 13:54; Mk 6:2), and His reward was offense and the unbelief of the people who heard and saw Him minister (Mt 13:57-58; Mk 6:6). Jesus’ example here teaches how drastically a pastor’s ministry can be diminished and negated by what I will call “familiarity”.
Take for example the words of the people concerning Jesus. They first begin by asking questions designed to discredit Jesus. This is emphasized by the citation of relatives of Jesus (Mt 13:55-56; Mk 6:3). All of these questions lead to the people to reject Jesus and become offended at Him. Jesus confirms this in His statement about a prophet and his honor (Mt 13:57; Mk 6:4). The result of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth is that many are offended, and only some received healing. The text says that He could do no mighty work there (Mk 6:5).
This same familiarity could pose real difficulty for the man called to be pastor among people with whom he is familiar. The congregation could find it difficult to see past the man who they have known for years, and see the pastor who is called by God to serve them. The pastor may find it difficult to see past the friends and foes of the past years and see sheep in need of a shepherd.
In Christ’s case this familiarity hindered people from receiving Him. It could in home-grown pastor situations as well. Familiarity also now includes the past sins of the man now called pastor. How much would those past sins hurt his being above reproach or worse, be a stumbling-block or excuse for the sins of the people? Jesus was sinless and yet struggled to serve at home. A casual observer could almost hear the folk-talk of the crowd that day – Isn’t that Joe’s son? Doesn’t he have a mom, and a whole lot of brothers and sisters? Wasn’t he brought up as a carpenter? How could a carpenter know anything about God? And in the questions, the great teaching is lost. The person is too familiar, and the hurdles in the crowd’s mind are too great. The message is lost, unbelief reigns among the familiar. How much more difficult will it be with the pastor whose congregation has intimate knowledge of past sins and offenses? How many people in the congregation has the pastor sinned against in his previous years? A wise man once taught me that the most “sanctified” person in the congregation has to be the pastor’s wife because she has to hear the Word of God from a man whose sins she knows all too well. By having home-grown pastors do we cause the same difficulty?
So what does this mean for home-grown pastors and the programs that create them? It really should cause us to pause and think about both candidate and congregation on whether the practice is a good idea. Is there any special teaching that needs to be done both to men and congregations to help understand the difficulties that come with “familiarity”? Certainly, the practice is lawful, but not all things that are lawful are expedient as St. Paul tells us. Does the practice of “home-grown” pastors and the programs that create them run the risk of creating prophets who are not given honor? Jesus hometown ministry example should season our conversation.