This article is about abuse of pastors, not the opposite (please keep comments in line with that).
This past month was “Pastor Appreciation Month” and many congregations gave gifts or meals or something in thanks to the work their pastors do and the sacrifice of their families as well. That being said, I also found myself hearing about numerous cases of pastors being forced out of the pulpit by congregational action. This has been a growing trend in the LCMS for some years now. I have noticed that since I became a pastor in 2008 a number of classmates have “resigned” under various conditions ranging from lack of congregational funds, to congregations thinking their pastor was “weird”, to downright sinful hatred of pure doctrine (and practice). On top of that there are a number of pastors who are out there and only being partially supported. They are given hard choices between losing health insurance and taking a decreased salary. Many of them are having to find second jobs which take them away from their task of care of souls. Many wives have been forced to pick up a first or second job to help the pastor’s family get by.
Some of this is unavoidable with the downturn in the economy and also the demographics in our Synod. In many of the cases I have heard, some removals (or resignations under coercion) have been because a man wanted to be faithful to Christ. Issues like Closed Communion have caused faithful men (who practice in accord with the Scriptures) to be beat down under the congregational boot of the gospel of tolerance. Whatever the reason if you find yourself personally or congregationally being a jerk to your pastor, realize your sin and go to him to hear the Gospel.
I recently heard of a congregation taking a vote of “no confidence” in their pastor. Where in Scripture do we find anything like that? In one respect, good – have no confidence in the pastor but in Christ and Him alone (but then He is the one who gave you your pastor isn’t He?); but in most cases this is an unconstitutional and completely unscriptural way to force a pastor to make a hard decision. Congregations considering this – realize that you spit in Christ’s face like the Roman soldiers as you take such votes. Jesus sent your pastor to you – if you don’t like it – pray for your pastor and bring your Bible to him and start to study those points of contention. Love him enough to care for him like he wishes to care for you (with prayer and bringing God’s Word and teaching to you). Love him enough to offer correction (from the Scriptures) if you think he is wrong.
Removing a pastor for any reason other than those typically found in constitutions (persistent false doctrine, public impenitent sin, inability or unwillingness to serve) is absolutely shameful to the whole church. But as we see with the ULC horror-show of right, the attitude of being islands unto ourselves is very prevalent. How could the shameful removal of a pastor in the Southeast affect some pastor or congregation in the Northwest? Easy – it’s the Body of Christ beating itself up, and when one part is hurt, all of it hurts. So now, with each pastor being removed – the hurt increases. May those given charge of looking over the Church take note and start providing care for the wounded body!
Now, as this is happening for many and various reasons, what can the greater Church do? What are Districts and Synod going to do to help with this problem? I know some districts have funds set aside for supporting pastors in need, but the need has fast outgrown the supply of funds. I also know of organizations like the Augustana Ministerium which offer assistance as they have capacity as well. Someone recently let me know that Catholic Charities has also helped some in need. That should be shameful to us, that the papists are taking care of our pastors.
So what can you do? First of all, support and love your pastor. Second, see if you have any extra personal or congregational funds to support a nearby parish or donate to groups that support pastors (your circuit can become a great arena to show mercy to pastors in need). Third, offer correction when you hear sinful plotting against God’s called man in a given place. Fourth, be constant in prayer for pastors and their families. As with ULC, we should put our money where our confession is, and if you enjoy the care of your own soul by your pastor, then think about supporting his brothers in the ministry as well.
One of the things that really helped at seminary to make ends meet was the “student adoption” program. Perhaps a pastor adoption program would be a good idea? Each month a congregation (or LWML, or Men’s Group, or whatever) could send some money to a pastor’s family that is in need.
With District Convention season coming up it may be a good time to analyze the funds being used by Districts and perhaps reallocate them to help support our wounded shepherds and their families. Better than that, just ask around and find someone to help out – it won’t take long to find a pastor and family in need.
Yes, I understand that these are hard times and that congregations are struggling. That is not the point of this article – so please keep your comments constructive on how to help our wounded pastors and their families.