I’ve been thinking about the “Pastor Industrial Complex.” That is, the system devised in American evangelical Christianity whereby we send our young ministers off to seminary for training, then hire them on to church jobs in the same way that business and industry hire talent.

It occurs to me this is wrong. Not wrong in the sense of sinful. But wrong in the sense of ineffective, and not Biblically normative.

In this model, pastors take jobs that are upwardly mobile. Who’d want to take a church in a declining or maintaining community when there are churches to be pastored in growing population centers? And then there is the issue of church hopping, moving to ever larger churches (with ever better compensation packages) while leaving the abandoned congregation to start over.

This model is very American. It’s just not very effective.

In Southern Baptist churches (with which I’m most familiar) the average tenure of a pastor is something like 2.5 years.


They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Hiring a new pastor every few years isn’t good for the congregation, doesn’t help the community, and is ineffective for propagation of the gospel.

Can I propose an alternative?

How about the “Indigenous Pastor Model?” That’s the way we do it on the mission field. Missionaries start works where none exist, with a goal to raise up leaders in that community or region who’ll then take over and be the pastors in that area. Come to think of it, that’s how the Apostle Paul did it. Paul and Barnabus “…appointed elders for them in every church…” (Acts 14:23) Who do you think they appointed? People from that congregation!

What could be more effective than home grown leaders; people who are from that community, committed to that community, who have nowhere to go, who aren’t looking to move up to a bigger denominational job or a bigger church with a higher profile? Wouldn’t it be better for the pastor to be someone who already knows the language and culture of a community, who already lives in that community, who is gifted, and called, and equipped and willing to invest their life in the people of the community where they already live. THAT is to me an exceedingly more effective model.

We’ve gotten smarter in many ways. There’s a big local food movement (know your farmer, know your food). Doesn’t it make sense to have a local ministry movement—-to know your pastor, who knows your flock?