The road to Branson is adorned with billboards. (Surely, as an aphorism, it will go viral.) Shows, restaurants, hotels, and assorted other venues that make their money off of the tourism industry promote themselves along Highway 65 in hopes of capturing more of the visitors who are the economic lifeline of the town Homer Simpson called, “Las Vegas run by Ned Flanders”. Billboards are ubiquitous (and in my opinion, ugly) features of every major highway in America. In our consumer culture, the goal of advertising is not to inform, but to inflame. Advertising is not aimed at the mind, but at the lusts. Advertising is designed not just to satisfy desire, but to create desire that was previously unknown. Covetousness is rooted in our flesh.
In recent decades the Church has variously battled, scorned, embraced, and baptized consumerism as a church growth mentality. One of the more pungent odors of consumerism in the church is discontentment. Who knew they needed heated seats in their car until they had tried them? Who knew they needed a pastor that could rock designer sneakers until they saw one? You get the idea. (The issue is not whether a pastor should wear designer sneaks, but whether wearing designer sneakers becomes some sort of desirable focus for pastor and congregation alike). Since discontentment comes standard on all fallen natures, we have a potential sinkhole that has been enlarged by intentional excavations around it. And many, including myself, have teetered on the edge of that sinkhole.
We are all tempted to think that a change in circumstances will resolve our problems. The problem with the employee who changes jobs every time he has a conflict with his boss is that he manages to change his circumstances while remaining the same unmanageable person he has been the whole time. The problem with the church that swaps out their pastor every time his preaching grows dull to their ears is that they never address the dullness of their hearts. The problem with the pastor who changes churches every time the honeymoon period is over is that his ministry careers consists of all the excitement of dating and none of the fruit of marriage.
There are times when a change in the pastorate is necessary. Some men never met the qualifications of an elder to begin with. Others fall into sin. Some churches are viper pits looking for fresh victims to poison. And there are legitimate moves in ministry as directed by God whereby both parties (pastor and church) are strengthened by God through these changes unto His glory. But in my opinion, too many changes happen as a result of unrealistic/unbiblical expectations that result in a growing discontentment between pastor and church.
Pastors, don’t let discontentment grow in your hearts. You may sow, water, and plant, but only God can give the increase. Focus less on what others are doing (or not doing) for the Lord and how you can preach faithfully, minister gladly, and use the opportunities that you have. Imagine that you are a fresh candidate for this pastorate and think how you would see the opportunities differently. Discontentment will rob the time you could be doing something in ministry and replace it with time spent searching the internet for other jobs, or techniques to overcome your problems, or even more deadly temptations that will provide excitement in your dreary day. Determine to love the sheep – especially the wayward ones – over which God has made you overseer. Place your confidence in the power of God’s Word instead of in your own skills. Don’t let past failures or disappointments affect your faith in God’s promise to complete the work He started (you didn’t start it, dear brother) in your congregants. Let your discontentment lead you to become a better pastor instead of leading you to a different church.
Churches, don’t let discontentment with your pastor grow in your heart. If you have a pastor who faithfully demonstrates the character qualities recorded in Scripture, faithfully preaches God’s Word, and faithfully loves your church, don’t even think of replacing him. If there are areas where you think your church needs to improve, then volunteer to help. Don’t think those who have turned away from God will return just because you bring in someone more charismatic. If your pastor is burnt out, then don’t make him ask for a vacation: send him on one. If he comes to you and says that he is contemplating a change, handcuff him to an old heavy filing cabinet. If you have a faithful man of God at the helm of your boat, then do whatever you possibly can to help him – short of actually handcuffing him to a filing cabinet! Let your discontentment lead to a rallying around your leader instead of a replacing of your leader.
Thou shalt not covet applies to ministry. Don’t covet another man’s ministry, and don’t covet another church’s pastor. Be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain.