A few days ago, I happened by a church building I hadn’t ever seen before. It looked well kept and reasonably up to date.
Its sign said something like “Valley Christian Fellowship,” and I quickly thought maybe we’ll visit there soon. But then I saw that one more piece of information was given on the sign—the pastor’s name. Letting alone the biblical definition of “pastor” and the discrepancy between biblical precedent and the roles of most churches’ “pastors” today, I would like to express my disappointment in such signage.
Why do churches feel called upon to display one man’s name for all to see, along with the name of the church? Perhaps it’s ego-stroking: “I started this church, and by gum, my name is going to be engraved.” “I play a huge role in making this church what it is, and after all, I am the leader, so why shouldn’t my name be up there?” Or a function of brainless parishioner-rats, like those who followed the Pied Piper? “Pastor Ernie–he’s our man! If he can’t preach it, nobody can! His name goes on the sign because, well, we’re in a long line of people who have put their pastors’ names on signs. It’s been done for years.”
A hierarchical view of church leadership is not a very biblical one. And if there were to be a hierarchy, a single person should not be at the top. Such signs indicate a top-down hierarchy.
I wrote about this once before, and it was suggested to me that outsiders need a point of contact, which is one reason a pastor’s name might be displayed. (Incidentally, I responded that the church secretary’s name is really the one that should be on the sign!) If we say to the world through our sign two things—1) that this is who we are, and 2) that this is our single leader, well, it sends a message, and it is a message I don’t believe God wants sent.
I don’t think we’ll visit the Valley Christian Fellowship after all, and that’s a shame, because there could be some really good, God-honoring, Bible-following people there, and the “pastor” could in fact be very humble—a true leader who didn’t really want his name in lights. But the sign sent a message, and I am weary of encountering churches that send that message.