Voices: yeah … no (993)

The problems with the clergy-laity system are a) centuries old and b) pandemic.  Most of my disputes with this system run pretty deep and are long-lived,¹ but this particular rant is rather shallow.


Having recently visited a church I’d been a member of years ago, in which one preacher had filled the pulpit for about 50 years, I suppose it was inevitable that, soon after, I saw two articles about other, way-too-long-term preachers.  (These things seem to come in multiples.)  First, the man I once knew.  Then, another octogenarian, celebrating 50 years with the same church.  And then a feature article about a guy who was with one church more than a quarter-century and with another church in the same city for 10 years.

This man is surely a wonderful man, with a good heart and a love for God.

But he is quoted as having said … and, you know, everything has the potential for being quoted out of context … but, get this:

Church growth must begin with the preacher.

Yeah . . . NO.

Oh, my goodness. . . .

First off, the term “church growth” is loaded, and I don’t accept its chock-full package as entirely worthy of discussion.  Sure, the growing of churches is likely a good thing — at least potentially so, for some churches grow merely in an opposite reaction to the decline of other churches, which fact makes the growth rather moot.  Numerical growth in terms of overall congregational “membership,” then, may be good but also may be neutral.  Spiritual growth is not quantifiable.  In my experience, “church growth ‘experts’ ” focus almost exclusively on quantifiable data.

Even if one accepts (or ignores as loaded) the term “church growth,” the notion that “growth much begin with the preacher” is ludicrous on at least two levels.

  1. First, the presence of a preacher is required by no biblical text that I know of, and this fact negates the “must.”
  2. Moreover, I would assert that if either spiritual or numerical growth is preacher-driven, it is growth that is not going to last. 

Preachers, of course you should keep growing and not become stagnant.  (This self-evident truth may get at the speaker’s intent more than the ripped-from-context quote.)  My rant here is in no way intended to ignore the human tendency to become stale.  I have had good models in staying current in one’s discipline, including my grad advisor Ken Singleton, who, for instance, annually updates his repertoire list with new, good music, refusing to do anything but grow.  Preachers should do similar things, studying new books and documents and Greek and methods, etc.  But really, preachers, don’t be deceived into thinking that you should function as the center of things.


P.S. to the Christian Chronicle:  I chose not to read this article in depth.  It’s a matter of time and priorities for me.  But let’s think about the big, bold quotation at the top of the page for a moment.  Couldn’t you have chosen a better seven-word quote to pull out for highlighting?  Surely there were better, more on-target things that he said!  🙂


¹ Grandmother Kathryn Ritchie (1909-1988) taught me that “long-lived” was originally pronounced with a long “i,” as in “dive.”  I have trouble saying it that way now, because everyone thinks it’s wrong.  Often, taking the less popular way ends up being right, right?

2 thoughts on “Voices: yeah … no (993)

  1. godschildrenorg 04/04/2013 / 6:40 pm

    How many times can I say, “I LIKE your observations!” Church growth – you addressed that well. God adds to the church daily those who are being saved – according to the Book of Acts. I’m thinking that church growth of any sort begins with the elders. The preacher is just a part of the “tools” used by God. But if “church growth” is only referring to the numbers…what a pity. Missionaries support is sometimes dropped because there’s not enough “church growth.” Preachers are “let go” by churches that weren’t growing before the preacher moved there…the preacher could not change the mind set of the congregation…the congregation did not grow in numbers…so, he had to be the scapegoat and be let go. We are the Body of Christ. We are “the church.” If we are not “growing,” maybe we need to take a look at what we are feeding our souls? — Anne


    • Brian Casey 04/04/2013 / 7:44 pm

      Thank you, as always, Anne, for reading, caring, and feeding back.

      I can certainly agree that elders should be more tied to spiritual (and even numeric) growth much more directly than preachers. The missionary and preacher-firing scenarios you mention are somewhat familiar to me, too, but only second- or third-hand. Most important, I think, is your turning this whole question back on me/you/us: right on that I need to be aware of what I’m feeding my soul with. My personal diet has not been that great lately, I must admit….

      *Brian Casey, D. Arts*



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