I’ve been reading John S. Dickson’s book, The Great Evangelical Recession. It is an accurate, but not uplifting, analysis of the state of evangelicalism in the USA. In one chapter he discusses the expectations church members have of their pastors. He writes about how those expectations have changed over the years.
Fifty Years Ago
Pastors were expected to:
- Study the Bible
- Pray for the members
- Visit the sick
- Witness to lost people
- Marry and bury
Thirty Years Ago
Church members added these expectations:
- Visionary leader
- Aggressive entrepreneur, who could begin new ministries
- Able manager of staff and volunteers
- Active participant in community organizations and activities
- Play a significant role in SBC politics
- Maintain a family lifestyle that would make James Dobson proud
Church members today have added:
- Produce and preach fascinating internet sermons
- Be thoroughly missional
- Master and use social media
- Model a radical Christian lifestyle
- Be a master counselor, able to save troubled marriages in a single conversation
- Discourse with confidence on current ethical issues
I could write another post on unwritten, unspoken expectations. In many churches, the members have a list of expectations that are never spoken, much less written. The pastor is supposed to fulfill these, even though the expectations have never been explained. Often, these expectations harken back to an outstanding former pastor. The members appreciated that he did ________________, and they expect that you will, also.
Another contemporary issue is how we cope with the pandemic. Our minister of music told me that he was listening to a Christian radio station. The announcer called on pastors to meet the many needs of Christians during the pandemic. She said that people are hurting. They are discouraged and depressed, and many are in struggling marriages. She challenged the pastors to meet these many needs. I told our staff member that pastors are hurting, discouraged, stressed, depressed, and struggling in their own marriages. Expecting them to solve their members’ similar problems is asking a lot.
I have been in ministry for more than 50 years now, and I can affirm what John Dickerson writes. Expectations have changed. Well, let me ask you how you’ve seen the expectations of a pastor change. What do people expect now?