MILL VALLEY, Calif. – A crisis is looming in pastoral ministry, Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, warns. “The crisis isn’t Internet pornography, misuse of funds, authoritarian leadership styles or doctrinal error.
“The coming crisis is we soon won’t have enough pastors.”
Speaking to students, faculty, staff and guests at the President’s Convocation on Feb. 7, Iorg noted that a consistently declining number of students have enrolled at Golden Gate Seminary over the past decade who checked “pastor” on the entrance survey as their ultimate ministry objective.
Iorg listed various reasons he believes many men are reluctant to become lead pastors or senior pastors:
“Men tell me they have witnessed pastoral abuse,” Iorg said, “and don’t want it to happen to them or their family.”
“They have also seen dysfunctional church life and don’t want to waste their time with such nonsense.”
“Men also avoid pastoral ministry because they didn’t grow up in a church, perhaps coming to Christ as a college student, and they have never seen a model of a healthy pastor or pastoral family.”
“Some men don’t want the spiritual responsibility,” Iorg observed. “Delayed adolescence has infected young men who should already be church leaders.”
Contemporary culture, he noted, “devalues aggressive leadership by men, and that is projected on the church.”
And there’s “the ‘I love Jesus but hate the church’ mentality, which devalues the church and thus church leaders has confused many young men.”
Speaking from 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Iorg described the call to pastoral ministry as the highest leadership role in the Kingdom of God. The pastoral office, he noted, is a noble task and a worthy goal.
BP file photo by Matt Miller
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., delivers his seminary’s report during the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Kentucky Exhibition Center in Louisville, Ky.
“You can desire, aspire, aim for or even be ambitious about becoming a pastor. Doing so isn’t demonstrating pride,” Iorg said. “It’s longing to serve in the most effective role possible.”
A pastoral call is a character calling, Iorg said. “The pastorate requires men of character [referencing 1 Timothy 2 and following]. It will test and develop your character. Pastors live in community, demonstrating Christian growth, modeling Christian family, standing against sin and teaching true doctrine. Some men avoid the pastorate because it is a personal crucible – a refining fire God uses to purify motives and leach out hypocrisy.”
The pastoral calling is a family calling, Iorg continued. “When a man is married, the pastorate requires a mutual call to ministry,” he explained. “The call to pastoral ministry is a partnership, which may involve different ministry marriage models, but always includes two people working together appropriately to provide pastoral ministry.”
Referencing the advantages of children being reared in a pastoral family, Iorg said, “Your family gets to go to work with you. They also get to know the best people on earth – church members. Your family can benefit from a flexible work schedule. Most importantly, your family gets to see God at work in ways other children simply don’t experience.”
And Iorg underscored the pastoral calling as a community calling, noting that a pastor “must have a good reputation with outsiders, meaning his community.” Using illustrations of African American community activist pastors as well as others who have served on school boards and other leadership roles, Iorg described the pastorate as an opportunity to influence an entire community.
Iorg exhorted the students in the audience: “I would like to ask you today to either ask God to call you to be a pastor, or ask Him to give you a passion for supporting pastors in their call. This is a serious matter. The future health of mission boards, seminaries and other ministries depends on strong churches. The quality of pastoral leadership will largely determine the future health of churches. So much depends on pastors.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phyllis Evans is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with fully accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado.)