What! Fire a pastor?

In some quarters of the church the once-unthinkable idea is being discussed more freely.

By Ron Runyan

Should unproductive ministers be invited to exercise their talents in some other line of work?

In the Adventist ministry the traditional answer has seemed to be No. Firings are rare. Trading problem workers from conference to conference—or to a nonpastoral institutional position—is the more common practice. Unless a minister practices bed hopping or till tap ping, he has usually had reason to feel secure in his job, whatever his productivity.

But times are changing. A combination of economic retrenchment and in creased emphasis on leadership responsibility may lead to more than a few requested "retirements." Says one conference president: "More than half our pastors are nonproductive, and some are actually counterproductive." In some quarters of the church, a once-unthinkable idea is being discussed more freely if a minister does not produce, if he does not lead souls to Christ, if he doesn't demonstrate a closeness to the high standards and principles of the church, it would be better to let him go and find something to do with his life other than spend it in the gospel ministry.

Fire a minister? Yes, some are saying it should be done, and some conferences are actually doing it!

A look through the Spirit of Prophecy Index reveals repeated pleas that leaders work determinedly—a favorite word is "labor"—with nonproductive workers.

Here is a typical suggestion: "Ministers who are neglectful of the duties devolving on a faithful pastor, give evidence that they are not sanctified by the truths they present to others, and should not be sustained as laborers in the vineyard of the Lord till they have a high sense of the sacredness of the work of a minister." Gospel Workers, p. 132.

Another suggestion is equally pointed: "The converting power of God must come upon the hearts of the ministers, or they should seek some other calling." Evangelism, p. 643.

She even recommends that if a worker is unproductive after a twelve-month trial, his calling should be reexamined. "If after laboring for twelve months in evangelistic work, a man has no fruit to show for his efforts, if the people for whom he has labored are not benefited, if he has not lifted the standard in new places, and no soils are converted by his labors, that man should humble his heart before God, and endeavor to know if he has not mistaken his calling. The wages paid by the conference should be given to those who show fruit for their labor." Ibid., pp. 686, 687. The minister who neglects his work "has no right to the name of minister" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 416).

"Shape up or ship out" has long been a slogan in the business world. It may soon become much more familiar in the Lord's business.

Power for success

"All heaven is interested in the work going on in this world, which is to prepare men and women for the future, immortal life. It is God's plan that human agencies shall have the high honor of acting as co-workers with Jesus Christ in the salvation of souls. The word of God plainly reveals that it is the privilege of the instrument in this great work to realize that there is One at his right hand ready to aid him in every sincere endeavor to reach the highest moral and spiritual excellence in the Master's work. This will be the case with all who feel their need of help. They should look upon the work of God as sacred and holy, and should bring to Ministry, February/1981 Him, every day, offerings of joy and gratitude, in return for the power of His grace, by which they are enabled to make advancement in the divine life. The worker should ever take humble views of himself, considering his many lost opportunities for want of diligence and appreciation of the work. He should not become discouraged, but should continually renew his efforts to redeem the time.

"Men whom God has chosen to be His ministers should prepare themselves for the work by thorough heart searching and by close connection with the world's Redeemer. If they are not successful in winning souls to Christ, it is because their own souls are not right with God. There is altogether too much willing ignorance with a large number who are preaching the word. They are not qualified for this work by a thorough under standing of the Scriptures. They do not feel the importance of the truth for this time, and therefore the truth is not to them a living reality. If they would humble their souls before God; if they would walk according to the Scriptures, in all humility of mind, then they would have more distinct views of the pattern which they should copy; but they fail to keep their eyes fixed upon the Author and Finisher of their faith. . . . All who by faith have Christ abiding in them carry a power into their labor which makes them successful. They will be constantly growing more and more efficient in their work, and the blessing of God, shown in the prosperity of the work, will testify that they are indeed laborers together with Christ." Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 573-575.


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By Ron Runyan

February 1981

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