Culture At Large

Is your church redundant?

Andy Rau

How redundant is your church? Is your church a cult of personality?

So asks Dan Edelen in a post about pastors and "redundancy" in church leadership. Dan's not asking if your pastor is a cackling, scheming cult leader who wields total control over his brainwashed congregation (although if that describes your church, you may have a problem). He's suggesting that American churches tend to gravitate around a key pastor or leader, and are easily thrown into chaos when that person leaves the church because nobody else can step forward and take his/her place:

It seems to me that a good many churches out there are cults. Not like Jehovah’s Witnesses, but cults of personality. They revolve around a few dynamic individuals. Should something happen to those dynamic individuals…well, you can see the handwriting forming on the wall....

Blame it on something in the drinking water in America, but we don’t do a very good job seeing ourselves as replaceable. Worse, people in leadership positions in churches take this to the extreme and find ways to keep from grooming successors. That dog-eat-dog, business world, CEO model permeates too much of our thinking, making us resistant to doing what’s best for the church, even if that best may not be the best for us personally

Dan makes a lot of good points. He observes that a church that's heavily redundant—meaning that there's always somebody who can step forward to fill a sudden gap in leadership—is much less vulnerable to unexpected setbacks (a death, a moral scandal, etc.).

My wife grew up in a Christian denomination that assigns pastors to new churches within the denomination every few years, rather than having the individual churches call a pastor who would then stay until he chose to move on. There are a lot of drawbacks to not having the same pastor at your church for more than a few years—but a system like that does limit the extent to which a church can become dependent on a single leader. I wouldn't want my church to adopt this system, but knowing you won't be pastor for more than a few years would probably cause you to view your leadership role more as a season of service and less as a "church CEO" role.

So what about your church? Is your community redundant? Do your church leaders nurture potential replacements just in case something happens to cut their ministry short? And has your church managed to steer clear of "cults of personality" that form around dynamic pastors?

(Via Blogotional, which has some excellent additional commentary. And I should note that writing this post has managed to get this song stuck in my head—am I showing my age?)

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, The Church