Who wants a weak pastor? I suppose God Almighty is the maker of weak pastors, and the only One who actually wants a weak pastor. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling (1 Cor 2:3).” The great benefit of a weak pastor is that when he is weak, God is strong. The sentiment of weakness was captured by John the Baptist, in the proposed competition with Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Weakness invites humility, and God gives grace to the humble. If the man of God is not weak, it is likely a problem with puffed up pride. It is common for men to think more highly of themselves than they ought. If God raises up kings and bring them down, then we can be assured He knows how to do this with pastors. God gives pastors thorns in their sides. He afflicts them in diverse ways. One of the ways God permits trouble for a pastor is by permitting the world to come into the church.

Pastoral ministry is a competitive sport. Survival of the fittest is a reality because of competition between churches. Of course, everyone denies this fact, but church members come and go between congregations like shoppers at a mall. Pastors hardly know their sheep, and few are privy to know which of their sheep are actually goats. Goats have no problem with more of the world coming into the church. This is why local churches are always inventing new gimmicks to attract the world into the church. In fact, church membership is almost meaningless, today. The way into the church is wide, and pastors are no longer positioned at the door to protect the house of God. Why?

The corporation executive model of church leadership has given the false appearance of a vibrant thriving church environment. Simply put, bigger church is better church. The endless activities in church are supposed to be signs of spiritual life. These attract others looking for busy occupation for themselves and their children. People are bored. Pastors are deemed successful, if statistical analysis provides proof of numerical increase in vital categories: attendance; financial giving; activity participation rates; etc.

The best way a pastor CEO can increase his own stock value in this environment is to be a winsome entertainer, who endlessly “loves on” the people. To attract people from the community, the church leader must adapt the church to what the world around the church prefers. This, too, is denied, but one would have to be blind to miss the inclusive agenda.

The debate between an inclusive church versus an exclusive church is not new. Obviously, sinners must be welcome at some level because we are all sinners. A church loses its distinctive when it is only a gathering of sinners who are loving on one another. In other words, churches can lose their way when putting so much energy and resources into attracting sinners that they have nothing of eternal value to give them after they attract them. The fear of losing numerical growth levels is real. The Gospel is watered down so it does not offend anyone. This keeps people in the pews.

Pastors are frequently lost in the agenda. Working for and being accountable to the board of directors, the CEO pastor must give an account of performance. His conundrum is how to make the church grow in a manner that pleases God and pleases man. God and man are not pleased in the same way. This makes the job of the pastor practically impossible. Either he faithfully serves man’s penchant for numbers and money, or he faithfully serves God in actually caring for souls. This why Paul feared and trembled.

Caring for souls is not on anyone’s, “church growth strategies,” list. Idealists, in the ivory towers of seminary, insist on this essential pastoral responsibility. Executive boards of churches do not care about souls. They care about the numbers. It is the business of the church that matters. The fate of the pastor rests on whether he performs numerically; therefore, he must choose this day who he will serve. To care for souls is not wise, for it is costly in time and usually unprofitable in return on investment. How big is this problem?

Endless are the dilemmas faced in this tension in church leadership. Should a pastor be a corporate CEO or should he commit to a ministry of prayer and the Word? In the evangelical church in America, today, it is one or the other, and the latter does not come with much gainful employment.

So, we turn to the Bible, which anticipates our quandary. Paul wrote, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).” Here is the pastoral imperative. The pastor has a singular purpose: to steward the mysteries of the Gospel, by preaching the Word. The Word is Christ Jesus. There is simply nothing else to do.

Everyone agrees with Paul, until it is explained that Paul did not know financial seminars, women’s ministries, men’s ministries, youth ministries, children’s ministries, addiction recovery ministries, VBS, basketball ministries, mourning ministries, leadership conferences, choirs, bands, church camps for rich kids, etc. He knew one thing and one thing only.

The American church model is simply destroyed by a study of Acts of the Apostles, as interpreted by the Pauline epistles. Acts tells us what the early church did, and the epistles answer the problems which arose when the local churches were formed. Have we lost our first love? Are lukewarm about the pastoral imperative? Do we think we are rich with all the rest of our unbiblical activities?

The problem with the American church is immediately exposed. The façade of the strong leader/pastor is demolished. Corporate genius for numerical growth is out the door. Paul settles this with Pastor Timothy, “preach the Word” and “endure hardship.” These two go together. It is the narrow way.

A true pastor is a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In season and out of season, he knows nothing else. He is not anointed by the Holy Spirit, if he knows anything else. God insists His chosen ministers be “fools for Christ.” He gives them “foolishness” as their only tool for the work of the ministry. The Gospel is the antithesis for church growth, according to man’s way of making it happen.

The test of the called man of God is whether he will kowtow to the pressure of declining numbers in the midst of his faithful ministry of God’s Word preached and taught. People enjoy philosophy. Narcissists are intrigued with psychology. Humanists love sociology. We all love to be entertained with music and drama. There are some who obsess with eschatology because, in reality, there is no man in the flesh who wants hamartiology.

Hamartiology is the doctrine of sin. Sin is the problem with people. It is the problem with church. It is what God wants to address when he gathers people into His presence. He knows how destructive sin is to unbelievers. He knows how harmful sin is to His people. The holiness of God cannot permit sin into His presence. Sin separates men from God. Therefore, the pastoral imperative is a ministry of the Word of reconciliation. How can a man be right with God? Does the world think the church has the answer to eternal damnation when there is so much of the world in the church?

Love, love, love is the answer for the American church. True love, however, is distinctive in that it is covenant love. God loves people by way of covenant. He cannot love them unconditionally in their sinful state. He must reconcile them, first. He must buy them back. He must ransom them. In doing so, He demonstrates His love toward them, but it is the pastor’s imperative to tell people how God extends love to them. Even the message of love is watered down by the American church. This must be recovered if people in the world are to understand who and what we are talking about when we speak of God’s love.

If God is holy, and man is separated from God because of sin, then reconciliation is required. The alternative is sin leading to death, leading to judgment, leading to hell and the eternal lake of fire. Sin must be atoned for if man is to have right standing before a holy God. Paul wrote, “We preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).” This is the one thing, the one message. Atonement for sin was made by Jesus Christ on the Cross. His crucifixion was the blood payment for sin. It was the cutting of the covenant between God and man. God showed His love by the provisional sacrifice of the Son of God at Calvary.

Men must repent of their sins and place their trust in this message of hope. How will they hear without a preacher, fulfilling His imperative? God has made no other way, and there is nothing else for the pastor to do than to share this message with people. It is his God-given imperative. He is constrained to do this work. It would not be so difficult if people would believe in greater numbers. It would not be so difficult, if people who say they believe would invest more in the work to lighten the pastor’s load. Moses needed help. David was weak when the coup d’etat came against him. Jesus was resisted by the elders of Israel. Paul suffered greatly for the sake of the elect.

Corporate America’s infiltration into the church has threatened the pastoral imperative. The corporation’s vision of numerical growth has compromised pastoral ministry. In the past, the church was intruded upon by the state, and it needed to separate. Today, the church has been intruded upon by the corporation, and we need to separate from corporate control of the church. It is time to put the church back into the hands of pastors with the pastoral imperative.

If you or someone you know is pressuring the pastoral ministry to perform in a corporate manner, you must cease and desist. When you talk about statistics more than the care of souls, you must repent. Pastors must be liberated and fully supported in the work of preaching Christ and Him crucified, as their singular purpose.

In conclusion, this is American church reformation. It begins here. It is our only hope for removing the corporate agenda, with its false gospel of numerical prosperity. We must prioritize this one aspect of overall reformation, and we must encourage other churches to do the same. We must trust the Holy Spirit to grow the church in a manner worthy of giving God all the glory for doing all the work. He confronts the worldly church (Rev 2–3). He is pleased to confound the worldly ways of the worldly church. He does it by giving us foolishness to proclaim, without the preacher being ashamed, or being shamed for poor numerical performance. We must be intentional in making our pulpits more prominent, humbly trusting God to determine the size and finances of our local churches. In this He is glorified, and pastors are made weak.

David E. Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

May 8, 2021

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher