The Pastor Man Up Movement

The last few years has seen the popularization of something I refer to as the Pastor Man Up Movement. (PMUP)

You hear things said, like “Pastor, if anyone is going to lead your church, it has to be you.” Or, “No one else in the church is called to lead more than you.” Or, “It’s time the pastors of the church took control from the committees.” It’s an interesting phenomenon. And it’s promoting a lot of abuse of power. Pastors read a blog or hear a PMUP message and run to the next meeting all full of testosterone instead of grace.

It’s dangerous to take the power that a pastor is given and then encourage that person to exert his will on a congregation.

It’s like storing a keg of black powder in a cigar bar. Eventually there will be an explosion.

In a healthy context there’s nothing wrong with this movement. It’s good for pastors and church staff to be leaders and to be reminded of their calling. That’s why we pay them. (Let’s not lose site of that fact. I know many people have been abused by the church, but there really are healthy churches out there.) When we hire pastors at our churches we should empower them to lead. I currently attend a church where the church staff are good leaders. They seek wise counsel, they are temperate, they consider the needs of the whole congregation in making decisions, they work hard to battle “what people want” vs “what the Bible is asking us to do.” I’ve never sensed that they are afraid to lead.

The problem is that it’s also become popular to hire staff members with little or no formal training. It’s not unusual for me to hear of people joining a church staff with not only no formal training at the undergraduate/graduate level– they’ve not even been an intern or been taught how to lead a church in an informal setting. They have zero training to enter the ministry. Literally, one week they are selling cars (or whatever) and the next week they have the title of pastor. Few other professions do this the way churches do. You wouldn’t hire a teacher to be a lawyer. Nor would you hire a vet to be a physician or a CPA to be a plumber. But in the church? It’s become en vogue to hire non-professionals.

[My suspicion is that those people who leave a profession to enter the ministry probably weren’t that good at their profession in the first place. But it’s quite an ego boost to go from being a CPA to an executive pastor! It’s not like a mediocre CPA was going to make partner.]

PMUP + Untrained staff = Explosion waiting to happen

A couple of thoughts about this combination:

  • When a senior pastor surrounds himself with untrained associates this should tell you something about the leader of the senior.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being a strong leader. But if no one is following you of their own free will… you aren’t leading. You are a dictator. (Remember how things end for most dictators)
  • When a church calls an untrained person to be their pastor, this should tell you something about the congregation.
  • It makes me giggle when a bunch of dudes decide that they need to man-up. I grew up thinking that a real man took care of the people around him, not used his weight to get his way.
  • Where in the Bible were deacons/overseers/elders told they should man up?
  • When did the will of a congregation/voting become a bad thing?
  • Sometimes it seems as though people are selling themselves and their vision instead of God’s vision. As a churchgoer, all I know if I’m stuck with the bill.
  • If someone has to throw around their weight to make things happen, does that make them a leader worth following?
  • The unspoken message every person knows in a church is that if the pastor can’t exert his will, the congregation runs the risk of the person quitting. (This isn’t “manning up.” It’s “taking my ball and going home.”)
  • When did formal eduction/training as an entry point to ministry become a bad thing? And if churches are  going to hire untrained staff, why don’t they budget for properly training them?


5 responses to “The Pastor Man Up Movement”

  1. Dave Corlew Avatar

    Great post Adam – excellent thoughts. Thank you. My only point of disagreement is with is your rhetorical (?) question: “When did the will of a congregation/voting become a bad thing?” I believe the congregational form of church polity is disastrous and has no basis in Scripture. To put decision making responsibilities in the hands of new converts, lukewarm Christians (are they even Christians?) and the like is a big mistake. Church leaders are to lead – of course they must be humble and in tune to and responsive to their congregation – but they must lead.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Thanks for the comment. Don’t forget that different denoms have different polities for different reasons. Just like you are arguing there’s no biblical example of church voting (though, clearly a council existed in Acts) I could argue that a paid church staff is also equally lacking a biblical justification.

      A look at church history quickly reveals that all forms if church polity have lead to abuses. The common denominator in all is human leadership.

  2. Richard Jones Avatar
    Richard Jones

    I really only thought the United Methodist Church did this hiring of staff with no training. Refreshing to know that we are not the only ones. Not comforting, just refreshing.

  3. Dave Luke Avatar

    Here would it not be PMUM instead of PMUP, Pastor man up movement. 😛

  4. Tony Myles Avatar
    Tony Myles

    Adam – not sure how this plays out everywhere, but it sounds like you’ve had experience with this in your circumstances and reading. I disagree with a few of your points, though, including asking the “unskilled” to join a leadership team. Not to abuse a well used line, but “Didn’t Jesus do that?” 😉

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