Pastors' Forum


A Different Time?

Is pastoring different today than it was ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago? It seems like it is, but I’m trying to define how it’s different. Is society different? Are church members different? Are the expectations and commitment levels of people different? Can you help me understand this? Read the responses.


Pastor Larry Millender—Tallahassee, FL
I definitely see a BIG CHANGE in pastoring over the past 25 years or so. There are various reasons as to why:

First of all, society has changed so much.

People have become more independent-minded than ever before.

They don’t see as much need for the local church today as in previous times. There are other things that satisfy their needs these days.

There are also so many things vying for people’s attention and time these days.

It seems that our services now have to be built around ball games, theater, dance class, soccer, etc. (an endless list )

There is also a great demand for entertainment in the church as people are accustomed to be entertained everywhere else these days.

Society as a whole is not committed too much at all, and that is reflected in the church as well.

People are looking to be pacified and made happy, otherwise they stay aloof and detached.

All of these issues make pastoring more demanding, tiring, and challenging for all of us. It’s almost as though pastors are spinning plates trying to keep everything going so that people stay connected. To put it simply: “Things ain’t like they used to be.”

Pastor Mike Webb—Lake Forest, CA
I think the church is different than it was 20 years ago. When we started our church in 1986, people would come to us because we went to Rhema. Ten years later, a lot of people stayed away because we did. Today, not many people care one way or the other.

So, we look back to what drew us to God 30 years ago. It was hearing Brother Hagin teach the Word. And the room was full of young, old, single, and married people. People left careers to go where they could hear the Word. And I don’t think anyone would blame Brother Hagin’s success on his dynamic style or methods.

Obviously, people are more affluent today than ever. That gives them more opportunities for distraction than ever before. They make choices based on what they are accustomed to, what they like, and what they feel comfortable with. And for those who want to hear the Word, it is more accessible than ever, too. They don’t have to leave their homes to hear it like they used to. Along with the success of Seeker Friendly churches, that has created complacency in much of the church in America. According to studies, that translates into church attendance every 2-3 weeks.

I decided that I don’t want people to listen to me because I look a certain way or speak in some “hip” manner. I want them to listen because of what I’m saying. If people think I’m a dinosaur because I wear a suit and tie, so be it. I just want them to not be able to resist the words I speak.

Not everyone will want what we have to offer. But I would prefer the ones that do to a crowd twice as large who came because they “relate” to how I look. And knowing why they come causes them to be committed to God and our church.

Now if I could just get those who come once a month to understand why they need more…

Pastor Bob Yandian – Tulsa, OK
Pastoring today is different than it was ten to twenty years ago. There was a hunger in God’s people for the word and it seems the things of God were more important. Today, society is different. It appears that the Word, the local church and spiritual things are just another thing to do in people’s lives. They have work, home, pleasure, school, sports and church. People move from one to another and when it is time for God, they go to church. A number of years ago more people put God first in their lives no matter what they did. God was part of their conversation and interests. About the only time God seems to matter today is when people make time for Him. He is brought up only at appropriate times. Also, when other things come up, church is sacrificed. There is always next week. There is little prioritizing. Whatever is expedient is done. Not that many years ago, church, campmeetings and seminars were the top priority in the daily life of believers. That daily life revolved around study of the word, good sermons on tape or CD and in books and praise and worship music. There does not seem to be the hunger today for understanding God’s Word. Life is filled with so many things, it is difficult for people to see the need for a strong relationship with the Lord. The needs of people have not changed. They are just filling them with other things than God’s word and church.

Pastor Matt Beemer – Manchester, England
Playwright Henry Miller’s words accurately describe what I believe our approach to ministry must be in this ever-fluid culture, “ones destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”

One of the most challenging statements I have read on leadership as relating to our ever changing culture is found in a great little book called Aquachurch (Leonard Sweet—Group Publishing Inc, 1999). In it the author makes the following comment on the reality our continually changing culture, “What is fresh and innovative today is stale and obsolete tomorrow. If you are doing church the same way you were a year ago, you’re falling behind and failing.” This statement is very broad and sweeping so we should be careful how we apply it, but Sweet supports his statement with the following interesting facts:

  • 78% of Fortune 500 companies ‘re-engineered’ themselves between 1991 and 1993.
  • There is a new web site every 2 seconds, and a new product every thirty seconds.
  • World knowledge doubles every eighteen months, with more information being produced in the last 30 years than in the previous five thousand.
  • Moores Law states that micro-processing speed doubles every 18 months, while computer costs drop by 50% in that same time. At this rate Ray Kurzwil states that it will be possible to purchase a $1000 computer with the same speed and capacity of the human brain by 2020.
  • In the first six months of 1992, so many rapid changes occurred in the world geography that National Geographic Society had to revise its world map six times.

In addition to Sweet’s thoughts, an interesting fact I came across a couple years ago was that in the 1970’s there was a study done of ‘mega-churches’ in the USA and at that time there were only 14 mega churches, that is churches with an attendance of more than 2200. Thirty years later there are more than 1200!  I’m certain this has changed the way we pastor dramatically.

So—is pastoring different today than it was ten, fifteen, or even twenty years ago?  Yes, if we are doing it properly, it will be!

How it is different is a much harder question and probably has as many answers as there are pastors and churches. Even so, for me the phrase that best describes how pastoring today differs from a decade or two ago is—definitely more complicated. All the business, legalities, media and technology, as well as a far more rapidly changing culture make pastoring today exceedingly more complicated than it ever has been.

Thank God for the simplicity of the Word and the power of the Spirit!

Pastor Jerry Weinzierl—Sterling Heights, MI
Is pastoring different today than it was ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago? Yes, but probably because of a few factors. Communication is easier; technology has enhanced our effectiveness by the speed of our response. I can answer a question by e-mail in 5 minutes that may have taken a ½ hour phone call (small talk, etc.). The other reason it’s different for me is because I’ve grown in my personal abilities to the point of reasonable competence!

Is society different? Faster, competing demands that cause people to not be as focused on the spiritual, etc. Changing value systems….

Are church members different? I don’t think so. Speed of the Leader…Speed of the Team …it’s amazing how much better my church members have become in step with my level of security, ability, confidence and knowledge, etc.

Are the expectations different? It’s up to me to teach through and train my congregation regarding biblical standards for my role as Pastor. My job according to Ephesians 4 is to train people to do the work that religious culture had said was the pastor’s job for many years (centuries!).

Are commitment levels different? Again, I believe when you lead with vision, the commitment levels of people rise to higher levels. When you lead based upon “need,” the commitment falls off as soon as the need is perceived to have been met.

Pastor Ray Almaguer—Glendora, CA
I have been a pastor for 25 years. There have been lots of changes. Musical styles have changed. We used to sing choruses. The use of multimedia has been a huge change. We have shorter services now. I believe people are still committed, they just have less time to commit than they used to. Here in California, virtually all the moms have jobs. They need two incomes to make ends meet. We have lots of single moms and the demand is even greater on them. We have to be wise in our expectations. We don’t want them feeling guilty about not attending church every time the doors are open. The fact is, some of them just can’t. Society has changed. There is more of a consumer mentality now than there used to be. Another change we have noticed is in children’s ministry. It seems there are a lot more fearful parents than there used to be. They are far more concerned with who is watching their kids than they are with our tenets of faith. Many of these parents are the children of boomers, many of whom grew up in single parent homes. This has to be addressed effectively by the church.

Pastor Sam Smucker—Lancaster, PA
I have been pastoring for 31 years at the same church. Things have changed in a number of ways. People seem to be more mobile and attend church not quite as consistently because of being away more weekends. What we have done is work on making our weekend services more purposeful—rather than only thinking about the upcoming weekend, we now plan our services 3—6 months ahead which results in a more meaningful experience for many people. When our services are purposeful and have some good spirit-led planning applied to them, it takes a team effort from your staff and volunteer force. We have noticed a new energy in people volunteering, also.

Planning like this does not mean there is not room for spirit-led spontaneity during the services. By being more purposeful I mean the worship song selection goes with the message, or maybe there is a short drama to help your message be more impactful, or a special song may be ministered to help people respond to the message, etc.

We as pastors have the opportunity to impact the lives of those who come with the Truth, and let’s make the most of the time we have.

Pastor Bill McRay—Nashville, TN
I’ve been pastoring this same church for a bit over 30 years. Yes, our society is different today because our culture is in constant change. A changing culture requires flexibility and a willingness to try new approaches in methodology. That being said, human nature never changes. Either a person is unsaved with the old sin nature or is saved with a new nature. Either way, the same Word that worked 30 years ago still works today. It’s the Word and the Spirit that changes lives no matter what cultural changes take place.

Pastor Bob Hoover—Decatur, IL
Since I have been in this for 25 years, the difference I see is the lack of respect for the office of a Pastor, not so much the individual. The same is true in schools, etc.

Pastor Mark Garver—Madison, AL
I think in some aspects pastoring is different, but in many, it is the same. I think it is different in that there are so many legal, tax, and financial aspects that you have to be aware of, and you need the best people to help you navigate through all the stuff that is out there. I also think it is different in what people expect the church to have as far as equipment and technology. I think because of the current family crisis and exploding divorce rate in America, we as pastors have additional challenges we have never faced before. But I also think a lot of things remain the same. There is still no substitute for heartfelt anointed worship, solid doctrine and teaching from the Word of God, and a church full of loving people that can change people’s lives. Over the last fifteen years I have changed a few methods, hired some better legal people, tried to keep up with technology, but I have taught the same Word and relied on the same Holy Ghost.

Pastor Loren Hirschy—Dubuque, IA
My pastoring has changed, due in part to the increased availability of information by means of mass communication, the Internet, increased availability of the Word and ministry (thousands of) other places than Campmeeting, WBS, or this church, along with a change in our national culture. People today are much busier than 20 years ago (I’ve been pastor here for 22 years). People want what they want, when they want it, and how they want to receive it – and for the most part, have those wants met. So the pastor has to realize that “feeding the sheep” involves different expectations from the sheep than years ago, and involves different tools than years ago—and to a great extent means connecting the sheep with what they need, not necessarily meeting all their needs personally.

Pastor Dean Hawk—Colorado Springs, CO
I may not be one to officially answer on this as I have only been a senior pastor for 4 years. I think the biggest difference of what I was taught a pastor should be and what I am today as a pastor is completely different. The old school thinking is, “Don’t get too close to your staff or the people in your church—they will lose respect for you!” I take exactly the opposite approach and have seen amazing fruit!  I want, desire, and pursue a close personal relationship with my staff and their families. The reality is the closer we become the more they respect me, know my heart, and stand with me. When the war heats up and we are in a fox hole together—if I don’t know you, love you, or care for you—I’m just as happy if you get shot or killed versus me. But I will defend and die for my closest friends.

Concerning the people in the church—I am plain and straight forward. I believe a shepherd should smell like the sheep!  If he doesn’t, then something is wrong. When pastors have ushers escort them into the auditorium like the president, it creates a wall and barrier and screams to the congregation, “He is untouchable.” I have found that if I will circulate the 15 minutes before each service, I am able to meet first time guests, reacquaint with new families, and reaffirm my love to the regular attenders and members. Kim and I have several couples that we associate with in the church on a frequent basis. I have told my church on multiple occasions that I am human (surprise) and I need friendships. Kim and I go out to eat with 1-3 families every Sunday (new and old). I have told my church that I am just like you and there will be some people I connect with more than others. It seems to me if we are simply honest about it and don’t try to sneak around or make excuses people appreciate a straight forward and transparent approach. Kim and I host an open house at our house every third Sunday night of the month for all new members and attenders. We usually have 50-80 with kids. When they feel like they have a personal connection with you and that you are touchable, I have found them to be even a greater support and to lock into the church culture faster.

Pastor Tim Kutz—Bartlesville, OK
We live in very volatile, changing times. There is a scripture that speaks specifically to the time that we are in.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, 2 Tim 3:1-2 (NKJV)

The amplified translation calls it times of great stress. Pastoring is getting more and more stressful and the further we get to the end it will just continue to increase exponentially. To compound this, people are becoming more and more selfish, and all of the other things that this scripture speaks to.

Paul dealt with these issues on a certain level and mentioned that the “care” or the “concern” for the churches was a thing that he had to deal with along with all of the things that were coming against him. Whether we like it or not, care, or stress, is something that we must learn to deal with.

Fighting the good fight of faith in our minds where care is concerned, casting our care on Him is certainly a part of what we do on an ongoing basis, but we must see that God has called us to pastor in this generation. You could have been born in Bangladesh in 453 B.C., but God placed you where and when He determined and then called you to pastor in this generation. Having the heart of God for hurting people includes having the heart of God for selfish people.

Jesus spent time with those who He would use when He was gone and He had to work through their selfishness. “Who sits beside you in the Kingdom of God?” Unfortunately, we will have to deal with people that are selfish, and all of the other traits that are mentioned. We need help pastoring and many of the people that are called to come along side of us are currently enslaved to these character traits.

I believe that greater discernment is necessary and a commitment to stay with people as they work out their own salvation. Laying hands on no man suddenly has always been important, but so much the more now. In our hurry to build our church, if we shortcut this process it can and will cost us in the long run.

Stay built up in the Holy Spirit, choose those who will stand beside you with much prayer and consideration, be merciful and patient with people, and make a commitment to never quit when people let you down (they will) and you will be successful. You may not build the biggest church in town, but you will be able to run your race and to finish your course. And if you understand that the time that you live in and count it all joy, you will be able to finish your course with joy!

Pastor Rich Huston—Arvada, CO
Yes, Yes, and Yes. There is so much change going on in society that I feel like I am constantly scrambling to keep up just to stay informed, let alone make necessary adjustments. So here is a partial answer to this huge question! A large part of the problem boils down to the big shift that we are seeing in family life and the consequences of the families being under such attack. Society in general is failing to cope with this..(look at the difficulties public schools are having for one example). The expectations people seem to have of the church are enormous now, for the same reason. People today are coming to the church more dysfunctional than ever and looking for the church to provide what their family should have. Despite all the change happening around us, the needs people have are the same and are addressed by the wisdom of the Great Commission (make disciples…teach them to observe all things I have commanded). Discipleship holds the key to transforming lives. The church must become more effective in disciple making, not just having good church services, thinking we are getting the job done. Churches can and should provide a strong enough spiritual culture that people are transformed 180 degrees from the world around them. It looks impossible sometimes when you look at the big picture, but putting His plan to work one person at a time is what will make the difference.

Pastor T.R. Harper –  Jacksonville, AL
I believe pastoring is a lot different. I came in during the charismatic movement. All you had to do was say there was a meeting and people would show up. There was a fire and hunger in the hearts of the people. Today I don’t see that fire and that hunger. I believe there is a coldness there and it has caused people to be more critical because they are not satisfied with their walk and blame it on others. We need to stress the importance of our relationship with Jesus.

We as pastors need to preach more by inspiration instead of perspiration. Learn to work with the flow of the Holy Spirit. Stop trying to make things and let things happen.

We need to stop trying to carry everybody’s problems and enjoy our relationship with Jesus.

We need to enjoy our ministry and take time to smell the roses, enjoy the journey.

Stop comparing yourself with others and their ministry and enjoy what God has given you.

Pastor Jerry Piker—Laurie, MO
I don’t believe being a pastor is any different today than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. The only difference is the people. This has always been a challenge, to reach out to people where they are. I do believe as pastors we must examine ourselves and our churches to keep updating as much as possible. People, at heart, never change, they still have the same needs and same desires, and sometimes it is only in a different package. We cannot be moved by the package but by the compassion to reach the people.

Pastor John White—Decatur, AL
It is different. People are different, or should I say, the needs of the people are different. People don’t want you involved in their lives like they did 20 years ago. I believe because of the busy activities of our society and all the social evils of our day, people just do not have the time nor trust they once did. Visitation and follow-up is totally different. People seem to be more private and protective of their privacy and time. Therefore, we have to adapt. We should always be outreach-minded and looking for ways to get involved in peoples lives without crossing the boundaries our society has set. Developing a family atmosphere at church is a must. This has been the most helpful thing we have done to effectively pastor the people. Church fellowships, outings and small group meetings help us to accomplish this. We adapt, but we do not compromise. Therefore we have to continually be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. After all Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came that he would lead us into all truth. That even means how to pastor the people in our modern day society.