The Conference Every Mega-Church Pastor Should Attend

 

Warren Throckmorton posted a transcript of a mega-pastor who explained to his church why he would not be with them personally at almost every weekend service. Instead he will preach on stage the first weekend service and then the remaining services on Saturday and Sunday will feature a video of that sermon. Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

1) “I’m doing other things, like right now I have a book deadline. I preached last week, during the week on video for them to show to the largest church in America, which is Pastor Craig Groeschel Life Church. They have about 72,000 in attendance each week. … And this past Thursday was a conference call with Dr. Tony Evans and Dr. Ronnie Floyd who’s the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. And we’re talking about bringing pastors together, I think I’ve told you this, to bring pastors together next July to have a solemn assembly where we meet in Cowboy Stadium. We’re asking 75,000 pastors to come together to pray for our nation.”

Translation –  I’m way too important, busy and in demand to spend my time and energy here with you in person for worship services at the church where I’m the senior pastor.

2) “And so I wanted you to know if you don’t see me live as much as you used to it’s not because I love you less. I want you to know that. It’s because I love you more.”

Translation – It’s not you, it’s me.

Perhaps this writer/speaker does not consider himself a pastor to the people of his church. Perhaps he sees himself limited to preaching. If so, and the rest of the folks don’t mind, then have at it. The church’s web page describes him as the senior pastor, though, so they might want to change that.

That is, unless they want to tell him to stick closer to the people he’s supposed to be pastoring. Because pastors are supposed to be about Jesus and the people in their churches. They are not to be like the people Jesus warned his friends not to emulate:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45.)

It’s fine to be a great writer and speaker of God’s truth. I’ve been blessed more times than I can count by people who use their gifts that way. But please don’t take on a pastoral position and then say that leaving your congregation to pursue these things is an expression of your growing love for them. How do you love people you don’t spend time with?

Is preaching six services going to take a toll on your body, as this pastor says it has? Absolutely. But you can always let other people preach so you can sit with the congregation. Seriously, if you think you’re the only one who can preach effectively then you need to reacquaint yourself with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your preaching.

I’m really not meaning to tell that particular church what to do. If they want to let him be their pastor in name only, that’s their business. But I hope this is not a practice most churches would follow.

There’s little danger of that, though. After all, 99% of the pastors in this world will never be invited by the people whose names this pastor dropped to join them on stage to speak to 75,000 people. Those 99% are busy pastoring almost the entire body of Christ by the power of the Spirit anyway.

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39 Responses to The Conference Every Mega-Church Pastor Should Attend

  1. Pastor Bob says:

    I know Pastors who are in all services, period. Some of the lasrger churches may see the Pastor miss -some- of one service. Many services on a Sunday might see the Pastor miss one and only one service per Sunday. A church where I frequently guest speak has 5 services on a Sunday and on 2 Saturday, and 2 for the Youth on Friday. I speak at the two on Friday, one on Saturday, and 2-3 on Sunday. My wife takes the other services. We ARE there for all services. ( One time I spoke at all the services, wonderful yes, wise -no.)
    I feel for the church members who might be hurt, puzzled, pondering, confused. Video would suffice ONLY if there was a definite challenge with speaking for many services, and that would be a short term solution. SHARE the “burden!”

    This is not “spiritual laziness,” but can we say “lazy?”

    • Tim says:

      Your experience sounds like it has helped you develop wisdom in how you wife serve the body, PB. Thanks to your wife and you for the ministry you engage in.

  2. Jeannie says:

    This is really interesting, Tim. My home church where I grew up, which is a very small congregation (50 or so members) just hired a new pastor, and it was made very clear that he (and they) don’t think his primary gifts are in preaching, but in pastoring and leading worship through music. I thought this was very refreshing because so often “senior pastor” really translates into “senior preacher,” and there’s a big difference, as you say.

  3. Opa Bear says:

    I can well understand getting in over one’s head (cf. both Moses and the Apostles). But what I read here sounds more like ego and “I’ve got better things to do.” Apropos the conference: My thought is that rather than get 75,000 pastors together to pray for the nation, get the 75,000 pastors to stay put and get their flock to pray. Whaddya think?

    • Tim says:

      I fear they are marketing this as a way to get those whose prayers supposedly count more than others together. It’s nonsense, but it sells tickets.

  4. Kevin Mason says:

    It tough work being a mega-church-evangelical-superstar; there are so many special speaking engagements, conferences, TV appearances, books to write and promote, elbows of other superstars to rub, church expansion planning meetings, fundraising, etc. Superstar status requires cutting back on the lesser things: preaching and teaching the Word, caring for the flock and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    There is a difference between a preacher (speaker) and a shepherd (pastor). A preacher is isolated from the flock; a shepherd is surrounded by the flock. A preacher does not know all the people he is preaching to; a shepherd personally knows all the sheep in his flock. A preacher had others do the work of caring for the flock; a shepherd gets involved with the details of caring for the flock. A shepherd can also preach God’s word but preachers rarely are involved with the messy process of truly caring for the sheep.

    Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs, care for His sheep and feed his sheep. Preaching is part of that feeding but preaching is not the same as shepherding the flock.

  5. michellevl says:

    That picture/meme you created to go with this post – BULLSEYE.

  6. Laura Droege says:

    Hm, I wonder if mega church pastors would be willing to go to a conference led by small time pastors talk about how most churches do things? Some mega-pastors might be unwilling to listen but others might, depending on their life circumstances and struggles. I’m thinking of the one pastor in our town who has a church of 5000 people. In the months we attended there, he struck me as being willing to listen to others, but he’d been through and was going through a huge ordeal as his wife battled stage 3 breast cancer. Something like that–when things are completely out of our control and totally in God’s hands–is humbling, if we allow it to be. And I think he’d allowed it to give him greater empathy than he’d had before.

    • Tim says:

      I think most of them are willing and eager to fellowship with the small church pastor too, Laura. I just don’t see them organizing a conference around it and marketing it as something they are willing to attend as opposed to lead.

      • Laura Droege says:

        It must be hard to be a leader, where you’re used to being in control and being the influencer, and then willingly give up that control to follow someone else’s leadership and watch that other person influence other people.

        • I can’t help thinking, though, that if they were really following Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit that that shouldn’t be so terribly hard. After all, if they knew it wasn’t about them in the first place…

  7. Aimee Byrd says:

    Have you seen some of the “requirements” for some of the big-named speakers? Won’t speak to less than a certain amount of people, for under a certain amount of money, won’t go anywhere further than an hour from the airport, room temperature water at the podium…
    Makes you wonder who is more important, the speaker or the people to whom they are speaking?

    • Tim says:

      Aimee, those “requirements” are as frightening as they are eye-opening. And even worse is what it reveals about who gets the glory in those instances.

  8. Karen Ingle says:

    I try to picture the pastor of an underground church in, say, China–whose life is on the line each time he preaches–saying what that pastor said to his congregation… Can’t.

  9. Shalini says:

    Tim, I’m reading your blog after ages. Not for want of interest but because caregiving has let me fully occupied. As usual, you don’t disappoint and call a spade a spade. Thanks for nailing down what ails pastors of mega churches. Its been the ruin of many a good congregation. May God restore His truth about pastoral leadership to every pastor out there who is fooling himself/herself and others! .

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  11. conniereagan says:

    I used to go to a mega. The head pastor is the main speaker and in that one at least there were other pastors assigned for pastoral work. The problem was the church was so incredibly big it was hard to get any true pastoral care at all-and although the intention was to have the members raised up to care for each other, the fact was there was an overload of spiritual babies, plus when a mature believer needed help the unspoken expectation was we were mature enough to help ourselves. In this case the problem was the numbers and the system-the pastors themselves were all loving people who worked very very hard but just had way too much to do. My experience leads me to believe that there has to be a better way.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve seen that model as well, Connie, where the pastoral care is supposed to be available at all levels – home group to senior staff. It seems like something gets lost when there are so many layers the top doesn’t know what the bottom’s needs are, and vice versa.

  12. LT says:

    Robert Morris only speaks a little over 60% of the weekends. On the weekends he doesn’t speak he typically does not attend at all. He also doesn’t sit or stay with the flock during his rebroadcasted sermons in later services either, in order to greet newcomers or pray for his flock. He enters and leaves through a private entrance, accompanied by bodyguards. Robert sets a mighty example for all of the other pastors when he doesn’t bother to show up for his flock on the nearly 20 weekends a year he doesn’t speak. Many of these weekends Robert is speaking at other churches for cash, so it is not because he is too tired or lacks energy as he stated. His last Form 990 showed he made $328,000 in outside income above and beyond his over $1 million Gateway salary.

    Many of the weekends he spends at his lake house or hunting lodge. He claims his sabbath is on Mondays so it is apparently okay for him to miss church. Gateway really pressures attendees to never miss unless they have an emergency. Gateway has over 200 pastors to handle the flock yet story after story confirms that when members need a pastor they cannot get a return call and/or they have no connection with the person if someone finally does get back to them. Campus Lead Pastors, likewise, keep their distance from the flock outside of a tepid meet and greet on weekends when newcomers are allowed in a special area for a handshake and about 2 minutes of conversation. The quality of pastoral care at Gateway continues to spiral downwards because the underling pastors learn by example from the lead pastors. The real tragedy is that Robert teaches at large pastor conferences, including two of his own, each year, so this philosophy is being exported all over the U.S. He speaks aggressively about the importance of senior pastors guarding their time and limiting their contact even with other pastors. He said at one of his conferences that he has far more money than time so he would rather give one of his pastors “a large sum of money, than 10 minutes of (his) time”. If that’s how he feels about his staff pastors, imagine the contempt he must have for the teeming masses of his flock.

    • Tim says:

      That is a frightening description, LT.

    • Opa Bear says:

      Dreadfu, simply dreadful. May God spare us from such as him.

    • Strangely enough, my family ran across this attitude on a much smaller scale in a much smaller church. We were visiting a church in another state that was about 150-175 I’d guess. While we were there the pastor was going to speak in another church one service and asked my dad to ride along. My dad was a pastor of a much smaller church at that time. Well, the pastor told him as they were traveling that he never made friendships with any of the men in his church and he intentionally bought a house far from the church building so he wouldn’t be bothered by people. My dad was unimpressed with how he talked about his men/church and disgusted with his attitude.

      Interestingly, some years later someone I knew who had attended that church told me she and her husband had left the church after the pastor gave an invitation for all those who “agreed with the pastor 100%” to come forward. We knew he’d been teaching “pastoral authority” for some time, but it had come to that. Those who didn’t go forward were then “marked”, so to speak, and would be treated accordingly no doubt. My friend and her husband had not gone forward to show blind support, and felt they should leave.

      That pastor couldn’t have gotten away with what Robert Morris does, but he certainly had the tadpole stage of the swell toad disease in him.

  13. LT says:

    I realize that my comment might seem exaggerated for those not that familiar with Robert Morris. I would encourage readers to go to GW’s sermon listing to count the number of sermons he gives per year. It is typically between 30-34. For the “10 minute comment” you can hear it here http://connect.gatewaypeople.com/media/leadership-ceiling It is a class Morris taught called The Leadership Ceiling. If readers have 53 minutes it is a worthy piece for understanding how mega-pastors reason. It also helps to explain why Gateway needs well over 200 pastors for only 5 campuses that all televise a remote sermon each week. Spoiler alert: No pastor is allowed to supervise more than 3-5 people (including volunteers) which is how they get so many needless layers.

    It has other treasures as well, like Morris’ personal statement that he has done far worse things as a pastor than Mark Driscoll has. He also remarks on how angry he gets if any pastors text “Merry Christmas” to him on Christmas (he recommends changing your phone number and not giving it out to staff – which he does). He also states that sending him an email on Mondays is the same as asking him to commit murder or adultery. Robert delivers these messages to several thousand eager pastors every single year. This man breaks my heart for the damage he does to the body of Christ.

    Your posts comfort me and give me hope. Thanks for writing them.

  14. NJ says:

    “It has other treasures as well, like Morris’ personal statement that he has done far worse things as a pastor than Mark Driscoll has.”

    If this is literally true, it’s only a matter of time before the scandals start breaking. What’s really unfortunate is the amount of damage he may do to the body of Christ before that can occur.

  15. Thanks for this article. My dad and father-in-law were both pastors of very little rural and small town churches. I see such man as unsung heroes, although I know they wouldn’t want to hear that. But, I remember many people my dad helped and the things he suffered in mind and body in order to help weak and hurting sheep. I remember people coming into our home on many occasions, eating with us, sitting for hours just holding my baby brother, talking about their memories and problems, eating my mom’s cookies, eating meals with us, spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with us, escaping troublesome family for a little while, etc. The value of that kind of example lived out through the Lord Jesus on the day-to-day basis is beyond words. And the people who receive it, know it.

    By the way, my dad wrote a book while he was pastoring one of those small churches and still tried to keep up with his responsibilities. The people were very supportive, and he did have other men in the church who preached for him from time to time. Still it was a difficult time in his life.

    Also, regarding the business about the ministry of the Holy Spirit – it is really sad and amazing how little He is *actually* trusted by so many preachers/pastors to do His job without reference to them.

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  18. The name *pastor* does not apply to that pastor. He is merely a talking head.

  19. Nick says:

    At the risk of name-dropping, Richard Baxter’s book “The Reformed Pastor” throws an interesting perspective on some of this. Baxter strongly suggested that no church should be so large that a minister did not know, or could not effectively minister to, his congregation. His solution was even that well-to-do ministers should pay for assistants out of their own surplus! I agree with those who say that there is confusion between the role of preacher and pastor.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve heard similar philosophies on pastoral ministry: never let the group get so large the pastor doesn’t know everyone. I’ve also heard some mega churches consider associate pastors and lay leaders as the pastors of their particular groups, and the main pastor is the one overseeing those leaders as their pastor. I bet the people in the pews would rather he or she knew them as well.

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