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Pastoral Rant: Coddling When We Should Be Challenging


The following was written in a moment of frustration, and this rant is just that—a rant. It isn’t intended to be a blanket statement on the state of the church. It is just one pastor’s inner thoughts.

Right now across America there are countless Christian churches are in the middle of pastoral searches. If those I have been involved with are anything close to the norm, the search committees are looking for a nurturing pastor or one that focuses on family ministries, maybe one who has a counseling background or is an inspirational and engaging preacher. I don’t deny those are good things, but what do churches actually need? Do they need another pastor to hover over them, to provide events and activities for them?

As I look at the church staff I’m a part of, every one of us goes about nurturing the people. But rarely do we spend our time helping our people reach out and be a light. What are we doing to equip the members? What are we doing to get them out into the world to make a difference? The majority of our work is taking care of the people in the church. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but when do we teach people to be the church rather than just go to church?

What is our task as pastors, biblically speaking? According to Ephesians: training and equipping, preparing God’s people for works of service, to reach maturity and grow up into Christ (4:11-16).

Let’s be honest, not everyone in the congregation would want to be “trained and equipped” for “works of service.” But shouldn’t this kind of leadership be a characteristic that search committees prioritize? Shouldn’t church leaders challenge, coach, and train members how they can be living witnesses? Will God say to pastors that they have been faithful to what God wanted from them? Huddled behind our beautiful stained glass, what do we have to offer the community?

I’m reluctant to say this, but I’m tired of catering to the church members, providing for them when they should be able to provide for themselves. Doesn’t that sound bad? However, I fear we pastors have become over-indulgent parents always giving the kids what they want/demand, even though we know in the long run it is actually doing more harm than the good we desire.

How many people have been brought to church, studied with, led to accept Christ … by members? How many baptisms have resulted from members investing in the lives of others? Are parents having baptismal studies with their kids, are spouses studying with their partner, are friends studying with their friends? If the answer is no, is it because pastors have become the “professionals”? We have certainly allowed ourselves to be viewed as such, and in doing so we have failed to train others who would be perfectly capable of ministry.

As pastors, I fear we have coddled when we should have challenged, provided when we should have pushed, loved-on when we should have let loose. And because of that there are too many bloated congregations of satisfied, comfortable spectators. God’s people need to see the power they can possess, they need to know the gifts they have been given, and they need to be unleashed from the pew-mentality in order to grow into the fullness of Christ.

We claim to be the body of Christ. I’m having a hard time seeing that. We are a body if by definition you mean a group of individuals gathering around common values and beliefs. But the Bible defines it differently. It isn’t a gathering or a group. It is a functioning organism, with moving, living parts, each assigned a specific task. Every part connected in purpose, every part doing its job, every part led by the Head. Instead we have most every part staring at the back of someone’s head watching a few others do the moving.

And the crazy thing is this is generally accepted as how it is supposed to be, or at least as the best we can have for now. Is it really? If so I am saddened by how we claim to be people of the Book and yet we don’t believe who it calls us to be.


Shayne Daughenbaugh was the youth pastor of the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. He and his wife are involved in a house church ministry for those who are disengaged with the institutional church.

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