The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
Is it bad for a church to change pastors from time to time?
I've thought of this question especially in terms of urban churches, that is, metropolitan churches. What they miss out on, in large measure, is stability.
In a rural church where the people don't turn over very often, the people provide the stability. Mom, Grandmomma, and the kids all go there, and they've gone there for decades. The pastors come and go. That's the rural mentality.
But in the city the people come and go. Therefore, if the church is going to have a consistency and a stability, I think there needs to be a consistent staff.
The second thing that comes to mind is that if the staff is a biblical and faithful staff, it's good for the church that they stay a long time and enrich the people. If you have a problem in the staff, of course, it is nice that there is turnover; but my guess is that over time long pastorates are good for churches, because they provide the kind of roots and stability and consistency of, I hope, God-centered preaching, teaching, and vision.
There is so much in getting acquainted with a new pastor. A pastor has to earn trust, and I would guess that it takes 5-7 years to really earn the trust of the people. I remember when I came to Bethlehem that there were older people who said, "Yes, you'll probably be here for five years or so, and then you'll be gone to teach in seminary or something." And after maybe 7 years they began to think, "Hmm, maybe he'll stay a while."
Here's a little anecdote that struck me about how churches think of time, especially among the older people. I remember doing a funeral one time at a church where the pastor had just left. And the older ladies of the church said to me, "Yes, our pastor took off, and he had just come." The fact is that he had been there ten years, and for these older ladies ten years was "just come." So I think for a lot of people church time is different than regular time, and you need to hang in there in order to make them feel like you've been their pastor for quite a while.
It's a sweet thing to be able to marry the children that you dedicated when they were six months old. And then you see their children come along, and you know that you've been there and woven yourself into their lives. I love that.