Wanted: Pastor of Wisdom

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine. He was the lead pastor of a church we started together up in Chicago, however he left a couple of years ago just to take some time off and consider some possible new directions for himself in ministry.

Unfortunately, the economy dropped into the pooper, and church budgets are definitely hurting; finding potential jobs in ministry (or anywhere, for that matter) has been difficult. Not only that, but my buddy definitely doesn’t fit the mold of a “typical” evangelical pastor, personality-wise. Quite like me, he’s not really a “Type A” personality. He’s contemplative, quiet. He’s content to not dominate a room when he walks into it.

We were reflecting on the culture of pastoring nowadays: even though he’s successfully planted and sustained a church (which is more than a lot of pastors can claim), he’s readily passed over due to his relatively mild personality and also, his gift mix.

“You know,” he said, “when I took my spiritual gifts inventory years ago, I was told that I have the spiritual gift of wisdom, and I totally resonate with that, but you know what? Today’s church seems to not need wisdom.”

We laughed, but it’s a bit scary. The gifts that seems to be sought after by the church nowadays are definitely leadership, apostleship, and creativity (in the form of communicating or playing music). Combine any of these with a hard-charging personality and any obvious skill or ability in your chosen ministry field, and you can pretty much guarantee yourself a job on staff somewhere.

But my buddy and I also have been reading the Book of the Acts lately (that’s right, I said the “Book of The Acts”: it’s a more accurate title), and we were struck by Acts 6:

2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…

Wow. So the first criteria to run a “food pantry” for the early church was not a passion for the homeless and/or the gift of administration. It was that you be “full of the Spirit and wisdom.”

I repeatedly encounter church staff that are incredibly skilled individuals, but not as many that could be considered “wise.” Maybe it’s just me, but I connect “wisdom” with a depth of knowledge, and a quiet willingness to apply that knowledge to life in a gentle, practical way.

I wonder how different our churches would appear if the staff that they sought out were wise before they were skillful. If they were encouraged to develop the work of the Spirit in their lives rather than to merely “get things done.” If you are blessed to serve on a church staff already, are you leading out of a depth of wisdom, or merely dispensing your duties? Are you seeking to engage in discussions that develop the deep places of your life, or merely interested in “playing that guitar, monkey boy?!?”

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8 thoughts on “Wanted: Pastor of Wisdom

  1. I totally get where you’re coming from. It seems that only the people who make the most noise get noticed. I’m not sure how I feel about that in church culture as a whole because it means a lot of people could be passed over in the process. Food for thought no doubt.

  2. sounds to me like your church is falling in for the capitalist character criteria…corporate take over…golden fleece worship

    what do you plan on doing about it, if anything?

    • Fortunately, I’m not so much describing my church (although any organization can be tempted); I think it’s just a good caution to stay focused on “deep things”, and not so much on the surface distractions.

  3. I empathize greatly with the content and questions posed here.

    Through my own lens, it appears the western, evangelical church has become most interested in providing a particular weekly experience for people. The particulars of the weekly experience may be diverse across different bodies and denominations, but amongst evangelicals it often boils down to a certain mimicking of secular experiences. (The reasons behind this may or may not be valid, but that is really a separate discussion). Because the weekly experience has become the focus, and it takes great skill and execution to pull it off, the church has placed significant, if not greatly unbalanced, priority on attracting and staffing Type-A, task-driven, executor personalities. As you pointed out, this leads to problems for others within the body who possess different personalities and gifts, amongst which wisdom and discernment can be counted. Commonly, such people are overlooked, ignored or practically cast out (whether directly or indirectly) from edifying the body through the use of their gifts. In short, their gifts aren’t seen as contributing to the weekly goal and are thus a distraction if not sometimes an obstacle for those seeking after the ever elusive, “epic experience”.

    On a final note, I would offer a word of caution to myself and anyone else in such a situation. We must be careful, whether considering wisdom, discernment or any other spiritual gift, to consistently refer back to scripture as our guide for how that gift is defined by God. What is wisdom in God’s eyes? What does it look like? How is it to be administered? If we are attempting to call the body of Christ back to an area we believe has been forgotten or overlooked, then we must be sure we are leading the body back to what God has set forth and what He has required, otherwise our attempt is in vain and will only result in further problems.

    One disclaimer: I’m not directly attacking the “weekly experience” style of gathering of the body. Like all other styles and forms of gathering, this form has its own strengths and weaknesses which could be discussed at far greater length. Rather, I too have encountered the problem you defined and believe it to be a common weakness for this form. Lastly, I do not believe the weekly experience form has to be exclusive of such gifts as wisdom and discernment, though it seems it often is.

  4. You know, as someone that sat under both of you at that church, I simply loved and relished the quiet humbleness of both of your leadership. I learned and grew so much under it. Moving to the Dallas megachurch scene was pretty shocking. This summer I went to China and was struck by how much more introverts and quiet people are valued over in Asia, in contrast to our American fixation on the confident extrovert.

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