How do I get my own concierge pastor? 16

In Mark Driscoll’s apology to Mars Hill last week, he reassured us that he was well cared for by his own team of pastors.

I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel.

In a similar fashion, Steven Furtick calls Craig Groeschell his personal pastor, and Perry Noble has identified Clayton King as his pastor.

Concierge ServiceWhere did this idea of a concierge pastor come from? It’s self serving and isolating, and it’s a bad idea for the following reasons:

It’s hypocritical

The three pastors listed above lead multi-campus churches where they appear to most of their congregation on video screens, often live, though sometimes prerecorded. Noble has said he has no interest in meeting people in his church, though even if he were willing, it would be impossible. Noble, who has about 30,000 attending his various campuses each week, is driving his church to reach 100,000 in weekly attendance. Clearly, these churches think this is a good model, and they are all working hard to expand it.

If you’re one of the 12,000 members of Mars Hill, 14,000 members of Elevation or the 30,000 at NewSpring, you are not likely to ever meet your pastor. Why then do the holographic pastors of these churches demand personal attention from their own flesh-and-blood personal pastors? If a personal relationship with a pastor is so important, these churches need to change their model dramatically.

It’s unnecessary

Why does a pastor even need a pastor if he’s doing his job? Assuming that the essence of church is to provide Christians with the preached Word, sacraments, prayer and fellowship, for a pastor who participates in the life of his congregation there ought to be no need to look outside his church for what he needs. Perhaps it’s the very isolation that leading a megachurch imposes on a pastor that drives him to seek a personal pastoral connection that he denies to his own congregation.

A good pastor considers himself part of the same flock that he pastors, subject to the pastoral care of Jesus, just like other members of the flock. If the preaching and spiritual life of the church is insufficient for the pastor who is responsible for it, he ought to resign on account of his ineffectiveness.

(I’m not saying that pastors shouldn’t have access to encouragement and counsel from others, even outside the church, but those relationships are not the same as the pastor-congregation relationship.)

It’s elitist

It defines the pastor’s status as a celebrity who can only be understood by other celebrities. These three pastors have chosen concierge pastors who are just like them or under their control. All three pastors are relatively young, as are their churches. If authentic pastoral care was what they were looking for, wouldn’t it make more sense to find a local pastor who had been laboring in the city for four or five decades? Such a person would be able to provide an independent, outside and mature perspective. That, though, is probably not what they want.

It’s conflicted

Driscoll’s two named pastors are members of his executive team, meaning they also draw their income from and report to Driscoll. Perry Noble pays Clayton King to be the teaching pastor at NewSpring. Craig Groschell has a more distant relationship with Furtick than the other two examples, though he also earns speaking fees for appearances at Elevation.

In all cases, the concierge pastor draws significant income from his celebrity congregant. Though pastors everywhere are paid by their congregations, the difference here is that the financial relationship between the pastor and the lone congregant is personal and direct. If you really wanted a pastor who would subject you to proper discipline and accountability, you wouldn’t pick someone who has to risk significant financial setbacks for speaking hard truths.

It’s a dodge

By claiming that they’re under the authority of another pastor, these pastors create the appearance of being subject to discipline without the reality or possibility of it. In a traditionally governed church, pastors are accountable to boards of elders or deacons comprised of members of the local church, or they’re answerable to synods or bishops within a formal denominational structure. Some pastors are accountable both ways — to their congregations and to their denominations.

What we’re seeing in these three churches is a model where the pastor claims entrepreneurial founder’s privileges. As is especially evident in the Mars Hill corporate structure, Mark Driscoll is essentially untouchable and unremovable as pastor. These founding pastors evidently don’t feel an obligation to submit to governing authorities from within the church that they started, so telling us of their external psuedo-authorities gives the appearance of spiritual submission, even if it is to authorities that are ultimately toothless.

It’s unbiblical

There’s no Biblical warrant for a pastor to have a personal pastor. While pastors were subject to external authorities like the Jerusalem Council, that structure bears no resemblance to the one-on-one pastoral relationships that these pastors are creating. There are Biblical examples of close companionship and wise counsel like we see with David and Jonathan, though Scripture doesn’t present those as pastor-church relationships.

The burden of Biblical proof ought to lie with these pastoral innovators. Unless they can make a convincing argument from Scripture for the relationships that they are instituting in their pastoral offices, we have a Berean responsibility to call foul on these arrangements.

It’s exclusive

Mark Driscoll wants you to have a marriage like his. Perry Noble wants you to deal with stress like he does. And Steven Furtick wants you to quiet the confusing voices in your head like he does. None wants you to have a pastor like he does, though.

See, if everyone in their congregation handpicked their best friend to be their personal pastor, celebrity pastors would have nobody to sell books to.

16 thoughts on “How do I get my own concierge pastor?

  1. mary willis Mar 24, 2014 7:53 am

    I never thought about it that way but your right. I have always thought it was elitism. I would love to see a blog on your thoughts on the small groups.

  2. Todd Pruitt Mar 24, 2014 9:50 am

    And yet if you speak out about these highly public pastors who, by their opulence and scandals harm the reputation of Christ, according to The Gospel Coalition, you are a hater.

  3. Soli Deo Gloria Mar 24, 2014 9:55 am

    Last year, Mark Driscoll tweeted the following which reminded me of a Furtick sermon I watched back in 2007: “Young guys who say they feel called to preach but not pastor people remind me of guys who like to sleep with women but not raise their kids.”

    Back in 2007 when I listened to this sermon it was a random thing, as I don’t make it a habit to listen to Furtick all of the time (I try to cut out the chatter…), but do listen from time to time. And generally will listen to a large part of the sermon or the entire sermon so that I’m able to say that I’m not just taking it out of context. The first thing that the defenders of these megachurch pastors will ask is if you listened to the entire sermon or just a clip (which takes away from their having to deal with the actual issue and makes the “hater” the object of criticism). It’s even what was stated on Elephant Room by Noble (if I recall) – “did you listen to the whole sermon or just a youtube clip?”

    But back to the matter at hand, Furtick said “When I entered vocational ministry, when I decided I wanted to be a pastor I left the ministry.” at around 27 minutes in the sermon below. The primary gist of the sermon about small group ministry being vital isn’t that bad, but that statement said a lot to me and it’s exactly what Driscoll posted about young pastors called to preach but not be in in the ministry of pastoring. http://www.elevationchurch.org/sermons/80srock/part4

    Does nobody at Elevation have a problem with this – with their “lead pastor” not actually believing that he’s in the ministry? Whether he cares about each member as a shepherd would care for his flock? We know from “The Code” that Elevation doesn’t cultivate a culture of going after the one sheep that may leave the flock. If you move on or question any methods, that’s fine because they state they “are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.” That is exactly what Furtick means when he said he “left the ministry”. He doesn’t feel the need to minister to each of his flock because that’s what small groups are for. He can’t be burdened with the sheep – only shepherds can be burdened with sheep. Furtick isn’t a shepherd in this sense.

    I don’t know that this 100% lines up with this “concierge pastor” post, but I believe this mindset is far more prevalent with Noble and Furtick than with Driscoll, though. I have gotten the sense over the years that Driscoll was a good bit more concerned with orthodox Christianity and the role of the shepherd than some others, though one wonders at which point the size of a church makes it so that the Pastor can’t actually BE a shepherd any longer. I know for one that I wouldn’t want to attend a church where the pastor not only doesn’t know my name but doesn’t even care to know my name and minister to me individually.

  4. Matt Mar 24, 2014 10:01 am

    To be fair, these guys that you mention aren’t the only pastors at their churches. At NewSpring, for example, each campus has multiple pastors and one “campus pastor”. I’m not sure how accessible they are, but at least a structure is in place to delegate the pastoral care to these other leaders for each campus. I’m not attempting to defend this model, just want to add this for clarity.

  5. Todd Pruitt Mar 24, 2014 10:17 am

    Matt – You are correct. And as a church grows, the addition of new pastors becomes necessary. But they must be pastors. I grew up in a mega-church in Houston and I have served as a youth pastor and pastor of churches running over 2,000. The problem is that when a man exempts himself from the ordinary work of hospital visitation, crisis intervention in people’s lives, home visits, disciple-making, etc. then he ought not call himself a pastor. Any man who has gotten “too big” to do the ordinary, daily work of the pastor is, quite obviously, no longer a pastor.

  6. Clark Mar 24, 2014 11:05 am

    The campus pastors are just as inaccessible as the senior pastor. The front line volunteers are ministered to by the people they serve with. If at all. Very little interaction occurs between staff and volunteers unless said volunteers are being lapdogs and want to be on staff, or are looking for a mate. I challenge anybody to look on social media. It’s staff with staff at Elevation, Mars Hill, etc.

  7. Todd Pruitt Mar 24, 2014 11:31 am

    Good point Clark. Even with additional staff the task of being a pastor in a congregation of 15,000-30,000 is simply impossible. And this is why men like Noble and Furtick openly mock the expectation of a congregation that its pastors be shepherds. The call of Jesus to Peter to “feed my sheep” is entirely dismissed.

  8. Mark Mar 24, 2014 12:46 pm

    In my experience people often keep a membership or a connection of some kind at their old church because they know that if something bad happens they will care for them and their family.

    They like the horse and pony show of the mega-church but want the care that a smaller church pastor can provide.

  9. Jason Mar 24, 2014 5:05 pm

    Mark,

    Exactly on target. Problem is, in this day and age that is not possible and neither is it realistic to expect. The horse and pony show can never ever provide what it never possessed, that is, the personal care.

    But boy, all these mega church pastors do take the long drawn out time to ask, plead for, and make it as personal appeal as possible…..when they want your money ER tithes and offerings…..DONT THEY?

    Wonder why that is? Wonder why they suddenly care all of a sudden whenever its time to pay the bills?

    Wonder why?

  10. Lane Mar 24, 2014 10:35 pm

    By the many criticisms about the lack of pastoral care in mega churches, I’m assuming that you can quantify when a church gets too big to meet the “needs” of its members. I’m curious if anyone is willing to provide a number. There are churches of only a few hundred where the senior pastor can’t visit everyone in the hospital or preach every funeral. Would you criticize those pastors?

    The reality is, people who attend larger churches understand that they may never have a personal relationship with the senior pastor. In times of need it is others within the church who respond, whether it be other members or support staff. If the folks who choose to attend larger churches are ok with it, then why should it matter to anyone else?

    • Soli Deo Gloria Mar 25, 2014 9:13 am

      Lane, you stated:

      There are churches of only a few hundred where the senior pastor can’t visit everyone in the hospital or preach every funeral. Would you criticize those pastors?

      First of all, with just a few hundred you might only have a couple of people sick at a time and maybe one funeral per month. Your argument doesn’t address the main point of my comment, but is merely a distraction. Some of these megachurch pastors (I was specifically referring to Furtick’s statement) do not want to be “pastors” or “shepherds” in that sense. I don’t believe for a moment that the Senior/Lead/Head Pastors should be required to visit everyone. But at the same time, I do expect that they would want to actually be a shepherd! That’s the problem. Yes the first 7 deacons were called to be servants in order to allow the Apostles to focus on certain other things – but if you think for a moment that the Apostles didn’t take to heart what Jesus meant by “feed my sheep” but felt like suddenly they had “left the ministry” (as Furtick stated), then you’re completely wrong. But Elevation Church doesn’t even have deacons or elders…

  11. chris Mar 25, 2014 12:05 am

    One interesting thing about Furtick….this is a fact….
    his staff has to stand up when he comes in the room and you have to call him pastor…not standing up when he comes in the room can lead to dismissal…or not calling him Pastor…While I do not hold all of the same negative feelings about Elevation that Duncan and many others on here hold…I do feel it shows a bit of arrogance to make everyone stand up when you come in the room…I will also say that many of his former staff members talk about being overworked….it is not atypical for workers to work all night shifts…the work culture there is pretty tough….

  12. MB Mar 25, 2014 8:47 am

    To Clark, I think your statement is truer of NS and elevation than of Mars Hill. I have several friends who are members at different MH campuses who have all known and even met regularly with their campus pastor and/or other pastoral staff.

    Like Matt said, I don’t necessarily think their inaccessibility to Driscoll is in and of itself a bad thing with other pastoral staff available. However, to Todd’s comment, I definitely see where you are coming from, and even to a certain extent agree that if a pastor/preacher gets too far removed from his congregation’s real lives and real needs he loses his ability to truly care for his flock. However, didn’t the apostles do something similar in Acts 6? They specifically chose 7 others to deal with he “ordinary stuff” so they could pray and preach. I think we’ve got to leave some gracious room to these pastors that affirms that delegation (even of pastoral-type tasks) is an effective (even biblical) way to better care for people – even if that means not everyone personally knows the guy who speaks from stage.

  13. Russell Mar 25, 2014 6:34 pm

    You scored with this :
    What we’re seeing in these three churches is a model where the pastor claims entrepreneurial founder’s privileges. As is especially evident in the Mars Hill corporate structure, Mark Driscoll is essentially untouchable and unremovable as pastor. These founding pastors evidently don’t feel an obligation to submit to governing authorities from within the church that they started, so telling us of their external psuedo-authorities gives the appearance of spiritual submission, even if it is to authorities that are ultimately toothless.

    The truth is .. So no one can touch their money ….
    May not have start out that way .. But why would anyone want to “Pastor” 100,000 people .. Maybe because banks loan to church’s now base on tithing units ..

  14. Jamie Mar 31, 2014 1:30 pm

    I’m curious, does anyone know what would happen if one of the campus pastors felt led to leave the mother ship and start a church in the same town? Is there a threat of being sued or something?

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