I tend to read a news magazine through the filter of how it might apply to the Kingdom of God. The November 2010 issue of the U.S. News and World Report contained an editorial by Mortimer B. Zuckerman that made me think. Zuckerman is editor in chief and his editorial was entitled “An American Crisis of Confidence.” His two main points were: Americans are feeling depressed because other nations are catching up to us in science and technology and many low to medium skilled jobs have been shipped overseas and are not coming back. Zuckerman concluded that “We have to recognize that employment growth for middle-skilled workers has steadily declined because of automation, even as the productivity of higher-skilled workers has boomed.” Zuckerman went on to suggest that these “workers be trained for jobs in more active areas” instead of trying to place them in positions similar to what they previously held. Sounds like sage advice to me.
It occurs to me that his conclusions might have several applications to the field of church ministry. In the past, ministers with less refined pastoral skills could always find churches willing to call them in the hopes that they would grow in their skills. Many of those pastors did grow in their skills, but some did not. Those that did not grow in their skills tended to bounce around from one small church to another. Since many small churches could not afford pastors with more refined skills, there were always employment opportunities for less skilled ministers.
But modern technology has allowed church members to observe highly skilled pastors on the radio, television, the internet and through satellite campuses. Technology has increased the ability of highly skilled pastors to write, blog, publish, record and re-broadcast their messages and ideas in order to reach a broader audience. This has raised the expectations that church members have toward their potential pastors’ ministry skills.
Pastors with less refined skills are starting to feel the pressure. Unemployment among pastors, once a rare occurrence, is becoming a significant issue. While some churches are probably being too picky and should do more praying and less preacher idolizing, other churches have valid concerns about the quality of some pastors’ skills. I have watched with great sadness as men with lesser skills refused all the help that was offered to them. They thought they knew it all already. They tend to drive churches into a swamp of confusion and frustration, and then resign in a moment of anger, leaving a mess for someone else to clean up. Such pastors are finding their pool of potential churches shrinking.
What should pastors with less refined skills do? Instead of becoming angry at pastors with higher skill levels, pastors with less refined skills should do the same thing as any other worker who finds his job qualifications lacking, seek additional training so his skills are more usable. That may mean going back to school, though that is not feasible for all pastors. It might mean attending some conferences or seminars. It might mean reading a half dozen books or watching some training videos. It might mean finding mentors to guide them to the next level. But most of all, it means humbling ourselves before God and admitting that we do not yet know it all. As we pray, we begin to sense the still small voice of God speak to us. As we learn to listen to that voice, the Spirit helps us see our own weaknesses and begin to address them. God can use humble men with lesser skills if they are willing to be Spirit filled. As we address our weaknesses and allow the Holy Spirit to empower us, we grow in our own maturity, wisdom and ministry skills. This makes us not only more marketable to potential churches, but more usable in the Kingdom of God.