When I was in seminary, Dr. York advised me to “plant your life in one church and stay there.” After thinking about this advice many times (especially when I’m tempted to quit and go somewhere else), I’ve come to the conclusion that he is right. In general, by staying long-term at one church, a pastor increases his ability to bring about lasting change. After reading Dr. York’s helpful post (reinforcing the advice he gave to me years ago), I wanted to humbly offer five more encouragements to stay long-term at one church.
1. Staying long-term strengthens our faith. Perseverance is sanctifying, and to stay planted in one church will require seasons of rugged endurance. In those seasons of trial we are driven to Scripture for perspective, direction, wisdom, and help (consider David’s time in the cave). Trials in the pastorate push us to focused prayer and fasting. The weight of our opposition cause us to “…rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). Struggles in the church make us humbly confess, “Who is sufficient for these things…our sufficiency comes from God…” (2 Cor. 2:16-3:5).
2. Staying long-term better enables us effect change on others. I’ve learned that the process of discipleship generally takes extended periods of time. For most, sanctification involves a long and slow process (it’s lifelong). Toiling to bring Christians to maturity takes time and consistency. Furthermore, think of the lasting value of relationships forged through discipleship (Paul had plenty of these, evidenced in Romans 16:1-15). These kinds of relationships often take regular face-time to develop.
3. Staying long-term helps pastors effect change on their congregation’s extended families. Over time, you come to know extended families by growing closer to committed members of your church. Thus, a pastor is more able to evangelize them. A new pastor every 3 years will probably never really know (or earn credibility with) extended family members. Most church members have extended family who are not Christians, or who are out of church for a variety of reasons.
4. Most churches have unbiblical or problematic practices that pastors need to address. Challenging or removing old traditions (the ones that need to go) will probably require the relational capitol only time can bring. Established structures become ingrained over long periods of time and we would be naive to think they will change with the preaching of one sermon (add to that the general human resistance to change).
5. History provides a long list of pastors who changed their communities and world by staying at one church for an extended period of time. Living examples could include exemplary pastors like John MacArthur, John Piper, and Mark Dever. Church History brims with examples that fit into this category: Luther in Wittenberg and Calvin in Geneva especially come to mind (think you can’t have an impact from a smaller town?).
These are five of the reasons I’m striving to follow Dr. York’s advice.
Grace to you,
Pastor, Bayou View Baptist Church, Gulfport, MS (only 8 years in)