A blog I have grown to appreciate is the Reverend Warren Bevacqua’s The Wardog Blog. While I am not a fan of the name, I do appreciate Warren’s thoughts on youth ministry and the resources he lifts up. His post on “Bloom Where You’re Planted” brought up strong feelings in me. I strongly agree with the idea of making the best of the situation you find yourself in. Envy is not helpful in ministry. The grass is always seems greener attitude is not helpful either. What I disagree with is though the predestinarian overtones and what I call the myth of the effective pastor.
Warren seems to suggest that God places a person in her or his ministry situation. I disagree. In the United Methodist system there is a discernment process. All involved are hopefully trying to discern God’s will. There are many factors are involved though.
Mistakes happen. Sometimes people are appointed because it was the best the cabinet could do in a difficult situation. As a United Methodist, I do not believe every appointment is God’s preferred will. The freewill of churches, district superintendents, bishops, and pastors sometimes leads to decisions that are not God’s preferred will. God may not have planted a pastor in the situation.
Not every pastor will thrive in every situation. Ministry is contextual. Not every pastor’s gifts and graces will work in every ministry context. You cannot plant a cactus from an arid desert in a rain forest and expect it to thrive. You cannot plant a yam in Alaska and expect it to grow. Plants bloom in the contexts that work best for them. Some have a variety of situations they will thrive in, others do not. The same is true of pastors.
I am increasingly concerned about what I call the myth of the effective pastor. In listening to pastors talk about ministry in person and on their podcasts, I sometimes get the sense that some believe an effective pastor will grow a church no matter what. With all the talk of fruitfulness lately, we get the sense that an effective pastor is fruitful in every situation.
No plant is fruitful in every situation. I believe no pastor is either. There may be a spectrum of effectiveness in pastors. Some on the spectrum will thrive in many contexts. Others on a different part of the spectrum will have very limited set of contexts where they will thrive. I contend no pastor will thrive in every context. There is no such thing is an effective pastor in the sense he or she can thrive in every situation.
We should be concerned with fruitfulness. Trying to thrive in our current context is important. No matter how well our ministry is going we should always be discerning where God is calling us to go. The expression though “bloom where you are planted” is problematic. It negates free will and creates an unrealistic understanding of effectiveness.