May 16, 2024

The Church Leadership Crisis

The American church is facing a severe lack of capable and called ministry leaders. I get calls almost weekly from churches looking for a pastor or worship leader. But most often, churches call looking for a student pastor. We’ve recently hired a new student pastor at North Hall Church. I can personally testify that anyone who says the woods are full of them hasn’t been in the woods lately. So, what’s behind this church leadership crisis?


A Troubling Trend

I started to research the issue, wondering if I was the only one to notice the lack of competent, God-called leaders. By the number of articles I found, and their titles, I concluded that the issue was definitely noticeable. The articles used the word crisis a great deal to describe the growing trend of fewer and fewer church leaders.


Richard Ross, senior professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been observing a troubling trend. He told Baptist Press, “I often hear from churches searching for student pastors. It would be a joy to provide them with names of potential candidates. But the vast percentage of the time, I have no name to share. From my perspective, there are far more churches searching for student pastors than there are leaders available to serve. At any given moment, I expect that the total number of churches with funded positions exceeds the total number of student pastors by several thousand.”


Possible Reasons for the Crisis

A few articles offered reasons for this church leadership crisis. Some say that churches aren’t intentional in calling out the called. Others say that Bible colleges and seminaries are doing a poor job of preparing and placing students. I’m convinced that many things are contributing to the problem. The main cause, however, could be God’s judgment.


Israel was in the midst of idolatry, immorality, and corrupt leadership. So God sent the prophet Isaiah to pronounce judgment and to call His people to repentance. Isaiah said God would judge Israel by removing their leaders and replacing them with capricious children.


For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah…the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the expert artisan, and the skillful enchanter. And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them, and the people will be oppressed, each one by another, and each one by his neighbor. The youth will storm against the elder and the inferior against the honorable” (Isaiah 3:1–5).


Consequences of Assaulting Manhood

For some time now there’s been an all-out assault on the family, particularly on manhood. Our culture says it okay for women to become men but not for men to be manly. Basic masculine traits are disappearing in our society. Too many boys would rather play a sports video game than actually go outside and participate in sports. Their play area is the couch instead of the yard. Does that really matter? Yes! Boys are designed for physical activity, which is a major factor in their socialization.


I believe that the assault on masculinity has also put the security of our nation at risk. All branches of the military report large shortfalls in recruitment. Of course, woke leadership has also contributed to the problem. But remember, Isaiah warned Israel that God was going to remove “the mighty man, the warrior… the caption of fifty.”


Godly Men Are Hard to Find

Few young men know what it means to live according to God’s design and purpose. As a result, godly men are harder and harder to find. And this isn’t the first time. The psalmist prayed, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men” (Psalm 12:1).


Culture’s most effective weapon against godly men is pornography. The statistics are staggering, even among Christian men and boys. It’s led to what sociologist and psychiatrist call a “crisis of connection.” For instance, many college age men would rather fantasize about girls via porn than actually talk to a girl and build a relationship.


The porn factor makes finding a godly student pastor a real challenge. You need someone who’s not only walking in victory in this area, but who can counsel and guide the young men in your church. 


The Rise of Capricious Children

Many college campuses are a breeding ground for progressive ideology, woke thought, and anti-God rhetoric. Part of the college experience used to be learning a disciplined lifestyle. There were expectations as well as consequences for not meeting those expectations. That whole approach has been eroding throughout the American education system for some time.


Recently, we’ve seen young adults storm college campuses, shouting anti-Semitic hate without fear. Yes indeed, capricious children have taken over, just as in Isaiah’s warning to Israel. And they are ruling like spoiled brats, demanding a trophy they didn’t earn.



So if you wonder, “Where have all the leaders gone?” Maybe the answer is, “God has removed them.” If that’s true, should we just fold our hands and wait for Jesus? No! The first response to judgment should be repentance, followed by a resolve to live righteously. Honorable and godly men need to mentor and disciple their sons and other young men. That’s how we raise the next generation of pastors and church leadership. The Christian community has acknowledged the problem. Now the question is…what are we going to do about it?