When Pastoral Ministry Faces Boiling-Frog Syndrome

If you put a frog in the pot of boiling water, it would immediately jump out. However, ironically if you put a frog in a pot filled with water of room temperature and start heating water slowly, the frog would not react rather keep bearing the heat. Surprisingly, it may even appear to be enjoying itself without recognising the impending danger and eventually being boiled alive. Have our church pastors failed to recognise the changing environment? Are they suffering from boiling-frog syndrome?

As a young pastor, I frequently get to hear stories from the older generation about their “good old days”. They testify God’s faithfulness as to how certain pastors were instrumental in bringing them closer to God and in helping them grow spiritually. Their stories are basically pointing to a certain category of pastors. This category of pastors were amazingly gifted in leadership and teaching, passionate towards their ministry and mostly they had been trained by foreign missionaries in India. I do not doubt that God has used these ministers to further His kingdom and to make contributions to the churches at large. However, the same old generation makes a great hue and cry about how things have changed now. In essence what they are saying is that there is a patent vacuum in pastoral ministry leading to enormous pastoral generation gap. Of course, many of our older people are still living in the past, perhaps some are trapped in nostalgia, but don’t you think that this calls for a robust self-spiritual audit? Are the present pastors suffering from boiling frog syndrome? Are they ready to be part of what God has in store for this Rising Generation?

I have realised as a pastor that reading the signs of our times and engaging with them simultaneously is crucially important as we serve the Lord.

There is a saying—change is the only constant—an inevitable reality whether we accept it or not. Ecclesiastes 3:2–8 says that there is a season and time for everything on this earth. The truth is we “cannot” control the change around us but we do have a choice: a choice to choose how we respond to the change. Therefore, we can either respond like an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand, pretending as to be unaffected we can choose to move along with the flow. We may also choose to respond by understanding the change yet doing nothing about it but just getting endless surprises or we can meaningfully engage in it to contribute in expanding Gods’ work. I have realised as a pastor that reading the signs of our times and engaging with them simultaneously is crucially important as we serve the Lord.

Crumbling Families: God has created the institution of marriage but the sad reality in cities is that this institution is becoming weaker, resulting in high rate of divorce and separation. Family court officials say that the number of divorce applications has multiplied in cities for a range of reasons. Regrettably, it is not an uncommon phenomenon in the church as well. While marriage is being redefined and gender issues getting muddied, it becomes all the more important for pastors to ramp up their counselling skills deeply rooted in God’s word to redeem this crumbling institution.

Celebrity Pastor/Church: There are a number of pastors/leaders who are responsible for creating a different spiritual atmosphere wherein the preacher is valued more than word. The problem is not in admiring the influence of such pastors, but their fame becoming the authority and the yardstick of genuine manifestation of God’s work. Sadly, the charisma of the pastor pulls the crowd and his absence brings down the size of the church. The congregation converts into a crowd and pastor becomes a celebrity. Some of the churches do not know to differentiate between a follower and a fan and have failed to understand its gravity. Pastors need to redeem the church from such external wow factors to a gospel-centered community, which has a great sense of belonging, care and accountability.

Ecclesiastes 3:2–8 says that there is a season and time for everything on this earth. The truth is we “cannot” control the change around us but we do have a choice: a choice to choose how we respond to the change.

Persecution: A strong wave of right-wing ideology is perpetuating among people through social network and other platforms after a thumping victory of the Modi-led government. Needless to say that this government has emboldened the right-wing groups; curtailed freedom of expression, mob lynching incidents and frequent attack on minorities are clear manifestations that prove this to be true. Unfortunately, certain groups justifying and celebrating such atrocities with thumping their chest is a dangerous sign for the country. Persecution is on rise for the Christians in various parts of our country, which is not uncommon for the growth of the church. The pastors need to be discerning as to how they serve and prepare the church to be God’s salt and light in such volatile context.

Multicultural Church: “Multicultural Churches” is becoming the thrust in some cities; it is apparent that some cities in our country are swelling in number due to ample of job opportunities, access to good healthcare system, quality education, attraction of city culture and a dream of better life. Cities will continue to witness a rise in inflow of people who bring along their cultural values and traditions. While it is true that mono cultural churches have existed in our nation on the basis of language, ethnicity and state but this sort of church (the idea of church) defeats the very character of the church, which doesn’t resemble God’s kingdom. On the other hand, City Churches that have embraced multicultural domain have already started experiencing a mini-heaven on earth. They affirm the value of the diversity God has created—sending out a message that we are not satisfied to be around people just like ourselves. They bring the fact to light that no single culture takes the centre stage in the community, and this becomes all the more desired for churches to show how it is kingdom-minded—embracing all cultures in the context of divisive politics.  

There are glaring signs of change all around but sadly some leaders are spiritually challenged and have become totally ignorant to read the writing on the wall. Some are interested in reading only the signs of end times while overlooking what the Lord is willing to do now. The choice is ours to choose as to how we respond to the changes around us. I am hopeful that God will wake us up from our spiritual slumber in order to motivate the pastors to engage in the change meaningfully. Let’s be on our toes as we brace up the new challenges in the ministry. While there are daunting challenges, there is hope.

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