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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

diagonally parked in a parallel universe 

Scott's blog is written from the perspective of a pastor who has abandoned the pulpit. In his multi-part post about why "i was wrong" (see October 2005 archives), he offers up some blistering commentary on vocational ministry. Being someone who has just recently moved from the world of earning a living in church ministry, I found the read quite challenging. Among the topics he covers are:

1. the alleged subconscious belief by pastors that:

2. the supposed reality that pastors:

I'd like to take some time to sit down with Scott over a Wawa latte and a Krispy Kreme hot glazed donut. I don't know if I can say I've been on both sides of the fence, having never shepherded an entire adult congregation, but I'd like to think I have a pretty balanced view. Over the coming days and weeks, I hope to take some time to think through each of the charges that Scott levels against himself in light of my own experience, and gather the insight of my friends in ministry. Hopefully I can craft a loving response to Scott.

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Somewhere along the modern era that is wrapped in a candy coated Christianity, we have come to believe everything is supposed to go along reasonable smooth if you are serving God in full time ministry - sorry big theological error in so much teaching!

However, most have swallowed it and when it doesn't fall together nice and neat, we don't have the training to endure, preserve, to hang in there. We are poor soldiers. We have not learned to fight - we give up, we get lost in the culture, we turn and walk away. It is sad but true.

We are being academically trained but not spiritually for the battle that is always surrounding us. Scott is simply another example of this sad but true state in the Church. We need to help him hang in there & fight regardless of what the culture is saying or the people from the pew. It is not them that get us through each day, but God.

He needs a comrade to guard his back & carry him out off the front line so that he can heal - don't shoot him like so many have experienced in our army!



1. many pastors believe, down deep, that they are the first among equals. (This seems to be the case from my limited experience. Though they'll listen to what their parishioners have to say, the theological/biblical buck stops with them and they have the last word. There aren't a lot of pastors who have the attitude, "I'm not sure about this, let's talk about it, study the word and try to figure it out together".)
2. many ministers subconsciously believe that most of the vocations their parishioners pursue don't matter. (True for those who dichotomize "spiritual" and "secular". I get uncomfortable when people say things like, "You're so committed to be a missionary." I'm just doing what I believe God's led me to. I hope if somebody's working for DuPont he's just as "committed" as me and understands his responsibility to be salt and light. I don't like the term "full-time Christian service". Haven't heard it in a long time so maybe that means our "Christian culture" is understanding this and his whole point here is no longer valid.)
3. career ministers have absolutely no idea what the real world is like. (There are some pastors, and some missionaries, who need to get other jobs in order to make ends meet. They probably don't suffer from this problem. Otherwise I would agree that "career ministers" need to be aware of their lack of understanding of working 8-5, keeping up a house, being there for the family, community, church, etc. etc. etc. but to say they have "absolutely no idea" is too strong.)
4. pastors believe the vast majority of lay people are spiritually and perhaps physically lazy. (Not my experience but I've never been an elder/deacon etc. of a church to know what the pastor expected of me. I would hope this wouldn't be the case.)
5. ministers love to brag about how overworked they are. (Sounds like he never was accountable to anyone for his daily schedule. It's easy to fall into this when most of our weekly schedule depends on our own initiative instead of a boss telling us what to do. As a missionary, when I haven't been directly accountable to someone else, I've sometimes wasted time and been lazy, at other times I've been the most overworked person I know. Maybe I'm manic/depressive?)
6. seminary is almost useless. (No experience here.)
7. 20+ hours of preparation is necessary for a sermon of 40 minutes or... how can you possibly believe you are good enough to even speak for 40 minutes? (Though I'm not exactly sure what he's saying here, I think this is related to point 1. I would hope that any preacher knows he isn't good enough to speak for even 1 minute, that he's speaking from limited understanding and limited experience but that God has appointed some as teachers and they need to exercise that gift. The goal is to communicate truth, not opinions, so that those who hear will have their thinking realigned with scripture. This is why I spend 20+ hours on a 20 or 30 minute sermon - I want to be biblically accurate, interesting enough that 99% of the audience is paying attention [if I have good content but 1/3 of the people aren't listening what's the use?], and sure that anything I declare as true is true. Preachers need to use "we" not "you", be dogmatic about essentials (like salvation by faith, adultery is wrong, etc.) and hedge on everything else (like what kind of clothes somebody should wear, what kind of music is good, what they think about other preachers, etc. etc.). If he had spent 20+ hours on his sermons maybe he would really have been overworked!)


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