Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Preacher/Pastor System

Our struggles in our Western/European expressions of Christianity are due largely to innovations and inventions forming an inner and outer corrosive crust slowing down the flow of our faith.  Sects, denominations and cults are the portions visible to any observer.  As the layers of corrosion built up over the centuries, the major result is division and the inevitable infighting that follows. Trying to chip away or dissolve this inner and outer crust most often proves futile and downright dangerous to life and limb.  We love our respective crusts!  We love them in spite of the damage they do to our witness.

One of the major additions to this crust is the “pastor system.” Pastors, as revealed in the New Testament, were not paid professional public speakers in residence at each congregation under the supervision of, and answerable to, a group of men (and, in some instances, women) serving as a board of directors. In most cases, the “pastor” (“preacher” in some traditions) functions at the pleasure of this board.  He does all the preaching, teaches classes, and officiates at funerals, weddings, and fulfills other duties as outlined by the board. Predictably, it doesn’t work well in most cases. It doesn’t work because it is an alien concept not found in Scripture.

When I became a preacher, an older veteran warned me to remember that I was working with people with all their strengths, weaknesses, foibles, sins, joys, sorrows, crises, victories and failures. Here’s the problem: the preacher/pastor becomes the focal point of all these things. Who you gonna call?  The preacher/pastor, of course.  For a while he can cope. Eventual burnout, however, is inevitable. It would be different if it was understood that we are all priests. That would take a tremendous load off the “designated priest,” who really shouldn’t exist anyway.

Perhaps you are aware, as I am, of churches where it seems to work well.  The preacher/pastor has a long tenure, is loved and appreciated and, from all appearances, all is well.  Not only are such congregations the exception, but seem to have a handle on the priesthood of all believers. Furthermore, the group that in other places functions as a board has become shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). May their tribe increase!

In most other cases, however, in addition to the expectations of the board and the congregation, the pastor/preacher becomes the primary target of disgruntled constituents. For those who have not served in this capacity, it is hard to imagine the insults, injuries, disparagement and humiliation that can come with the territory when things go wrong.

All this hinders and hamstrings our mission: to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). So what can be done? A giant first step would be to acknowledge the problem. For those who believe solutions are found in words inspired by the Holy Spirit, the second step would be to open the Scriptures and compare what we do with what we should be doing. The third step requires that we love our Savior more than our traditions and apply the solutions.  Hard?  Yes it is. What seems harder would be to face the returning Christ with mission unfulfilled.

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Filed under Change Agent, church, Holy Spirit, Preaching/Teaching, Restoration, Scripture, Unity

Current Events and Concerns

Observing my blog stats over the last few days, a well-known truth has been freshly demonstrated: if you don’t post very often—people quit reading. But, that harsh reality seems to be balanced in my case, with having nothing much to say. Oh, I suppose I could find something on which to pontificate, but I tend to wait until I feel compelled to put pen to paper. Waiting until my labor is induced may not be often enough if I want to build a readership. So, in an effort to catch up, let me give you my thoughts on a number of current events and concerns.

Presidential Candidates — It seems a shame to me that, among potential republican candidates we are presented with a billionaire who has funny hair and fires people on TV, another man whose choice of a religion makes me think he might fall for anything and a woman who very few people seem to take seriously. Ya know what I mean fellow-mavericks?

The Federal Deficit – Every responsible businessman and householder knows you can’t spend more than you bring in or you will get in deep doo doo.  From the smell of things, I believe we are up that famous creek without the proverbial paddle.  As anyone who has gotten in over their head is aware, cures for this sort of thing are notoriously painful.  In the case of the United States it is a question of who will make the tough choices and who will bear the brunt of the pain.  Who will be the offenders?  Who will be the offendees? Someone must be cruel to be kind (in the right measure). Unless I miss my guess most of the victims will be those who didn’t have much in the first place.

The News Media – Is it really true that people demand to be told about the upcoming wedding of Bill and Kate every five minutes? Are we really that infatuated with the formalization of a relationship of two people who have been living together for years?  “Fairytale wedding?” Please, give me a break!  And is it really true that we don’t give a flip about what’s happening elsewhere in the world? I beg you, tell me what’s going on in Europe, Asia, South and Central America and Africa. Does it take disaster or war to draw our attention away from politics and Charlie Sheen?

The Middle East – The cultural differences are so vast between this region and the West that I despair of ever being able to achieve our stated goals. People revolt in a small middle-eastern country and proceed to ride around in Toyota pickups shouting slogans (I guess that’s what they are) and firing rifles and artillery into the air. Some insane religious fanatic in Florida burns a Qu’ran (what was he trying to accomplish?) and Afghanistan (where so much Western blood has been shed to set them free from the Taliban), riots (again shooting guns into the air) and wants to throw their liberators out. We should say, “You can’t throw us out…we quit!” and leave them to their hyper-active and reactionary insanity.

Political Parties – It seems to me that someone is going to have to care more about America than some party’s political agenda.  It reminds me of religious denominations whose adherents care more about “our side” than about the gospel and seeking and saving the lost. Our nation is facing several crises that will require true patriots to work in concert. Lobbyists, special interest groups, corporate interests and the like must be ignored until we have solved the problems they and their political cronies have created (for example Monsanto, one of the biggest corporate bullies, spent over eight million for lobbyists in 2010). Given the power of greed, don’t hold your breath.

OK. For all its worth, I have spoken.

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Filed under Asia, Blogs & Blogging, Culture Wars, Current Events, Islam, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Politics, Random Thoughts, Revolution, Writing

A Difficult Question

Another really good one from The Sacred Sandwich!  A difficult question indeed.  One makes you sweat, the other is very moving.

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Filed under English, Hermeneutics, Humor, Language, Preaching/Teaching, wordplay, words