“…pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.”
via G. Jeffrey MacDonald Op-Ed Contributor – Congregations Gone Wild – NYTimes.com.
Did you know this? It is a reason many pastors burn out. There have been several great blogs already written about this (Chris Hildebrand from the Brooklyn Church Project and the fine folk over at iMonk), but I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own.
One of my seminary professors put it this way: “When you make your religion your vocation, you will inevitably lose one or the other.”
Think about it for a moment. The minute anything I do in the church becomes more about job security than it does about spirit led, Word informed, flock shepherding confidence, I have given a little more ground to giving up my faith at the expense of keeping a job and a paycheck. And with a wife and son on the way, believe me, this is a fierce temptation.
Yet, pastor MacDonald hammers the point home even more… we often hear this from parishioners who cry out for a “happy feeling” and sense of celebration. The message they bring back to the clergy and the elders is loud and clear, and sounds strikingly similar to what an advisory committee told Pastor MacDonald: “keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.”
I think that it is important for congregations to realize what their pastors have been called to do. It is to lead them to what is best for them, not what is easy or comfortable for them.
Even when the bleating of the sheep is so loud that it nearly deafens him.
Because, as Pastor MacDonald has pointed out, “At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.”
How would you say this needs to work out practically in our churches, small groups, bible studies, and informal times of meeting and gathering?