The New York Times opinion page had an op-ed piece published by a United Church of Christ pastor who lamented the record numbers of clergy burning out. Here’s his opening salvo:
The American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
As a result, 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.
As they say in the blog world, read the whole thing: “Congregations Gone Wild.”
Apart from the fact that the author is a pastor in the United Church of Christ (mainline, non-evangelical, and compromised to the nth degree) is his point still valid? And does it extend to more evangelical churches? What are we to make of the vision of the congregation today when compared to its leaders? Are the people in the seats simply more worldly and self-centered than their counterparts of 50 years ago?
And what are we to do about this?
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