Congregations Gone Wild


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?

Your thoughts are appreciated. Please leave a comment below.

The Desperate Need for Statesmen


So a Republican whose major claim to fame is going nude in Cosmo is the new senator from Massachusetts. And conservatives everywhere are rejoicing.

Forgive me if I don’t blow a horn and wear a silly hat.

No, I can’t get pumped about yet another political lightweight who drank the party-line Kool-Aid and talks about real change. Frankly, the Democrats and Republicans are true to one goal only : their own political ambitions.

Can I ask a simple question? Here it is:

Where are the statesmen?

America is in bad shape. Honestly, I think the collective wound is deeper and more threatening than anyone in D.C. cares to admit. And that wound is only going to get deeper if we don’t throw the bums out and put some serious people on Capitol Hill. People who do what is right, not because it is makes the bigwigs happy, but because they fear God.

What we need are statesmen. Folks who don’t go all weak in the knees when the GOP party chairman calls ’em up on the line or Barney Frank blows ’em a kiss. People who remember the point of this country. People who don’t pass laws just because. People of deep convictions that can’t be sold to the highest bidder. Intellectuals with big hearts, who are widely read and understand history. People with a spine, who can stand up to dictators around the globe and not flinch (or bow).

We need guys like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Remember them?

And this terrible lack of statesmen applies to the American Church. The national stage of Christian leaders is littered with lightweights who have the wrong motivations, wrong answers to difficult questions, and no vision.

Jesus called Simon a rock. He said He would build His Church on a rock like that.

But where are those rocks today? Where are those kinds of Church statesmen in America 2010? Seriously, can you name a half dozen Christian players on the national stage today considered to have a brilliant mind and a heart of compassion?

I admit that part of the problem here is that the kind of personality that makes for a genuine Church statesman is the humble one that stays out of the limelight and isn’t listening to himself on Christian radio.

Still, desperate times call for humble, nameless Church statesmen to rise up.

Call them prophets if you will. Call them the mighty heroes of old. But for all our sakes, someone, anyone, please call them! We need Christians like that from every profession and walk of life.

And we need them now.