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Pastoring Isn't Always Easy...

As I've been preparing for our next sermon series, I've been reading through a bunch of my old writings on the church. Some things I read and I wince because I'm not really comfortable with where I was and some things I read and I wince because I recognize I was right then and not now...

Anyway, I'm going to post some of my old stuff this week, just to get the juices flowing as we prepare for this four week RENEW series.

Sometimes pastors get grumpy...
Pastoring is hard work. Seriously. All "working one-day-a-week" jokes aside, I really do believe this is one of the most difficult "occupations" in existence. I'm not saying that because the actual labor is intensive. I don't mind that. In fact, often I love the tangible things I do. It is a great joy to be paid for studying, teaching, and implementing the Bible. Even in my seventy-hours-a-week youth days, I never disliked the labor side of the job.

The thing that makes pastoring hard is the never-ending push-me-pull-you between pragmatic ministry and spirit led ministry. I've invested a ton of time reading the top secular authors on leadership, business, marketing, etc. I have a pretty good idea on what the experts are currently saying in all these arenas. I am aware of how we could implement these truths into our church and make it function much more efficiently. Sometimes, I wish we would.

I also have invested a good amount of time reading about emergence theory, organic growth, third places, and other social sciences. Much of this material flies in the face of things I wrote about in the first paragraph. When I read these things, I find them resonating far more deeply with the church and the Christianity I find in the Bible. (admittedly, this is because I now read the Bible more as a comprehensive revelation from God as opposed to a series of formulations designed to be dissected for our increased knowledge)

This creates a vicious tension for me, and i think for those who are willing to truly be honest with themselves.

We could build a megachurch. The formulas exist. If you are "driven" by the right things, use the right tools, become innovative enough, and drop eggs from helicopters at Easter you'll grow. Really. You will... and that isn't necessarily bad.

But it isn't necessarily good.

Because as a pastor, I have to sit down at my desk every morning and ask my real boss if I'm pleasing him. I have to close the door of my office every evening and wonder if my day's work built Christ's church, or Calvary's church, or "my" church. When I write out my todo list at the beginning of the day, I have to wonder if my next action is "purpose driven" or "spirit driven" (not that it can't be both, it can).

Sometimes, in our culture, we can't be considered successful or important or significant if we decide to build the church God's way.

Andy Stanley doesn't have to be the yin to Joe Myer's yang. But sometimes he is.

John Maxwell doesn't have to be pitted against Neil Cole. But sometimes he is.

Patrick Lencioni gets a lot of things right. But maybe not everything.

Barry Schwartz and Rick Warren seem to have mutually exclusive philosophies. But I like both.

I read an article today that highlighted this tension for me. So much of the American church is built around Western polity. Our church governance resembles congress. our pastors resemble CEOs. Our program guides look like OCB. Our congregants are like Webkinz crazed parents, racing from store to store to find the koala...

Read some of the highlights:
  • it is the entrepreneurial church (congregations of roughly one thousand and above) that seems particularly clueless about the shift from the passive to the reflexive.
  • Large-church leaders have been trained in the modern, command-and-control paradigm for thirty years.
  • The mechanical paradigm of organization largely explains why modern church leaders are trained as CEOs, not shepherds.
  • Sheep have their own ideas of what, where, and when they want to eat. They may not want to lie down by quiet waters and go to sleep at eight. They just might want to check out the watercress down by the streambed. Or they might want to head out over the next ridge to see if there are any other flocks out there. Conveniently, machine parts don’t get ideas. They just get to work, and they work according to specification.
  • One doesn’t have to be on the pastors’ conference circuit long to figure out that prime-time clergy (ages forty to fifty-five), are marinated in this kind of thinking. They have been told repeatedly that this is the only leadership model that will ensure success. (And make no mistake: in new millennium America, success equals the greatest number of seats filled on Sunday morning.)
  • if there is anything the entrepreneurial church is good at creating, it is compliant cultures—those Stepford-like minicities populated with otherwise savvy, creative human beings. Is it any wonder that megachurches proliferate in areas of the country where the church attendance percentages are well above the national norm?7 This is not quantum physics. It’s the law of supply and demand. They know who their real target market is: it is hothoused Christians.
Sure, some of this is harsh. And, no, i wouldn't want to do anything else (and honestly, i don't want you to feel sorry for me). And if you're wondering, i've had a pretty good week, with minimal complaining (but perhaps too much reflection).

However, next time you are thinking about your pastor(s), remember Hebrews 13:17:

They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.

and believe me, sometimes that is a tall order in a society that has such a warped view of success.

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