Tag Archives: fall

A pastor without a church

The reverse seems to be the case more often than not, at least visibly so… but i wonder how many ex-pastors are out there who could serve, but one thing or another is holding them back. A friend bugged me the other day. He used to be a worship pastor at a northern metorpolitan non-denom megachurch, and through a series of events, now is located in a very different demographic. and is finding it hard to get back in the saddle again. Even apart from pastoring, just participating in a community of faith is a challenge at this time. Thus I got thinking about barriers to rentry for those who once were, but are no longer connected. I’m looking at this more from a non-denom pov, as Lutheran ecclesiastical heirarchy, whether it be the ELCA roster list, or the LCMS districts, make re-entry a more formal type thing, which in many ways has fewer barriers to some extent… although making the first steps to re-entry are likely similiar. BY the same token, I think the barrier issues can also apply to service in general, irrespective of ordination or not.

  • Jesus sent out the disciples with nothing, yet today, how many feel they need to have a car and a well paying tentmaker job to pastor? Certainly, both make things easier by far… ie midnight hospital calls dont lend themselves to public transit, or even bugging a church member, but workarounds can be procured. Giving to the poor, when one is poorer than those requesting help is problematic, but a group of faith can provide a resource pool, other than the pastors pocket.
  • Jesus said to let the dead bury their own, ie when he called, we are to jump, not spend years getting our personal life in order. Otoh, the call is scary enough on its own, much more so, if ones personal ducks are not in order. Granted the admonitions from Timothy should be looked at, as far as the characteristics of a leader go… but also keep in mind, the disciples did not exactly lead noble lives before they met Jesus. Thus it would be exceedingly reasonable to assume that much past baggage ended up coming along for the ride. Prior reputations, just as Paul’s prior life as Saul no doubt did raise concern amongst those he ministered too, yet God called them. There is an element of power through frality that seems to ripple through scripture.
  • Familiarity may also be a barrier. Paul talks about being all things to all people… that will push anyone outside of their comfort zone and then some. Its easy to want the familiarity of a previous call, or at least some semblence of commonality, from a human point of view… but that makes the call safe, perhaps too safe, and thus Paul talking about being all things to all in service to the kingdom. Familiarity can range from location, to worship style, to demographics, and even to theology in some cases. In the ELCA we have everything from high church liturgical conservatism, or the rather far out there and liberal herchurch.org. In non-denoms, the spread is likely as wide, if not wider.
  • There is also an issue of confidence, and perhaps this is the biggest deal. Once one falls off the horse, if one is slow to get back on , confidence can take a real header. I just about bought the farm some 20+ years ago in an airplane… but my boss had me back up in the air in under 24 hours. It took a year plus to get over the nightmare aspects, but I had zero trepidation about entering the cockpit, even from day one. I think if one leaves a call for any number of reasons, without a game plan in place to pick up the mantle again, confidence can take a real header… and then things can spiral down pretty fast, and the lack of confidence likely results in even more barriers being put up.

The issue then becomes how to get off center, and get rolling again. And perhaps the biggest part of that is making the first step. Fear do to any or all of the above barriers can serve to paralyze. Selective procrastination due to a lack of confidence/fear can do the same. Just as analysis paralysis can come back to bite. I think the key may be to set a goal of returning to service, with many tiny steps especially at the beginning. Something as simple and unthreatening to list all the potential churches in the area is reasonably easy to go. The next step being getting on the horn, and bugging a sr pastor a day for a bit. From there church visits, and then perhaps some level of involvement in a church or two. At that point, hopefully the barriers are significantly reduced, such that one can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, and the goal goes from a man driven one to a spirit led version. The big picture seems like a lot… 20 minutes on google isnt. Think small, and let God lead to the big things.

The Message depends on the messenger???? Whats up with that?

In the past week or two, some pretty visible inidividuals have fallen from grace. I wont go into what the issues are, or who they were, as thats really a secondary concern. A bigger issue I think is that the tendency to tie in the message with the messenger… When such happens, the message gets compromised in a huge way, and secondly, it elevates leaders to a spot where they ought not to be.

First, the message, if aligned with the scriptures will stand on its own. It does not need a dynamic leader, a cool presentation, cool music etc. Certainly all of those things can be very helpful, but they really are secondary. The compromised message occurs, not by the message in and of itself, but by diminishing its relevance based upon the messengers actions.  There is a tendency to do the toss the baby out with the bathwater deal, if the messenger hoses up, and all messengers sooner or later are going to hose up. Some obviously much more than others. The message however can and should stand on its own, provided of course that it is backed with scripture.

This errant dependency has a very long history associated with it, going all the way back to Moses, and yet God used him. Saul persecuted Christians, yet God chose him to reach out… Imagine the trepidation when Paul came to preach, as his reputation no doubt long preceded him. Yet, it is God’s word which was presented,it can and does stand alone.  I think the message tie in with the messenger is human nature, likely going back to the whole original sin deal. In other words, pretty much anything which can be used to diminish God’s word will be used by the enemy. In this case though, its the recievers of the word who share the responsibility of proper discernment. Both in verifying the message does align with scripture, but also that if it does, it is of God, and the messengers actions or lack there of should have no effect on the message.

The second issue, is the proverbial sphere of perfection that seems to propagate leadership, putting them in spots where they ought not to be. A number of things are wrong with such a scenario, ranging from pride, to overconfidence in righteousness,   to the inability of one another to bear one anothers burdens,  to sheeple, who do not question and verify  the message to see whether it is true, and what it has to say.

None of this is meant to diminish Pauls admonitions to Timothy as concerns a leader. Those are all things to strive for, and errors in such are a very serious matter indeed. Yet this issue also transcends way beyond the leader to the average Joe, and that average Joe guy best be prepared to take on responsibility, and let the Holy Spirit guide him, rather than putting a ton of his trust in a fallable leader. Non of us our righteous, all of us fall short, but God is there. We need to base our faith upon His word, not upon some leader guy, no matter how eloguent, dynamic, or righteous, as a fall at some point is going to occur, and if that shakes our foundations… then maybe the leader guy didnt go such a great job afterall. Not so much his falling from grace, but from not teaching the responsibiliy of discernment and listening to the Holy Spirit. And that also applies to those new in faith… stumbling by message messenger errancy is one thing, stumbling via  hosed up or totally lacking discipleship is much worse. And for those very new in the faith, this is where the community must take on a role… discipleship is not Baptize and forget,  the community of faith must be there to uplift and disciple one another. It is a major major deal.