Congregations Gone Wild

This editorial hits the nail right on the head. I don’t think I have a single quibble. Here’s a taste:

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under Church Culture, Noted In Passing, This Is Good

2 responses to “Congregations Gone Wild

  1. Larry

    I have a Unitarian friend who tells me that getting a minister approved is a major battle because they have to satisfy everyone, all the different factions, simultaneously.

    At the other extreme I, as a Roman Catholic, have priests assigned to my parish by a bishop or a provincial order and if I don’t like them, tough.

    If I am not mistaken this kind of tension between the direction a group desires of its leader(s), and the direction which would most benefit the group if taken by that leader, was discussed by Plato.

    Personally I think virtually everything has become a consumer experience (education, government, music, medicine, religion, etc.) and so the salt has lost its flavor.

    I think we need to be frank about what being a Christian means (a la C. S. Lewis and “Mere Christianity” or Joseph Girzone and the “Joshua” books) as opposed to the Joseph Stalin “Quantity has a quality all its own”. If we didn’t care about numbers or denominations, but only about guiding and supporting those who wanted to become, or become better, Christians, how different would the world be? Perhaps I am naive, it’s just a question.

    • joe

      That comment does sound pretty naive, but it’s a nice hope.

      It’s kind of sad to see church reduced to consumerism, but I’d argue it’s the unhealthy evangelical aspects of christianity that have pushed it to that point unnecessarily. The fact that there could be dilemmas like this on pastors is a direct consequence of trading that quantity for quality.

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