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21st Century Pastor

Friday, 9 April 2010  | A(nonymous) Minister

The really fruitful things, yet again, were the surprising things. Like huge random offerings for an overseas mission project, (while the regular tithes remain stagnant).


In any case, despite it all, I began to reflect that, somewhat self-servingly I guess, what we do, as Pastors and Ministers, is actually quite important. 


I know the Social Justice guys got all the publicity again last year (and yes that’s vital kingdom stuff), but frankly I've got to say, if you actually led someone to Christ in the last 12 months, then you did the hard yards.  And if you were there, all hours of the night, as someone’s life exploded, you’re a rare breed.


Nice work.  


As exhausted, striving, insecure mortals, we Pastors need reminding that while ministry is hard and long work, its critically important stuff. There are thousands of ex-pastors in Australia. And if you're still in the game, then you're vital. Stay with us. 


It's never going to pay well, but it's a calling - not a job, or a career - a Vocation. God's asked you to do it. He’s thrilled you're participating in His ministry.   


But your city isn’t. Our society is never again going to congratulate us on spending our life infusing the gospel amongst it.  You are not going to be a hero. You are not Bono.


Our culture will relentlessly try to convince you that anything else is worth doing but this.  But our society actually needs people who subvert it, undermine it, who cannot be bought, and will not sell out.


People who live for something more important than money, and who are defined by something different to that most seductive and paralyzing of motives: status.


And yet, we Pastors are often sick to the stomach with status anxiety.


From fashion to congregation size to name-dropping, there exists a desperate desire to be known, to be seen, or to be celebrated. To have carved out a position of unique status, squeaking, “I and my church is doing something bigger, or special or unique!


A proverbial schoolyard of insecurity. It’s pathetic.


CS Lewis said we are all created to want fame. To be seen, and to receive a pat on the head denoting a special job well done.


The problem is we look for it from the wrong people, such as other pastors, the culture around us, our congregation, when our purpose is to find it in the words of God himself, "Well done good and faithful servant’


I'm frankly reminded of what St Paul told the Corinthians about ministry, "This is how you should regard us, as underlings of Christ, the scum of the earth, fathers of the church and stewards of revelation'. 


Scum of the earth and stewards of revelation - that’s ministry, that’s status.  Gosh, what a calling.


I once saw a quote on the wall of Rev John Smith's office years ago, by songwriter Bruce Cockburn, which read:


'Kick at the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight'.


Now that’s a mission statement.


It sits rather well alongside St John’s description of the incarnation of Jesus "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.


He is the light, and we, my colleagues, believe it or not, must hold a torch.


There are too few of us ready to do it at present, but it’s a true calling, a glorious life, a worthy cause. Thank you for being a Pastor. Don’t give it up for a normal life.  


That bloody harvest is always going to be there, but I for one am all for tearing into it. 


Ministry. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Jedi Knights wish they were Pastors. It's a whole other level of being misunderstood. 



 A(nonymous) Minister


Jennifer Turner
April 14, 2010, 3:08PM
Thank you Anonymous. The desire for recognition is truly ingrained. Without an official postion since my retirement I really feel it and I know I suffered from this hunger before too. Yet the position truly is "scum of the earth" if we are following Jesus.

And yes, modern Australia certainly has no unearned respect for ministers of religion. My father was a pastor before moving into theological education and there was a certain standing in the community which went with it in those far off days. Not now. Last night on the ABC's piece about Ethics Committees which review proposals for therapeutic experiments, one speaker queried the special qualifications of clergy to be on such committees. I wasn't surprised.

But I am looking forward to the Lord's "Well done." And in the meantime it's a privileged gig to see people's lives transformed. I tell mentorees that and will pass on your words because we gain much by being real about the struggles as well as the rewards.
Phillip Walters
April 14, 2010, 3:27PM
As much as I appreciate the passion behind this article I can't help but be saddened by it. It started when he (she?) talked about "the surprising things. Like huge random offerings for an overseas mission project, (while the regular tithes remain stagnant)."

Why are we surprised when people respond to something that ignites their hearts in contrast to the duty of tithing?

And similarly, why are we surprised when a man has had enough of performing his duties, within what is so often an unapreciative, consumer driven system, and decides to step out of 'full time ministry' and get a life.

To me the whole notion of the need for a specialised, called out 'clergy' desperately needs to be reassessed. Especially when it has such a crippling affect on so many good-hearted men and women.

"If you're still in the game, then you're vital. Stay with us", can solicit a number of responses.

1. Who is the 'us'? Are those outside the clergy still 'with us'.

2. 'Vital' to what. The local church? The local workplace? The community? Or the system?

3. 'Stay' with 'us'? Have those who have stepped out of 'the game' left the ministry? Or have they simply got wiser and redefined ministry? And in so doing redefined their 'calling'?

I agree with the last sentiment, "Ministry. I wouldn't miss it for the world." But I'm not sure about all Jedi Knights wishing they were Pastors. Only a few went over to the dark side.

Sorry about that last quip - I couldn't resist it.
Peter Bentley
April 19, 2010, 2:57PM
I had divergent feelings reading this piece. Yes I want to affirm pastors in full-time ministry, but the church today has to come to grips with the simple fact that it is not possible for an increasing number of local churches to support a full-time pastor at the packages most mainstream denominations now have as standard. This is especially true in rural areas, where lay leaders have or will be taking the leadership role (hopefully). As a lay co-ordinator for 11 years now in a local church without a paid minister, I can testify to the challenges, but have also found great blessing in the body of Christ with the sharing of pastoral ministry among 3-4 leaders.
On another matter - Quoting the number of ex-pastors can always be a misleading. I know many people technically in this statistic who have told me how offended they are by its use, arguing that they have moved into a different pastoral ministry. Not everyone leaves because they cannot cope with the local church, and some pastors probably stay for the wrong reasons in any case.
Wilma Zegelis
April 22, 2010, 9:50AM
I appreciate your comments about the "status anxiety" among pastors. Usually, when other pastors discover that I am one of them, the next Q is "How big is that church?" No one has ever asked "Is that a spiritually healthy church?" or "What are you doing there for the Kingdom?" I am saddened by the inference of what that says about how we view our calling.

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