Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Stolen Ministry

American Pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn't the remotest connection with what the church's pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.

A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted. Most of my colleagues who defined ministry for me, examined, ordained, and then installed me as a pastor in a congregation, a short while later walked off and left me, having, they said, more urgent things to do. The people I thought I would be working with disappeared when the work started. Being a pastor is difficult work; we want the companionship and counsel of allies. It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for their mills.

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns - how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.
The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does His work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.

"Hot indignation seizes me ..." (Psalm 119:53). I don't know how many share my anger. I know a few names. Altogether there can't be very many of us. Are there yet seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal? Are there enough to be identifiable as a minority? I think so. We recognize each other from time to time. And much has been accomplished by minorities. and there must be any number of shopkeepers who by now are finding the pottage that they acquired in exchange for their ordination birthright pretty tasteless stuff and are growing wistful for a restoration to their calling. It is the wistfulness an ember strong enough to blaze into a fierce repudiation of their defection, allowing the word of God again to become fire in their mouths? Can my anger apply a bellows to those coals?
"Working the Angles. The Shape of Pastoral Integrity". by Eugene H. Peterson. pg 1-3

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