Tuesday, June 26, 2007

95% of pastors are losers

One of the blogs I read frequently is written by Darryl Dash. It's hard for me to assign labels to Darryl. If I did, it would probably be something like "does all things well". He's a great preacher, writer, and missional theologian. But recently he had provided a quote from a conference he attended in which he reported that a speaker said "95% of all pastors are losers."

Yeah. I know. Right away I wanted to have a Robert DeNiro moment - "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Are you seriously talkin' to me?"

Turns out the speaker Darryl quoted was talking about a test a group ran in California among declining churches. The idea was that the group recognized that only about 5% of pastors in that area were natural leaders, and they offered help making them more effective. Darryl corrected the post after a leader from the conference contacted him and offered the notes for correcting the context. See, Darryl's a good guy. Told you he did all things well.

But shoot.

What Am I going to do with all this righteous indignation?

I know, I'll look at what Eugene Peterson wrote about God's losers.

Basically, we simply have to get our identity from the Bible, from this Biblical story. And Americans are not very good at that. We assume we are living in a Christian country, and everybody’s on our side. So we let the culture shape what we’re doing because it seems so benign, and then we think, “We can Christianize it.” But we can’t. The church is a totally counter-cultural movement.

We are a marginal people. There is no way we can be a success in this culture on their terms.

American pastors don’t want to hear this, though. They want to know how they can grow
their church, as though if you have the right technique and enough water and fertilizer, it’s going to go. But here’s the thing: all the stories of spiritual leadership that we have in our scriptures are failures.

Every one.

I can’t think of one that in our terms we would call a “success.”

Look at Moses. He spent forty years taking his congregation through the wilderness, finally gets them to the Promised Land, summarizes all of God’s teaching, puts it all together in this incredible sermon called Deuteronomy, and then as he gives his last speech, God speaks to Moses and says, in effect, “Moses, these people can’t wait
until you die. They are itching to jump into this whole Canaanite, orgiastic, sex-and-religion stuff.

They can’t wait until you are out of here so they can just get to it. So here’s what I want you to do: teach them this song, and teach their children this song. Then when they have forgotten about you, their children will remember the song and they will have the story.” And he teaches them the “Song of Moses.” And as soon as he dies, that’s just what happens: everything is just a mess. How
would you like, at the end of your ministry, to have God say, “I just want you to know, pastor, they didn’t learn a thing from you.”

Isaiah, at the beginning of his ministry, gets this glorious call, with all the smoke and angels and holy, holy, holy stuff. But then God says, “You are going to preach to these people and they aren’t going to listen and they aren’t going to do a thing you say.” How would you like to hear that on your ordination day? Isaiah says, “How long, Lord?” and God says, in effect, “for the rest of your life. The country is going to get cut down, and just be a field of stumps—but there is a seed in the stump.” That’s not very hopeful.

So it goes in every story. As pastors, we have to be ready to be a failure in the eyes of the culture, and if we’re not, we’re seduced by the culture to “being religious” in the culture’s way. Of course, they reward us wonderfully when we do that!

I'm in way over my head in this job. I got mad skills, but still, the job is far too complex, the people far too resistant to change, and the culture (despite what Peterson says) too ambivalent about God for success to leap into my boat like a sturgeon on the Suwanee River.

My task then, above all, is to be God's man. To be faithful and true to what Jesus is. To live Him.

100% of pastors have sinned and fallen short. But God has blessed us with His presence and His mercy, and allowed us to work with Him in His vineyard and every now and then to see the fruit of His work.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks, David, I needed that today.