Monday, August 21, 2006

Non Controversial post!!

Interesting post from over at SCP, and not what you would expect from Peterson! Is it just an American thing?

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.... 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.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists.

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.

From the introduction of "Working the Angles" written by Eugene Peterson.


Meg said...

Absolutely amazing. I read your posts on SCP and agree.

I can't speak for what's going on elsewhere, but this is directly and incredibly on point as to the situation in the U.S. and in Canada. Not everywhere (I spent quite a bit of time in Houston, Texas a few years ago and there, Christianity is much more vibrant). Up here in flyover country, pastors are mostly "in it" for something else. They want to enhance their side businesses and use the church to do it. Recreational opportunities abound. All they really care about are service head counts. Preach the Gospel? No way.

If a pastor adamantly refuses to teach or to allow the elders to teach, and refuses to counsel or pray with his congregation as individuals, is that a real pastor? There are so many of those... Why should we go to church at all anymore if this is all that's available?

Dave said...

Meg, tried emailing you and it got bounced back, email me your address when you get chance please.

dinsy said...

Meg, I couldn't agree more. If a church is not preaching, teaching and living the gospel, can it be called part of "the church" (ie. the body of Christ) at all?

Dave said...

If a church has abandoned the things it was called to do can it be called a church? I guess in its most basic church just means 'a gathered people', but obviously we know what we mean in these issues.

I think a church that fails to live its calling is still a church, but it is dead, and will need reviving. Trouble is that most dead churches, clinging to past heritage, believe they are alive...listen

"'I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you

I think that was what John Davidson (Solemn Assy) found to be true, happily they repented and were revived, how I wish that were the case in our own day. What little remnant of faith we have in these Northern Lands is in danger of being taken away.
Maybe that is the answer, maybe not, thats up to God...the voice of Jesus is clear...

I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.
"Here's what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that's been through the refiner's fire. Then you'll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You've gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.

The greatest danger is we look at ourselves in dim mirrors and think too highly of ourselves, we need the eyes of the Spirit to see our real condition, how sad these days :(

Rock in the Grass said...

the church (Kuriakos)are the people of God. All too often I find myself being distracted into thinking of the church as an institution, which then tempts me into the issues of status, and power and influence. And it is hard not to become distracted!

Shieldsy said...

(Coming in late on this ... just got back from a week @ Nefyn Dave!)

I find myself confused by all this. We know the Church is the people, but any group of people needs a level of organisation. The more people, the more organisation. That's not a church thing, it's just a people thing. You can read all about it in Exodus as God & Moses implemented all sorts of organisational structures just to get things running smoothly, effectively & safely. The church is know different from any other organisation in that respect. I say well done to those churches who are willing to learn from all the knowledge we are gleaning in the behavioural sciences that help us understand how to make ANY organisation function better. I think those who criticise a corporate model seem to have a bit of a 'we never had none of that in my day and we got along just fine' sort of attitude.

There seems to be a lot of criticism of leaders/churches for running growing, thriving churches because they use methods & models from the corporate world. (Presumably we are equally critical of past leaders who did exactly the same but used military methods & models ... Salvation Army et al, Missions, Operations, Ranks, Parades etc)

Yet we also seem discontent with leaders/churches who seem stuck with outdated, outmoded, irrelevant ways & means. They (coincindentally) are the churhces that seem to have ever-diminishing congregations and less & less impact.

We say numbers aren't important. Of course they are! They aren't the MOST important, but they are important. Just read the gospels and see how much counting went on ... people like to/need to count things.

I'm also interested at how so many people seem to know the motives of the leaders of these churches. Because they use methods used by the corporate world the judgement seems to be that their motivation can't be for reaching the lost or preaching the gospel.

I've recently started attending a fairly 'mega-sized' church on my doorstep. Preaching is awesome ... biblical, practical, arresting, challenging. The music has moved my spirit to God like it hasn't been for a long time. They are active in the community. They are seeing people saved & baptised. I fail to see what the problem is. They incorporate all the 'corporate, shop-keeper' stuff, fancy publicity, cutting edge AV etc ... but so did Cathedrals in their time.

Hey, ever a recent 'Economist' article was surprised at how orthodox the teaching in most of America's mega-churches was.

Just keep scratching my head at why we can't rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Why can;t we just be thankful that there are churches which are thriving & growing. Shouldn't we be more concerned with the more pressing problem of all those churches which seem to be steadily sinking into deeper & deeper irrelevant oblivion. Or does that concern us because at least they haven't sold-out to "Shop-keeper" Christianity?

Dave said...

I think what he says at the end of the article is crucial, 'there are no sucessful churches'. If mega churches in Bradford are doing it then praise God, but they are not succesful, they are just doing what God is calling them to.

Shieldsy said...

Why are we afraid of the words "successful" and "unsuccesful"? Are we to become like schools which have now called failure 'deferred success'!

Some churches are being succesful in doing what God has commissioned them to do. Lots of places are unsuccesful in it. I rejoice with those that are succesful.

Dave said...

I am not afraid at all, but I do care that people are under pressure to perform.

How do you measure success in the Kingdom?


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