Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Religious Prostitution-- Part 2

This is my first two part blog. This either means that I didn't say everything I wanted to say in the last blog, or I'm not done yet. Either way, let me pick up where I left off by exploring briefly the difference between Pastoral ministry today vs. Pastoral ministry twenty-five years ago. The reason I do this is because I believe that the models of ministry are so radically different that this is a contributing factor to the high percentage of churches that are firing pastors, and at the same time, the high number of pastors who are leaving ministry altogether.

Pastoral ministry education up until the mid-seventies primarily consisted of educating pastors to become good 'chaplains.' When I went to seminary in the early eighties, I remember a seminary professor telling our class that effective pastoral ministry hinged on our ability to provide care to people during difficult transitions. Being a good administrator and effective preacher was optional. During this same time frame, many seminaries adopted the Clinical Pastoral Education model which primarily took place in clinical settings. Thus, further developing a chaplaincy mentality.

Around the same time, the Church Growth Movement began to talk about pastoral identity in terms of being a "rancher" vs. "shepherd." The theory was, if you wanted to have a growing and vital church, one must adopt a "rancher" mentality. The unspoken corollary was also true. If you wanted to pastor a church in decline, then adopt the "shepherd" approach to ministry. This subtle shift from "shepherd" to "rancher" effectively introduced modern management theory to the ministry of the local church. At the height of this model, along came the seeker church which effectively adopted management theory hook line and sinker. And the result in many of these seeker congregations has been stunning.

With the plethora of books on leadership, the dominant model for ministry has shifted yet one more time. Instead of talking about pastor as "rancher" it is now vogue to speak about the pastor as "visionary leader." Although it is too soon to tell what the next shift will be, it is not likely that we will return to the "shepherd" model of ministry anytime soon. But here's the rub. A majority of churches in my denomination (including the one I now serve) have become accustomed to pastor as chaplain. And with the relatively slow pace of change, it is not likely that most churches will shift to the present "pastor as visionary leader" anytime soon.

So what do pastors and churches do in the meantime? Stay tuned for "Religious Prostitution-- Part 3. I'm pretty sure I'll be done after part three. But don't hold me to it.

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