Thursday, May 26, 2005

Religious Prostitution-- Part 3

What began as some random thoughts about how I sometimes feel like a religious prostitute when I am asked to provide "religious services" for people who have no interest or intention of being part of the community of faith has developed into a three part rant (it will most assuredly be my last three part blog). This will be my final reflection on this topic for now.

It is clear to me (although it may not be so for you) that the expectation that most church people bring to their church is becoming increasingly distant from what a new generation of pastors view as their role as pastoral leader. This identity gap has become a particularly vexing problem for Superintendents and middle judicatory as they find themselves engaged in internal conflict resolution between pastor and church much more than they used to. "They don't care how much you know until they how much you care", is the refrain I have heard from more than one Superintendent as they seek to impart wisdom to the pastor who find him or herself at odds with their congregation.

To be honest, I don't think the issue has anything to do with caring. Rather, the issue is about identity-- the church identity and the pastoral identity. If a church sees its identity primarily as a religious service station where the pastor pumps the gas, washes the windows, and checks the oil, then it is understandable that a congregation gets a little cranky when a pastor comes along and says, "Pump your own gas." This seems like a rather crass example, but the more I think about it, it seems fitting. Perhaps the ultimate solution will be when more churches become "self-serve" rather than "full-serve" churches. Perhaps it will take a generation for this to happen, but happen it will. In the meantime, there may be some church people who decide they don't like "self-serve" and choose to go elsewhere. My hunch is, in the end the "self-service" congregation will attract alot more people who desire to take responsibility for their own faith than those it sends away. And the church will be healthier for it.

7 Comments:

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Michaelw said...

Ahhh, reading about it is almost as good as being there.

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger Brad Boydston said...

Preach it Bergfalk...preach it!

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger BJBergfalk said...

Responding to michaelw-- You see right through my appropriately vague references do you? I'm banking that I'm not the only pastor who gets tired of being told to "filler up."

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Amen, Brother Bergfalk! C'mon people, you know how to pump gas, pump it!

 
At 7:51 AM, Anonymous tomb said...

My image of Jesus is that he did pump the gas, and wash the windows, (and the feet), and kept doing it until his disciples figured out how, and figured out that they must do it also.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Good point, tomb.

However, give me a moment for counterpoint, Jesus' disciples needed about three years to learn to pump gas. How long do today's disciples need?

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger BJBergfalk said...

In response tomb, if one sees "pumping gas" as the process of taking responsiblity for one's faith, then I see Jesus telling his disciples all over the place to "pump their own gas." If however, you understand "gas pumping" as servanthood, then yes Jesus was a supreme "gas pumper." My initial comments were not about servant leadership, it was about the reticence of disciples to "grow up." There are perhaps other cultural factors that contribute to this spiritual malaise, but to use a personal family analogy. The moment I stopped tying my kids shoes, they learned how to tie their own shoes. Are they better off for acquiring this skill or not? I think they are.

 

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