scorched souls

Having pastored for about 5 years, and not pastoring for about 4 years now, I’ve had some time and distance away from it to come out with 3 observations about church life (in no particular order nor priority, just what comes to mind during this blogging moment):

1. Church is both organism and organization. Even the most organic expressions of church (a word with roots going back to Old English and the Greek for “the Lord’s house”, and related to the word ekklesia, meaning “the called out ones”), it still has levels of organization, albeit less formal, less systematic, maybe less planned and more spontaneous. Organization has been developed to such a business and science in modern America, some half-jokingly describe how America has turned Christianity into an entrepreneural enterprise.

2. I went into ministry expecting God to do more of the work for me, and I would do the spiritual disciplines kind of thing to show my dependence and reliance. Waiting on God. Prayer is the real work. Let go and let God. Those were the foundational mantras. The practical reality of things involved more of my own effort than I bargained for. Not that I didn’t want to work hard, I did. I was plain naive. Now I’m realizing that it’s as much human effort as it is divine intervention, not less human effort.

3. Scorched souls are among the greatest tragedy of church life. While each church caters to a particular demographic, whether through a social network, or a strategic targeting of a community segment, the best intentions of well-meaning Christian leaders has scorching negative impact on some of its attenders and/or members. I’m just speaking of upstanding Christians, not those who choose to opt-out of the faith to explore other options (whether it’s towards a sinful lifestyle or an alternative religion). I still know a handful of people who have yet to recover from the scorching effect of burnout, legalism, power trips, church conflicts, poor counsel, et al. Intentions don’t matter as much as the impact on the recipient. Quality congregational and pastoral care is so hard to find.

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  1. Justin says:

    Good thoughts. Per #3: What are some ways to remedy that–both from a leadership _and_ membership point of view?

  2. Elijah says:

    You hit home on those points. I can relate to each of them. I came into pastoring with these purist ideals and convictions, but I’ve come to see that church and pastoring is so much more than naive ideals no matter how good they are. Real life is messy and often painful for the pastor and for those in the church. I think pastors who don’t accept that reality may cause more harm than good in the long run.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Justin: I don’t have the silver bullet magic solution, but short answer is being tenacious about deepening relationships and pursuing reconciliation. Major on the majors and give lots of freedom to the minors are helpful too.

    Elijah: I went in knowing pastoring was one of the toughest jobs, but not in the same ways I anticipated. I don’t mind the challenges, but one factor for me was that it became rather mundane. I discovered how much I needed a fast pace of change and innovation, and being a pastor of a church may not be the best place for me to find that.

  4. i12know says:

    This is gold! I am starting a series on my blog, http://i12know.that1.name/2005/03/road-map-for-future-viet-church-part-1.html to articulate a road map for the 2nd generation Vietnamese American Christians here. I will use your materials and your thoughts on this matter. Thanks in advance.

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