I'm in the midst (almost half-way) of a two month leave of absence that my church has given to me finish the writing portion of my final Masters degree project. Recently I have been thinking about the nature of the church, my soul and pastoral ministry. I guess being away from the occupation that has defined me for the last decade is bringing some reflection and maybe a dose of clear thinking about it all. Maybe not.
One of the major threads running through my head is the deeply complicated way "Church" in America is. As comedian Louis C.K. says, "everything is amazing, and nobody is happy." We've got more programs, more content, more sermons, more music, more bible studies, more service projects, more mission trips, more, more, more, more. And in all the "more-ness" that we have, we have pushed aside the essential. Prayer. (Which, by the way, I don't hear too much about "more prayer gatherings.") Hospitality. (Who has time to be with your neighbor, have a meal, and know them when you're too busy running to another church thing?) Scripture. (Lots of books about it, but little attentiveness to it.)
On top of this, the pastor's vocation has become less about being a holy man of God before the people of God bringing God to bear upon their lives through Scripture, prayer and direction and more about being a "leader of leaders" who "vision-casts", "dynamically communicates relevant truth" and "organizes and builds an emerging church." Frankly the job descriptions of most pastors today looks like a side-show circus clown trying to make a name for himself than the shepherd-leader role found in the Scriptures. Where is the prayer? Where is the Scripture? Where is the man who is so affected by the holiness and glory of God that the church burns brightly with zeal for that same God, not because another program happened, but because when the church gathered they saw God?
You see this is where I think the church has become too complicated. A billion-and-a-half programs from infancy to rigor mortis isn't helping. Prayer. Scripture. People. I think that's about as complicated as the Bible gets about the church. As Eugene Peterson describes it, prayer brings us to attention before God, Scripture helps us attend to God's words and ways, and we sit in the attention to people in which God is working and redeeming daily. This forms the triad of church life and pastoral vocation. Simple.
This is the first volley of my thinking on this... more will follow.