Over the past few months, I have seen a variety of reflections from leaders adjacent to the clergy saying that this is really bad for pastors right now. I don’t know exactly why they think this other than the fact that they are relying on a few popular bloggers who claim that the “Great Resignation” among the clergy is more important than the general “Great Resignation”.
I complain this blog post by Carey Nieuwohf, who manipulates the story around the numbers to draw the conclusions he draws. But that’s not unusual with Carey’s blog. He has a wide influence but a distorted picture of reality, I think.
Anyway, closer to home, Lutheran blogger Anna Madsen recently wrote a Reformation Day Letter to the Laity: Your Registered Leaders Really Need Priestly Care
A lot of your church leaders are absolutely overwhelmed.
If they haven’t already, many are considering quitting not only their immediate callings, but their broader calling, if not considering and leaving the Church altogether.
I’m not making it up: we have a crisis in our hands, and the registered leaders are in desperate need of lay ministers to help them just hang in there another day.
Madsen is right in her blog: she points out that the pressure point for clergy in some congregations is the pain of trying to keep churches together made up of a wide range of conservative and liberal members.
I fear that many members of the clergy, for a long time, have assumed that part of the pastoral ministry is trying to keep everyone together in the church and thus depoliticize the gospel so as not to offend.
But it was still just a delaying tactic. Eventually you hit some sort of historic moment (like a pandemic or a presidency by a fascist gambling and business mogul who wants to co-opt Christian nationalism to feed his narcissism) and the delaying tactics of the moderates come back to bite them.
But where Madsen goes off the rails is in his next step. She wants everyone to understand how bad the clergy are these days in churches where some people want masks and some don’t, where some think Trump is the Messiah and others recognize him as a threat to democracy.
Specifically, she writes to the “laity” and wants them to do supportive things for the clergy, as if the solution to the clergy struggle right now is to get some love and some casseroles and more. vacation time.
Well, I think it might be good to say a few more truthful things about this situation than that, so this is my “moderates reap what they sow” commentary on the current state of the church. and the clergy in struggle can be found.
- Can we please do away with the term “laity”? Last time I checked that God’s people were all on mission together. Defining the laity as those who must help cushion the clergy gives the impression that the clergy do all the heavy lifting while the laity brew their coffee.
- Things are not going to be better for the clergy just because a few people read a blog post and then start encouraging their pastors more frequently. If your tenacity for pastoral ministry is based on an extra week of vacation and more applause for your sermons, then you might as well move on.
- Let’s be realistic. Some parts of the pastor during the pandemic were complex and we had to create solutions, but the pastor during the pandemic was always a cinch compared to nursing, teaching in public schools, medicine, boning chicken in the factory, etc. is so strenuous is a very strange flex.
- Pastors, if in 2020 you were serving a congregation in which some church members sincerely believed that a January 6 coup attempt would be acceptable, or were prepared to believe that a vaccine contained fleas electronic, or looked to Qanon for wisdom, then you weren’t really doing your job. If things are tough now, go for it. You have work to do.
- But more importantly, the pandemic has been a tremendous opportunity to remind us of something that has been true throughout the history of the church: We are in the same boat. Healthy clergy don’t need bloggers to tell the laity to support them. Healthy clergy discover how to be non-anxious enough to weather the pandemic while also calling on God’s people to what they see as the church’s current call to serve the world and neighbors in need.
Here is my personal testimony: the pandemic has been hard on me, as it has been on everyone. It was surprisingly exhausting in a way I hadn’t anticipated, it changed the world in a big enough way that I saw everything differently now, and we shut down our indoor worship experience for almost ten. – eight months, something I never imagined.
But we also started a new ministry with our Marshallese neighbors, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to help people pay rent and utilities and get food, launched Queer Camp, and live streamed our hearts and minds. explored how to deepen the experience of the church as digitally mediated on social media.
I guess what I’m saying is this: it’s not the job of the “laity” to sort things out for the clergy. Leaders lead. If you can’t conduct, don’t do this gig. Without a vision, the people perish. Law? Well, the vision just can’t be, “People have to be nice enough to me. This is not a vision.
A vision is more like, “Hey, this has been a hairy and terrible time. Let us mourn together, pray and listen to what God has in store for us next. And if you have some crazy ideas that contradict the gospel of Christ, and those ideas exclude the most vulnerable that the church is called to serve, then you will have to go find another place to be with your fools, because that is. here is the church of Christ.
Oh, and one more thing: if the survival of the church depends on giving the “laity” the task of sustaining the emotions of the clergy, then we might as well let the church die.