Sojourners has an article titled SEVEN LIES ABOUT CHRISTIANITY — WHICH CHRISTIANS BELIEVE.
There’s a great deal here that I resonate with, especially in the seventh point:
The problem with romanticizing Christianity is that we turn our faith into a product, using various selling points to make it look more attractive.Sojo.net
But what I’m responding to is the part about ministry and evangelism:
Pastors and missionaries are considered high-risk candidates within the medical community because of their susceptibility to addiction, stress, and abuse.Sojo.net
I was first made acquainted with this problem when I was studying in seminary and was told that the seminary students had higher rates of various problems, such as divorce. I was tutoring Greek and Hebrew for the seminarians (I was in the School of Graduate Studies, though sharing many classes), and this was brought to my attention because of academic expectations. Many of the seminarians found the academic class schedule very challenging. I could see they were gifted for pastoral ministry, but some of what the academics, such as I hoped to be, expected of them was stressful rather than helpful.
My question is this: Why don’t we change the way we do things? I have commented before on realistic job descriptions for pastors. Our expectations are extremely high. We expect them to do all the work of the church from visiting the sick and those shut-in to evangelism and ministry. Everyone in our society seems trained to go right to the top, and in the way we portray pastoral ministry, that’s the pastor.
I consider this a major failing of Christian life and Christian ministry. Every Christian is called to ministry, that is to service of others, according to their gifts. Nobody should be getting burned out by the kinds of expectations we have of our pastors and other church leaders.
My friend (and Energion author) Dave Black often comments that he’s waiting for the church sign that reads “Whatever Name Church – Head Pastor, Jesus – Ministers, the entire congregation – Servants to the ministers, the church staff.” (For more, see Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.)
I wrote a fictional short story about this some time ago titled Our Pastor Is Lazy. In this case, while the story is fictional, I think it’s exceptionally true. Over and over again.
Let’s not just shake our heads about this. Let’s do something.