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What you have…


Pastor Keith Anderson posted a blog entitled What Young Clergy Want You to Know. I commend the article to you, he makes excellent points, he speaks truth in love.  I have heard these very same comments for the past 20 years.  As a matter of fact I have said many of the same things.

The only issue I may have with Pr. Anderson’s theses is the fact that it’s not limited to young clergy.  I hear the same concerns echoed by clergy who have been in the trenches for many years, from the veterans who have forgotten more sermons than some of us have ever preached.

I am a child of the 80’s – I have probably seen “Top Gun” a thousand times.  What I am seeing in today’s church, especially mainline congregations reminds me  of a line from Top Gun.  Goose had died in that horrible spin, Maverick showed up at Viper’s house on a Sunday to talk and Viper tells him, “What you have is a crisis of confidence.”

Many of our clergy, both young and old, are overwhelmed by the changes happening around us.  The church we knew is changing, some of us have left our denominational circles, or show up at meetings and find many friends gone.  We are seeing catechism classes shrinking and are presiding at more funerals than we do weddings.  Many are trying to walk a tightrope between frying up some of the “gourmet burgers” and being faithful to our calling and to those in our parishes that may be more scared than we are about the world and change.

The financial strains in the congregation hits pastor’s hard – we see the fear and uncertainty in parishoners eyes, we feel the tension as our budgets show red numbers, we hear the murmurings (even if they aren’t being said) about how much pastor makes, we hear the struggles of the synod, district, or diocese and are stuck in midst of things.

I won’t speak to what young or old clergy need – that is far beyond my pay grade.  What I will speak to is what I believe I need, and what may be helpful in congregations.  We need to have conversation – hard conversation about the realities we are facing.  We need to have hard conversations about how we move forward.  Speaking for myself, I have tried to be faithful in my proclamation for 20 years, I have encouraged, taught, equipped, and cheered to the best of my ability. I have griped and complained to colleagues.  What I have failed to do was sit down and have those difficult conversations WITH people I walk with.

In my last congregation a dear friend was dying of lymphoma at the age of 49.  For the last months of his life I kept saying, “Skip, is it time for that conversation?”  He would shake his head, “No, Pastor – I’m not ready.”  About 2 months before he died he called one morning, his voice barely a whisper, “Pastor, I’m not afraid anymore – let’s talk.”  He had seen Christ in the midst of chaos and his crisis of confidence had passed.

Christ’s Church will prevail, God’s Spirit will see to that – however, maybe it’s time for us to have serious discussions about our fears, our hurts, and our faith – and see where God’s Spirit is leading us today.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pamela Czarnota permalink
    30July2012 08:54

    Amen, Dave!!!!!!! I welcome honest, open and faithful conversation. It really does make a difference. It seems to rarely “solve” the issue. But somehow being in conversation (the kind that moves beyond griping or whining) helps us “see” the center of our purpose more clearly. There’s an African proverb I think of often: The reason the antelopes cross the desert in a herd is so they can blow the dust from each others’ eyes.

    That makes sense to me….

    After all, I am a fairly extreme introvert. Still, I need the presence and conversations with others to make it through the places and spaces ministry takes me. I can’t do it alone. And when I do, I lose my bearings.

    Conversations with the Triune God (and with others who trust Christ) are an important part of my ministry maintenance system.

    Peace, Pamela

  2. 30July2012 17:35

    So where do we start? Can we trust each other enough to have that conversation in our parishes, across Lutheran lines, across denominations? Do we honor one another enough to really listen? Who is going to start the conversation?

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