Friday, January 12, 2018


The Word for today:
1 Timothy 3:1-13
mark this: 1 Timothy 3:2
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…
As Mom told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
But if I have a few nice things to say, does that clear me to say the rest? Well, I hope so, ‘cause here goes…
To be honest with you, I think the greatest problem in the local church is the professional pastorate.
When a man ain’t got nothing, he’s got nothing to lose. But when the mortgage, car payment, health insurance, and tuition depend upon maintaining a job, then what a man does is maintain. He certainly doesn’t go for broke, because “broke” is where he might find himself.
Our pulpits are manned by a cautious lot whose positions and paychecks factor into their decisions and their sermons. They tell the truth, for the most part, but not always the whole truth. They faithfully reflect a few prosaic aspects of Jesus’ character, but the power of his persona and the poetry of his word rarely find their way into the average local pulpit--because those things might rock the boat, and rocking the boat might make waves. And we can’t have that.
I worked, for a while, in a professional (paid) position in a church. I had to go to a lot of meetings with local pastors and what I saw was not impressive. They were the nicest guys in town, but that’s about all I have on my list of nice things to say.
They weren’t particularly gifted in scripture. They weren’t particularly gifted in leadership. They were diligent, but creativity evaded them. They were brave, in a defensive posture. But they weren’t about to storm the fort, because going on the offensive might, you know, offend someone.
They were certified by seminaries and ordained by denominations, but whether or not they were commissioned by God was never clear to me.
They met for three years (while I was there, and probably a dozen years before that) to discuss what should be done to bring the gospel to everyone in our town. What they decided to do was hold a seminar (replete with an “expert” from California, at considerable cost) to further study this “initiative;” and to attend a retreat (at considerable cost for lodging and a facilitator) to pray over this initiative.
“Retreat,” in fact, remains my lasting impression of them, and a damning metaphor for their efforts. While I’m sorry to have to say that, my sorrow is not for their sakes.
The ones I’m sorry for are the people who sit in their pews, who never really learn scripture (except in some rote sense) because their pastor never really did; who never encounter the wild and wonderful, radical and revolutionary Jesus because their pastor either never has or (if he has) isn’t gifted to express Him.
Nice guys, all. They worked from sunrise to moonrise. I’m not sure what they’re taught in seminary, but they all, seemingly, majored in Diligence and Steadfastness and Earnestness and Consistency and Constancy and Prudence and Discretion.
Fine words, all. But they reflect just a portion of the persona of Jesus, just a sliver of the spectrum of the Light of the world.
In biblical terms, they had the fruit of the Spirit; most of them had the whole cornucopia, in bountiful abundance. But church leadership is organized according to the gifts, not the fruit, of the Spirit.
They had, to be sure, certain gifts of the Spirit, but not the gifts which church leadership is based upon.
It was dismaying and disturbing. But most of all it was just sad, because by and large we have organized the church around diplomas and denominations -- the dictates of man.
Three or four years in a seminary and they hand you a diploma. They are accredited to do so. But they're not authorized to hand out gifts.

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