June 24, 2007

abandon the pastoral church

This last week has been full of conversations with several people sharing painful pastoral leadership stories. The stories have been with friends that are both pastors and lay people. Via Jason Z, I found this Jurgen Moltmann quote on Mike McNichols blog, a professor at Fuller:
If Christianity is to become aware of what it is, we must abandon the pastoral church which takes care of people, which is the usual form of the Western church. Instead, we have to call to life a Christian community church. Either we set about this church reform by ourselves, or it will be forced on us by the loss of church members. (The Source of Life, p. 96)
Seems timely. The rest of Mike's post is great too.

I'm convinced Moltmann is right. The development of a consumer model of church and it's corresponding measure of success (achieved by some, not most) is simultaneously bringing about the demise of congregations/communities and the spiritual demise of individuals. While larger, well-funded churches can often maintain the reliance on the pastoral figure to provide the felt needs of a faith community by hiring more staff, most churches can not do this. Therefore, the weight of the needs of a community most often rests on the shoulders of one person, the pastor. The emotional and psychological damage that can result in that person (the pastor) are known (I assume) by most westerners who have attended more than one church in their life.

This isn't anti-leadership and it's usually only interpreted that way by those that have masked their insecurities and power appetite in that opinion. Rather, it is a challenge to leaders (ie. pastors) to lead better than they are accustom to. Todd Hunter has often stated that it is the task of the christian leader to learn to lead people towards following Someone Else. It is a much more challenging leadership task to guide people in following a greater ideal than yourself.

Because we have for so long functioned differently and due to the fact that we have by and large began to view ourselves primarily as consumers, most lay people have just as hard of a time adjusting to this as do their leaders. Becoming a mission-centered community is hard work and, to be honest, we're lazy here in the west.

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