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A recent Facebook post by a friend posed this question for thoughtful comment;
Heard on Twitter this AM.
“Most pastors suffer from a large dose of entitlement and cultural irrelevancy.”
I did, what I thought was thoughtful, and decided not to comment. A couple of days later I still have this question roving in my mind. So, rather than comment on Facebook in a few words I decided to blog this and then post the blog. This may be the greatest insight into my own way of looking at such comments.
When I read comment the first thing I thought was, “who was it that made this statement and why”. It seems we all get in that place where we ask rather pointed questions about others and possibly the most poignant piece of the interaction is the mind of the one that asks. So, simply I did not comment because the response depends, it seems to me, on the purpose of the comment. The statement seems less about a person’s point of view or plan of action rather more about the character of individuals by group of who we have a predetermined expectancy, albeit our expectancy can be more off track than the one we question.
For a view on this question I have to ask who, because I think the why may come from the who. All this is not to say the statement if asked as a question is not in itself relevant because I do think it speaks volumes about the church and the determination that the church should be culturally relevant.
My response requires I make two distinctions; one is that this comment came from a person Called as a Pastor in some doctrinal context; the other is that this person is not so called and looking from the outside, if you will. So my comments take two tracks and I here hope to share them with whomever might be interested in my opinion, or just amused that someone would even take this comment this far. There is a third option and that is this statement was made by someone with a grudge against Pastors or faith in general and for that person it is somewhat like hitting a telephone pole with a baseball bat, get rid of the anger and go on.
For either of the first two options I wish to comment on one definition asks its own question, cultural relevancy, what is it? I mean what does it look like and who decides. As I ask that question another pops up, was Jesus culturally relevant or was he Counter-culturally relevant? Can you be relevant to your culture and still rebel against it? I am sure this falls under the heading of ‘in the world but not of it’ however this circle comes back to; what was the purpose to even make this statement. Just as important for me is a recognition that we are in a war between two Kingdom cultures and which kingdom decides the definition of our relevancy.
So my comment is, or are, if this is a Pastor making the statement, it seems there is way too much concern about how someone else approaches their call and way too narrow a view in definition of that call. I am reminded of a recent devotion from Oswald Chambers in which he says “Whenever a thing becomes difficult in personal experience, we are in danger of blaming God (or doctrine or messenger, italics mine), but it is we who are in the wrong, not God; there is some perversity somewhere that we will not let go.” A speck in your eye, log in mine kind of thing. SO, my comment follows a line that the church has a long history, in my opinion, of building a very small box for God which leaves only room for a narrow definition, I suspect this is from our desire to follow the narrow road. For a Pastor to decide their peers are too focused on entitlements or are culturally irrelevant seems to be a witness against others rather than for the one whom that Pastor declares they are following for all things, ALL THINGS.
The second, and most likely in my opinion, is that the statement was made by one not called to the office of Pastor. If, in fact, this is the case then it may, in my opinion, speak volumes about the training and maturity of the person making such a declaration, of course the adage ‘walk a mile in my shoes’ fits. However my own view is that this is a common outcome of a church, pastoral or doctrinal failure to challenge the understanding of those of us who sit in the pews regarding our responsibility for ministry. Somehow we see the Pastor as “called’ and therefore in some way with regard to the responsibility to the God who issued the call, and His subsequent declaration to take up your cross and follow, this Pastor has greater purpose and therefore requires greater personal deference to a greater good than his or her self, than those sitting in the pews. It seems for this group, those of us who are not called as Pastors, the statement or rather the question that begs asking is for each of us to look at that somewhat familiar face in the mirror and ask, “What do I think I am entitled to and what or how am I relevant to the culture of the Kingdom of God or counter culturally relevant to the kingdom of the world.
A statement about a group of people, however they see their own accountability to whatever or whoever the source for their current situation just seems cowardly to me. When we accept that each of us is called none of us more or less than the other and each is faced with the temptation of entitlement and relevancy of the world culture, for each of us the only path or high road is, I think, a very personal walk on the path of repentance. My soul seeks independence and my Spirit asks obedience, who am I to serve and which kingdom is my life priority?