Thursday, March 03, 2016

Why Leaders are A Pain

My blog post header is a direct quote from the latest Christian Century magazine. There is an article with the title Why leaders are a pain: Truth telling in the parish. It is written by William Willimon, an author and seminary professor,  who has been a thoughtful, honest pain in the heinie of the church for several decades. He was a bishop of the United Methodist church in the States for a number of years, which makes him some sort of "royal pain."

There is much in the article that bears repeating, so here are a few paragraphs

Caregiving, the default mode of most pastors, is always less costly than leading. But the problem with caregiving is that no group survives or thrives without continually refitting and repositioning itself—and certainly not an institution that’s accountable to a living God.

The promise of all bogus religion is the promise of a peaceful life without pain. That’s also the subtext of lots of sermons I hear and some of the ones I preach: pain is avoidable, and here’s my formula for living and loving without discomfort. To which Jesus might respond: What about the word cross do you not get?

Some of the best service that pastors offer arises when we dare to prod, preach, and pray a congregation toward the painful reality it has been avoiding. Yet how many of us went into the ministry in order to hurt people? We enjoy thinking of ourselves as peacemakers and reconcilers.
Jesus Christ embodied truth as well as love, and there’s no way to work for him without also being willing to put people in pain in Jesus’ name.

This struck home as I suffer from the "hangover" of a sermon on Sunday in which I did my best to tell my congregation the truth about where we find ourselves, with the fig tree parable in Luke as our text. Bridge St. is an active congregation doing some fine ministry through our meal ministries and our refugee sponsorship. As I've said before, I'm impressed by the folk I serve and I enjoy worship. Yet I see clearly that we can't do what we have always done and somebody has to say so regularly. That somebody may be the Lead Minister --moi. Despite knowing this, I'm always a little insecure after I've pushed hard -- or least harder than usual. Honestly, sometimes I would rather just be liked than faithful.

Do you figure congregations want leadership, even if that means hard truths, or are most coasting to the finish line? How open are you to being pushed and prodded? Should all ministers be called "lead" ministers by virtue of their calling?

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