Tag Archives: pastors

Plumbers are smarter than I am, and so are pastors

Plumbers make more money than university lecturers. So do pastors.

Americans have some tendencies to equate income with intelligence.

There are outliers who make money by going for the sensational and the glandular, like Miley Cyrus.

As a university lecturer, I might as well have the belief system of a pastor.

Worthwhile knowledge, its retention, and its real-world impacts are nebulous things, terribly hard to quantify. Outcomes are easily attributable to other factors.

Which is why people don’t ultimately accept “knowledge is power,” and why they remain skeptical of the value of education. The monkey with the shiniest toys didn’t necessarily excel in school, and that common observation places a little wrinkle somewhere in the brain.

In the U.S., the annual mean wage paid to clergy is $47,730.

At large churches, however, where they have “executive” positions, which help establish egos and golf club memberships, compensation is at least $110,000.

At other churches, senior pastors (first among equals, some being more equal than others) earn between $265,000 and $1.1 million.

The average U.S. income for individuals is $40,563, and the average family income is $82,843.

The annual mean wage for plumbers is $53,240.

As a university lecturer, I often deal with material similar to what plumbers have to deal with: clogs, stagnation, rust, and excrement.

Only the material I’m exposed to is metaphorically clogged up, stagnated, rusted, or just plain shit.

One thing is for certain. Pastors have a unique position. If your job involves prodding and provoking vulnerable hearts, your income has a shot at being slightly above average.

Move hearts and you’ll change wallets, whether you’re Miley Cyrus or an Executive Pastor.

By the way, everyone should be disgusted by the title Executive Pastor, except no one is, because churches are marketed and operated precisely like organizations designed to make money: corporations.

Some ancient fool said you cannot serve both God and money. Good thing we have plenty of Executive Pastors to straighten Him out.

The Pastor and Priest Fallacy; or, Why Ministries Must Earn Credibility and Trust

I like this guy’s doctrinal beliefs; therefore, he is trustworthy.

Imagine all American Christians understanding why that is a silly way of thinking.

Christian Publishing would collapse, and some ministers would have to do real work for the first time in their lives.

It’s like there’s an assumption running through some preachers’ ministries: “I believe the Bible, and the Bible affirms what I say, so get involved in my ministries, be accountable to my ministries, and give my money to my ministries.”

Because: Jesus.

It’s the magic word that gives narcissists and sociopaths instant power over vulnerable spiritual seekers.

Always, always wait until a supposed leader has earned trust and respect. He must earn it. She must earn it. Do not give any credibility or authority to a person until you’ve seen that person deserve it.

You will lose absolutely nothing by waiting to make a decision to commit yourself to a ministry. God’s got all the time there ever will be.

And He can make more.

I’m not asking for impossible tests for pastors, priests, or other ministers. Clergy can be observably human and humble. They can avoid controlling behaviors and controlling rhetoric. Just be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open. Commit yourself incrementally.

Most importantly, don’t believe a ministry’s hype. Pay attention to its substance — or, more likely, it’s lack of substance.

The story of America is a story of religious entrepreneurship. While I radically support religious liberty and freedom of speech, I know religious entrepreneurship has institutionalized as many dangerous ideas as nonsensical ideas or good ideas.

Read Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-worth your time, and you’ll discover some similarities and parallels between some of the Latter Day Saints described in the book and many of America’s unaffiliated, entrepreneurial Protestants.

Look, the megachurches could last well into the future, or they could fizzle, but either way, I don’t need yet another preacher yapping at me from a spectacular stage, especially when I can suffer through the same guy’s sermon on YouTube.

The megachurch sales-and-marketing approach is completely obvious these days. I was in the same relatively small room with the senior pastor of a large church when he said he’s good at convincing people to come to church but not good at maintaining those relationships once they’re coming to church.

It really struck me as a bait-and-switch. You seem like a nice guy! I’ll try out your church! Then, later, I can never seem to have a conversation with that nice guy. Maybe I’ll find a smaller church or just watch Chuck Todd each Sunday morning. 

How bait-and-switch evangelism is a spiritual or even a human way to be, I have no idea.

But it’s also typical. I would generalize that mode like this:

Build the organization. Individuals are simply pawns in building my organization. People are second. I’ll say God is first — my God being my organization. I’ll say I serve the people by building my organization.

With any luck, in time, I’ll build the organization so big, I won’t have to spend any time with any real people. I’ll have secretaries and schedules and an office buried so deep inside an office suite, the mongrel hordes will never find me — and then I’ll escape to my home in a gated community.

You, entrepreneurial preacher, are probably a fraud. You’ll preach about the Holy Spirit without evidence of a single Fruit of the Spirit. You know, those Fruits of the Spirit, the alleged outcome of your alleged faith.

This isn’t important to you, because you’ll push the right emotional buttons next Sunday and keep the climb to fame and fortune alive.

You spiritual and moral fraud.

I wish there was some way other than just academic degrees and resumés and well-marketed books to affirm a person’s reliability and character. Pastor Mark Driscoll is just one example of a widespread problem.

(Driscoll, by the way, once boasted that he could walk from his office to the stage without having to see anyone—an explicit, specific example similar to my above generalized example).

Driscoll is not the only one.

Genuinely. Seriously.

If I really thought the Driscoll-Mars Hill Church disaster was an aberration, I would not have written so many blog posts about it.

I wanted people to learn a methodology from that situation, a way of seeing.

I wanted people to learn a kind of awareness.

I have no real platform to make that happen. I just wanted it to happen, wanted it badly to happen.

I want people to gain a healthy distrust. Don’t trust me, either. Be skeptical. Research and reasoning can prove me a prophet or a clown or something else. This is about you.

Let’s say I’m proven a clown. Throw a party about it. Take a few hours to tell Colin jokes.

Then, afterward, ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used.

Ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used by someone who is demanding your attention, your submission, your time, and your money because he talks about Jesus and your kids like the youth group. This is just a blog post. You can close it at any time. The social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of churches are a bit more tricky. Do you have the confidence and willpower to walk away from your church membership at any time? You need to develop that.

Jesus won’t magically develop it for you.

You’re too weak to navigate unaffiliated, entrepreneurial religion in America.

Most humans are, which is why the predators grow fat.

You don’t necessarily need to burn personal bridges, but you need to have a strong enough sense of who you are and what is right to walk away from a nonsense organization — or an unhealthy organization.

I’m not only focusing on professional clergy. The reality is the Pastor and Priest Fallacy can analyze any politician or community leader. I may really like what someone else says, but that doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy or credible.

People need to learn this, need to “get” it.

Astonishingly ignorant and manipulative people are running American Christianity and American politics.

So, there’s no point in listening to sermons?

image

Stay in bed on Sunday mornings, folks. Just read the Bible and whatever you make of it is cool.

A quick question for pastors and ministers

Reflecting on the past few years, I’m stunned at the lack of basic character in your profession.

If you scream from your pulpits about the sins of the world and unorthodox beliefs in other churches, when will you scream from your pulpits about the sins of Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Bob Jones University, Anglicans in the U.S. supporting the jailing of gays in Africa, the startlingly non-biblical beliefs (before their son’s troubles) of the Duggars, Doug Phillips, and the Roman Catholic pedophile priests?

I know, you can’t because you’ve been too busy picking on Rob Bell about universalism — you know, universalism, an idea, a belief, a way of thinking that does not bully or degrade or sexually assault anyone.

You’re too busy critiquing liberal theology in the mainline Protestant denominations — much easier, granted, than addressing the real problems in your own conservative houses.

Or it’s simpler than that. You’ve been friends with the conservatives. You’ve been enemies of the liberals. Defend your friends and kick your enemies. Like Jesus said, you’re just like everyone else. You’re like this guy.

You frauds.

Your Bible says, “Moreover, [the Christian leader] must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

That’s I Timothy 3:7.

You’ve failed that standard.

You are not well thought of by outsiders or insiders.

You are a disgrace.

When your pastor is worse than ‘worldly’ — what’s Mars Hill Church to do?

An open letter to Pastor Mark Driscoll, or a blogospherical amicus curiae brief on behalf of those hurt and the 21 former Mars Hill pastors who filed a formal complaint

Updated 10:05 p.m  with an addition at the end.

Dear Mark,

Last night I saw a post about bullying on the Psychopath Resistance blog and the first person I thought of was you.

If a fraction of the allegations against you are true — and they are easy to believe — then you and your loyalists need to face the facts:

You were worse than “the world.”

You behaved worse than “worldly.”

Could Jesus have spoken this parable for you?

45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (Luke 12:45-47)

Is there any “biblical warrant” for anyone continuing to respect someone like you, Mark?

Not if merely a fraction of the allegations are true.

Nowhere in the biblical texts can one find a single exhortation to respect someone who acts as despicably as you apparently have been acting.

But there’s warrant for your dismissal from ministry in Proverbs 26:18-19:

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death

is the man who deceives his neighbor

and says, ‘I am only joking!’ “

Oh, sure, you might not have been joking per se but let that stand for any excuse for your behavior following the damage you’ve done.

You’ve thrown firebrands and shot arrows and deceived numerous people around you — you’ve been the epitome of destructiveness — and now you’re going to try to talk your way out of it.

It’s appropriate that the television-and-Netflix series The Killing was set in Seattle because you’ve starred in The Spiritual Killing in the same city for years.

Where’s the Shepherd who is allowing you to injure so many sheep and disillusion so many others?

It’s like the U2 song: “Referee won’t blow the whistle / God is good but will he listen?”

And that’s not even considering the spineless, cowardly act of plagiarism.

For a minister presuming to help start a seminary, plagiarism is worse than grand theft auto, yet more pathetic than stealing 25-cent candy.

Congrats on occupying that unique space of horrible and pathetic, a space usually reserved for despots and Wall Street sharks.

The allegations against you could be a guide to bullying — it would be a New York Times bestseller, this time bestselling status that you actually earned, thanks to an endless supply of people interested in abusing power.

“Shame” is too good a word for what you should feel. Chimps have a better overall track record of behavior.

You’re a fundamentally indecent person, failing to act in the most basic human ways.

To borrow from William F. Buckley, I’d rather be taught by anyone among the first 2,000 names in the Seattle telephone book than by you or anyone who is still on your staff.

Do you need to learn what decency is? During the past three years, I’ve been reading through Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. You’ve been worse than the pagans you’ve been screaming at for years, so maybe you could start by stepping up to the pagan morality of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca.

You’ve failed to live anywhere near the neighborhood of Romans 12:9-21. That excerpt begins, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”

In other words, you’ve lived the antithesis of that excerpt.

All your bullying just cloaks the wimp hiding inside.

Funny how the guy who claims real manhood is the wimp, and the one who tells men to have a pair doesn’t have his own.

How do I know? How can I say such a thing?

Because when a man has real security and true confidence, he doesn’t even feel the need to bully.

Doesn’t even feel the need, Mark.

Doesn’t even feel the need.

Do everyone who believes in any sort of God a favor and disappear from public view for the rest of your life, you bullying, reprobate pansy.

Most sincerely,

Colin Burch

P.S. Do you think I’m bullying you? Don’t be an idiot. I’m shouting at an influential, powerful authority figure who bullied people around him, and worse yet, used anti-Christian, sub-human behavior toward people who believe in Jesus. You do not deserve respect of any kind. You’re the wolf who tried to wear a sheep’s clothing. You’re the worst sort of evil: the degrading, maligning, self-aggrandizing preacher using the name of God to get your way.

Update: The dictionaries remind me “reprobate” has an archaic usage rooted in Calvinism. A contemporary adjective form means “morally corrupt,” and that was the version of “reprobate” I was intending to reference. Considering the likely audience for this post, I should have just stayed away from that word and used “corrupt” instead, because I’ll stand by my contention that Driscoll is corrupt if even a fraction of the allegations against him are true. I didn’t train in a seminary; I trained in newsrooms and then in a graduate writing program. Meanwhile, let’s remember, as I demonstrated above, Driscoll has forced many people to have a taste of Hell through the environments he has created.

Here’s why narcissistic pastors can get away with careers in ministry

For context, let’s start with a Gallup poll from last December and some academic analysis, as reported by The Christian Post:

The majority of Americans no longer rate pastors and religious leaders’ honesty and ethical standards highly. A Gallup poll released earlier this week reveals that for the first time since the question was introduced in 1977, trust in clergy has dropped below 50 percent.

Gallup attributed the decline of trust in religious leaders on scandals.

“If views of a certain profession have changed, it usually has been a function of scandal surrounding it. The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans’ ratings of clergy, a decline from which the profession has yet to fully recover,” Art Swift, Gallup’s managing editor wrote.

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, said that the Evangelical world has seen its own scandals in the past few years which likely have also contributed to this cynicism.

“Within evangelism, part of the problem is all kinds of moral lapses among pastors. I think this Mark Driscoll plagiarism thing…the [Vision Forum] president who had an extra-marital affair. All of this kind of bad behavior by pastors causes people to mistrust these kinds of spiritual leaders,” Fea told The Christian Post.

Fea also noted that since the Great Awakening’s George Whitfield, Evangelicals have been driven by “powerful, almost celebrity-like leaders.” [emphasis added]

Consider Professor Fea’s phrase: “powerful, almost celebrity-like leaders.”

I’ve been researching alleged contemporary prophets — surely “celebrity-like” if there ever have been celebrities — and the accuracy of their prophecies. For clarity, I’m not evaluating the idea or concept or practice or Bible-based believablility of prophecy. I’m looking at specific individuals who say  specific things.

An early assessment, without naming names: “false prophets” is too grand of a term for these people. “Free-associating news junkies” might be more like it. Or maybe “narcissists with the ability to riff on a given theme” could sum up their natural giftings.

I’m not sure how the word “narcissists” will strike you. Essentially, narcissism is an unhealthy pre-occupation with self at the expense of everything and everyone else around. (Pastor Mark Driscoll is an easy example, but he’s just one tree in a big forest. I’ve spent a lot of time shouting about him because I would like others to avoid the bad experiences some people have had in Driscoll’s church.)

While you might think narcissism would work out as a license for one to do whatever he pleases, that’s not necessarily the case.

A narcissist could applaud himself for his upstanding morality. Self-affirming vanity and pride could grow from the way a community or a social group acknowledges the narcissist’s piety, purity, and holiness.

Many narcissists occupy pulpits because narcissism is not the kind of moral failing congregations will identify.

Alarms ring when a minister is caught in or suspected of adultery, pedophilia, embezzelment, or substance abuse.

But attitudes of moral superiority and religious confidence can be considered signs of God’s calling.

Congregations might believe a pastoral narcissist shows strong, uncompromising leadership skills; he never bullies. 

Who knows — maybe, because the Christian message can be offensive and controversial, the expectation of offense and controversy in the message blurs with an expectation of offense and controversy in the behavior.

For example, much has been made of Driscoll’s ability to attract young men to the church. Much also has been made of Driscoll’s ability to grow churches in a “secular” part of the U.S.

His defenders will not make much of the Gallup poll to which Driscoll has added yet more examples. Defenders of C.J. Mahaney will not make much of the poll either.

It’s the wicked nation, they’ll say, not that they know many people outside of their silly cliques.

But I would imagine, if there are any real Christians, if God is really there at all, plenty of quiet, wise, non-blogging, non-celebrity, non-self-congratulating-church-planting believers, both laypersons and pastors alike, can see what’s at stake, and maybe see problems before they blow up into catastrophe — and then contribute to the kind of delegitimization one really must insist upon in such circumstances.

Shop Amazon – Thanksgiving Dinner and Desserts – Prepare the Perfect Feast

Postscript to ‘the reality of pastoral gossip’ — a personal experience

After my sarcastic post a couple of days ago, I want to share a personal experience to demonstrate just how reckless some Christian pastors can be.

Some Christian pastors.

I started college at Western Carolina University, where I spent two years, Fall 1987 through Spring 1989.

(My first year, I was in Reynolds dorm, which had the advantage of being an older dorm with larger rooms, and the disadvantage of being pretty much at the high point of campus, and at a far edge.)

At the beginning of my freshman year, I attended a church and got involved with its college group.

I met a guy I’ll call A.J. Somehow we became buds, which was somewhat odd: I was a white freshman and he was a black upperclassman. (I try to remind myself that some churches can level social hierarchies and open racial barriers.)

Eventually, A.J. started to open up to me, and he had some real hurt and confusion.

He had shared some personal, private difficulties with the pastor of the church.

The conversation was supposed to have been in confidence, but the pastor told some other people on the church staff.

I realize I don’t know exactly what his difficulties were. I realize sometimes a private confession is scary enough to warrant alerting others. Ultimately I just don’t know, but I tend to doubt A.J.’s difficulties warranted sharing. Maybe they did.

Either way, the violation of trust did significant damage to A.J.

He started dropping by my room in the late afternoons and evenings. He would ask me, again and again, “Why? Why did he tell others?” Why, why, why.

A.J. was astounded, hurt, confused.

I was only 18 years old. With a September birthday, I had begun my freshman year as a 17-year-old. I knew less than nothing.

I tried to help A.J., lobbing weak suggestions at his grieved face, nothing I said finding purchase. He was going in circles, we were going in circles, stuck on the question of why the pastor had violated his trust.

My church back home was loosely affiliated with the church near campus. So at times, I even tried to play the pastor’s advocate. But A.J. would reason back at me — to him, there seemed no justification for the pastor to divulge the details of his conversation.

So many conversations. Then, A.J. disappeared for a while.

I welcomed the break. I couldn’t help him. All he did was talk and talk and share his misery. The relationship was becoming a burden to me. I didn’t want him to show up.

Right before he disappeared, I remember passing him in a dorm common area. He was shut down, turned inward, mumbling to himself, yet walking with purpose. It was strange, but he kept walking, and I didn’t want to get into another marathon conversation.

I later found out why he disappeared for a while. He had been in the hospital. He had tried to kill himself.

The night I had seen him mumbling to himself, he had taken a bunch of pills. Later that evening, he had placed his thick leather belt around his neck and tried to hang himself from the bunk bed in his dorm room.

I can’t say with any certainty that the pastor’s gossip, that his violation of confidence, was the direct cause of A.J.’s suicide attempt. He was already struggling. But the pastor’s gossip made it worse.

All this and the recent Ron Wheeler letter regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll makes me wonder what a good pastor really is.

Does a good pastor say the right doctrinal things?

Driscoll has been saying the right doctrinal things for his Reformed circles.

A.J.’s pastor was saying the right things for his church circles.

Does a good pastor have the right leadership skills?

Driscoll has had very good leadership skills for corporate America. He could get a legit NY Times bestseller by writing about gaining and keeping power.

A.J.’s pastor was dominant enough in his church circles to maintain a leadership position and a mantle of authority.

Yet what once grew later fell apart.

I thought, in the Christian faith, what genuinely grows never falls apart.
 
Ministeries falling apart, individuals falling apart