Sunday, January 25, 2015

Don't Talk To Me, Can't You See I Am Fixin' To Minister To You!?

Eric Carpenter linked to a post by Thom Rainer and it was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read (the post by Rainer, not the post from Eric). The post, Six Observations About Speaking to Pastors Right Before They Preach, is a list of things you absolutely, positively must not do because you might distract your pastor from giving a great sermon (that he spent 15-20 hours preparing for you!). Like Eric I find that Thom Rainer writes some decent stuff but I agree that this is not in that category. Here is the critical line:

Many times pastors get very distracted and even discouraged when someone speaks to them right before they preach.

He follows with six observations which boil down to "Don't talk to your pastor before he preaches and if you rudely insist on it only say nice, encouraging things". You can read them for yourself by following the link but here is what I commented (assuming my comments makes it through moderation):

This makes perfect sense if we see the church gathered as primarily a time to observe a performance. We certainly don't want to distract the performer before he goes on stage. Of course if we actually gather for fellowship and mutual edification as we see modeled and commanded in Scripture, this sort of advice makes no sense and in fact seems more designed to treat clergy as celebrity divas who mustn't be disturbed by the petty things like talking to people before they get to show off how well they have prepared. This really gets to the difference between how we understand church in our religious culture and how it is revealed in Scripture.

Are clergy so emotionally fragile and prone to performance anxiety that we have to walk on eggshells around them before their sermon? Speaking from personal past experience I would say yes. The entire post sounds like parenting advice for the parents of an especially temperamental teenager or perhaps a harried venue manager preparing to host a particularly picky rock star (Google "outrageous celebrity demands" to see what I mean).

Don't talk to them. Don't ask them to make an announcement (even one you write out for them!). Don't introduce people to them, they don't have time to meet new people when they are about to go on stage. For crying out loud don't ask them to deal with any issues, fix your own dang toilet lady!

Let me lay it on the line. When the church gathers if you are too self-absorbed and consumed with performance anxiety to be bothered with talking to the people who you are supposed to be ministering to, you aren't a pastor, you are a performer and you need to know the difference. 

This post also reveals a serious problem within the church regarding how we view pastors and "preaching". Eric wrote:

As with so many inside the comfy confines of the institution, Rainer believes that pastors have some sort of exclusive communication connection with God. In particular, he acts as if what a pastor happens to say from a pulpit is a literal special message from God. This is nothing more than mystical mumbo-jumbo and complete nonsense.

I would largely concur. I don't necessarily fault most pastors for this situation. They are simply the products of our religious culture that elevates the act of giving a prepared talk on a topic to hearing the oracles of God. When men enter enter the clergy system they are inundated with people telling them how critical their sermons are and elevating those sermons to a holy act. There is so much emphasis on the sermon that a 45 minute prepared talk has become the focal point for the church gathering while actual, Biblically based reasons for gathering like sharing a meal and encouraging one another are tacked on as special events held a couple of times a year. Little wonder that virtually every pastors sweats over their sermon all week and feels inadequate and discouraged afterward. It is an impossible standard to meet because it has been made into something that was never intended. The failure to understand this is what leads to "multi-campus churches" where tens of thousands of people call a man they have never met and who wouldn't know them by sight, much less by name, "pastor". Biblical pastoral ministry implies and demands interpersonal relationships. If you don't have that, you have something very different from what Scripture shows us about leadership, serving and teaching in the church.

If you really want to pastor people, to minister to them, then encourage them to talk to you. Go out of your way to meet new people. Don't worry if your sermon starts a couple of minutes late or is a little less polished in delivery than you might like, very few people are going to remember it even a few hours later anyway. They will remember if you took the time to talk to them even when you are busy, they will remember that you seemed genuinely glad to meet them instead of giving them an irritated perfunctory greeting while rushing off to deliver your sermon. Better yet remove the religious barriers that make this sort of post by Rainer necessary. Teaching in the church is a brother edifying and equipping his brothers and sisters, not a performance to be enjoyed and then forgotten. 

We have enough divas in the celebrity world, we don't have room or need for them in the church.

1 comment:

Neil Braithwaite said...

Maybe some body guards would be in order to help keep the lowly laity away from the self-esteemed clergy. After all, isn’t the laity supposed to have more respect for the clergy than to approach them before their paid performance to “their” flock?

Unfortunately, the only time the majority of “church members” even get to see their pastor is on Sunday morning. Notwithstanding this fact, man’s church is grounded on the hierarchical-spectator system which is specifically designed to elevate highly educated and trained leaders above (And away from) the uneducated masses.

These low-information Christians are not supposed to have unrestrained access to their leaders. The system is designed to create a safe distance between the clergy and laity. Meeting once a week for a couple of hours where the clergy is fully engaged in performance “mode” helps to keep the laity away. And having the clergy keep basically the same office hours during the day as the laity also helps keep them away during the week. The whole system is designed to keep the laity in the dark about the true Ekklesia Jesus is building. Unfortunately, man's church system is working very well.

This guy's article isn't much of a shock if you understand the truth. He's just trying to inform the ignorant masses of their proper place in the system.