by John Meunier
Brian McLaren’s latest column at Patheos is getting lots of action on my Facebook and Twitter feed. A quote from McLaren that seems to resonate with a lot of the clergy goes like this:
It may sound harsh for me to say, but I think it is unethical to send gifted, idealistic, and high-potential young leaders into intractable, dysfunctional congregations that will grind them up, disillusion them, and damage them for life.
I’ve seen two reactions to this. One group shouts “Amen!” and the other group finds the attitude toward local churches condescending and insulting.
I suspect personal experience has a lot to do with this, but the whole conversation does remind me of a few things.
First, churches are jam-packed with broken, sinful, damaged people. And, as Eugene Peterson says, the person in the pulpit is no exception. Of course they engage in lots of bad behaviours. The church full of perfect people is somewhere around Revelation 20.
Second, despite this truth, we believe in transformation. God loves us but does not want to leave us as we are. God is at work in all these places that grind up pastors. He was at work before the bright-eyed pastor showed up. He will be at work long after that pastor has moved on to position he or she really wanted all along.
We are a tangled up mess, aren’t we?
The church is full of broken, crazy, grace-touched, and devil-taunted people.
There are plenty of churches that do not deserve the name of church. There are plenty of pastors who bring more shame than glory to the name of Christ. Somehow — for reasons beyond my comprehension — we are the unlikely instrument of God’s redeeming work.
Lord have mercy on us all.