I’ve recently come across two articles that illustrate why this is a great time to be a pastor. Or, for that matter, a follower of Christ.
Presbyterian leaders in Pittsburgh reeling from latest exodus:
At least 200 other churches have similarly left the 1.9 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) since 2007. The most prominent issue was acceptance of local option on gay ordination, but those departing say that changing sexual standards reflect a broader disregard for the biblical authority. Defenders of the changes compare them to earlier reinterpretations of scripture involving women’s ordination, divorce and slavery.
Tod Bolsinger’s blog: Hemorrhaging Pastors:
Three. In one day. On Monday, I heard of three of my pastor friends who all resigned this week. No affairs, no scandal, no one is renouncing faith. But three, really good, experienced, pastors all turned in resignations and walked away. Two are leaving church ministry all together.
I have been hearing from more pastors these days. Some of it is related to my work with TAG Consulting, a lot of it is because I am, well, one of them. We chat and email and text and the common thread is always the same: “The church is stuck and we don’t know what to do.”
For the record, I’m not planning to resign anything. I like my work and my church. But that doesn’t keep me from seeing the problems. Problems in my denomination, problems in the local church, and my own problems as someone trained to lead a church that no longer exists.
The Church is in crisis. People who don’t see it are kidding themselves, especially pastors. The lay leaders in a congregation ought to know, or certainly ought to suspect. The church as we know it is dying.
But in a perverse way, that’s good news. As Samuel Johnson put it, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
A few weeks after World War II began, the English writer C.S. Lewis gave an address to students at Oxford University called “Learning in War-Time.” In it, he said this:
War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right. All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centred in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realise it. Now the stupidest of us knows. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.
The same is true of the church. In North America, the Church is in a crisis like nothing it has experienced before.
But God is still in his heaven, and Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus told Peter that was the rock upon which he would build his church, and the gates of Hades would not overcome it.
Christ’s Church endures. The programs and buildings and even the friendships we have mistaken for the church may not endure — or let’s be honest: many of those things certainly will not. But it’s not our church, it’s God’s. “Many are the plans in a person’s mind, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
—“How Firm a Foundation”