Like dandelions on a church lawn, there are some cliches that nothing seems to kill . . . but that doesn't mean I won't stop trying. So here's my list of "six things I never want to hear again at a Pastor's Meeting":
1. “You should spend an hour in preparation for every minute you spend in the pulpit.”
Get serious – anyone who does this either:
- the Senior Pastor of a very large church, or
- preaching very short sermons.
Checking around, I find that most pastors spend roughly 12-hours a week in sermon preparation (plus or minus three hours). So tell us how to use this time more effectively –and please stop burdening us with unrealistic expectations!
2. “We need a return to Primitive Godliness”
As commonly used, this means “let’s stop talking about the tough issues that trouble our church today.”
3. “Traditional Family Values”
Actually, one of the biggest things that the Romans hated about Christianity was the way it subverted their traditional family values – and if you can’t understand why they felt that way, then maybe you haven’t preached lately on Luke 14:26.
4. “Life in the trenches.”
Soldiers haven’t fought in trenches since World War I – and when they did, their senior officers were not there in the trenches with them; instead, they were enjoying life’s little luxuries back in headquarters. So what are we really saying when we use this phrase to describe the pastoral ministry?
5. “Conservative churches are growing.”
Some are. Some aren’t. By and large:
- Conservative churches that embrace popular culture are growing (think Rick Warren).
- Conservative churches that kick out their moderates are not (think Southern Baptists).
[October 9: just finished an article in the October 4 issue of Christian Century on the decline in mainline churches; if the sociologists who wrote it are right, 70% of the reason for this decline is due to smaller family sizes, and 30% is due to a drop-off in people switching from conservative to mainline churches. And in both cases, the reason may be something as simple as the fact that mainline churches have pretty much always allowed their members to use birth-control, while conservative churches did not. Whether that's true or not, it's something to think about -- GB.
6. “The historic faith of the Protestant Reformers.”
The implication, of course, is that any change in our understanding of prophecy or Creationism is a crypto-Catholic plot – an implication that overlooks the fact that Martin Luther also believed:
- the sun circles the earth,
- infants should be baptized,
- and the Book of Revelation should be excluded from the New Testament.
In short, Luther was a great man . . . but that didn’t mean he was always right.
7. "He has the heart of a pastor." Often used to introduce Conference administrators, this phrase is meant to reassure me. Instead, it reminds me of Stephen King's remark that he can write the way he does "because I have the heart of a small child -- and I keep it in a jar on my desk."
And remember: “Sinners can always repent, but stupid is forever” – evangelist Billy Sunday.