The Clergy’s Dirty Little Secret
That got your attention.
Actually, I wasn’t being completely honest with that headline. My topic today is, indeed, a problem shared by many clergy; and it can be truthfully described as ‘dirty’. But it’s not ‘little’ (in fact, it is huge) and neither is it a ‘secret’ (it is obvious to anyone who has ears to hear.) But what does it matter if the headline doesn’t always match the content of the article. At least I got your attention.
I’m talking about the blame game – how we human beings often react to unpleasant events by blaming someone. It might be my parents (nature or nurture, it is still their fault), my boss, that jerk in the other car, the government, society, God. Hey, just about anything can be to blame for my unhappiness.
It’s my somber duty to tell you that clergy are just like everyone else. They complain. They really do. (I suppose that should be ‘we really do’.) Get a room of clergy together and soon the conversation will turn to the hardships of their calling, or their diminished status in society, or (the usual favorite) church decline. What is to blame for the church’s decline? Well, to most clergy the answers are obvious – kids’ sports, society treating Sundays like every other day, and the digital revolution.
Of course, there is truth in this diagnosis. Sunday is no longer sacred in North American culture. People now have a limitless source of entertainment and information in their pockets. There are mighty and ever-present competitors for the time that the church used to monopolize. But wait a minute … when we blame factors outside our control for our misery, are we not just giving up?
And that is the clergy’s dirty little secret – blaming church decline on things we have no influence over. It’s easy satisfying because it lets us off the hook. If society has caused church decline, then there’s nothing to be done – it’s not my fault – there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
But here’s my response to the clergy’s dirty little secret: kids’ sports did not cause church decline – the church’s failure to adapt to a new environment did. Sunday trading did not cause people to drop out of church – our lack of concern for them did. The digital revolution did not convert people from ‘Christian’ to ‘secular’ – the church’s fear of finding new ways to proclaim its timeless message did.
My answer is not pleasant because it puts the responsibility back on us. We can’t blame factors outside our control any longer. Our task is clear – to proclaim in word and action the transforming love of God is ways that people will receive, understand, and respond to. Of course, it’s not just clergy. It’s all of us who own the name of Christ. Our task is to seize the new opportunities that are open to us.
With this ‘invitation’ ringing in our ears, I’d like to announce a new initiative that I hope will help us become more focused as we try to communicate God’s love with folks who don’t yet go to a church. (Drum roll please…) The Welcome and Evangelism Committee!
God has given St John’s a unique role in our town. We are blessed with a package of gifts that no other church has (ideal location, inspiring music, amazing lay people, gifted leaders, beautiful liturgy, inspirational preaching, lively children’s and youth ministry, compassionate caring, transformative educational opportunities, extraordinary building … and on and on. Sure, all churches possess some of these things, but we’re the only downtown church to have all of them.)
Seriously, there is no other congregation quite like us. The fact is this: Some people in Montgomery will only come to a living faith in Christ through the ministry of St John’s. That is why we need The Welcome and Evangelism Committee to lead us in the vital task of connecting with unchurched people and drawing alongside them in their spiritual walk.
I’m delighted to tell you that Scott Mitchell will chair The Welcome and Evangelism Committee. So, get ready to hear of new initiatives flowing from Scott and his team in the near future.