|Better keep the people happy or they won't come back.|
G. Jeffrey MacDonald, author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul, wrote an op-ed about clergy burnout. "Clergy burnout" is a hot topic because many pastors and Christian leaders are clergy are flaming out.
Among many clergy, the fire is out. Here are some of MacDonald's key points.
- Pastors work too much.
- A main source of clergy flame-out is "congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling." Because...
- "Churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them." Religion has become consumer-driven. (Christianity has been shaped into this world's mold.)
- "As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy."
- Clergy should not give sermons that make people feel uneasy. What consumer would pay to hear that?!
- MacDonald mentions Greg Boyd's church, when thousands of parishioners quit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn. I was at a conference with Greg. We were sitting in the front row together. Greg got up and preached a beautiful, Jesus-filled message on the Kingdom of God. After he finished he sat down next to me and said, "That's the message I gave which caused a few thousand people to leave my church." I thought, "You have got to be kidding me!" I also thought, "The American Church is in deep trouble."
- Many parishioners, says MacDonald, "[want me to] keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else."
- "Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.
When such an ethic takes root, as it has in generations past, pastors will cease to feel like spiritual concierges. They’ll again know joy in ministering among people who share their sense of purpose. They might even be on fire again for their calling, rather than on a path to premature burnout.
See also -
My book shows how pastors can acquire a praying life - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.