Compelled to Be a Pastor: Piggybacking Off Rachel Held Evans’ “15 Reasons I Left Church”
Two days ago Rachel Held Evans put up a blog post entitled “15 Reasons I Left Church.” It cut me to the heart. I deeply empathize with each and every point on that list and cannot express the degree to which it troubles me that people like her feel like they have no good options for a local church community. That’s a tragedy because the American Church desperately needs people like her who have a heart like King David’s and are painfully honest about their lives of faith. As I read the post I felt this deep sense of confirmation not only that people like her are precisely why I feel led to become a pastor, but that this is why I need to start the new paradigm of church I’ve written so much about.11.That is, I’m compelled to act because people like her–people like me and many of my friends–feel as though we have no where to go. With an appreciative hat tip to Rachel, I’ve adapted her list to convey my own perspective:
- 2.Two points of clarification. First, Bible studies and baby showers are just two of many possible examples. Second, I’m in no way diminishing or criticizing stay at home moms or those who like planning baby showers. All I’m saying is that there is no definite mold for all women. My conviction is that the highest calling of each woman is to be or do whatever God has called them to be or do.I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because I know women who are far better at planning Bible studies than baby showers, but too many evangelical churches degrade them by only wanting them to plan baby showers.2
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because when most Christians in small groups talk about sin they get bogged down on sex, thereby failing to experience the Spirit’s grace and healing in the full breadth of their lives.33.The same could also be said of getting bogged down with eschatological speculation, political fervor, sign gifts, theological systems, etc.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because the typical congregation sees the difficult questions that constantly occupy my mind to be a liability rather than a strength, something to be stamped out rather than explored in community.44.What about working out your fear with fear and trembling, or loving God with your mind?
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because most of the new church plants I’ve attended felt like a cult and/or country club, and I’m equally nauseated by both.55.Creepy or shallow. Quite often these are the only options.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because I believe in an old earth, am open to the possibility of theistic evolution, and am tired of my faith being under siege because I practice the hermeneutics I learned at two conservative Bible colleges by interpreting Genesis according to its genre, i.e. (Ancient Near Eastern) creation myth.66.For those new to the topic, I recommend an essay by Daniel C. Harlow entitled “Creation According to Genesis: Literary Genre, Cultural Context, Theological Truth.”
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because wounded and struggling Christians who’ve been devastated by the institutional church are in desperate need of encouragement to persevere while wrestling through their faith.77.They need to be told that that disbelief, not doubt, is the opposite of faith. Don’t laments comprise something like a third of the Book of Psalms? Should not that influence not only our corporate worship, but the overall culture of our churches?
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because we’ve utterly lost sight of what disciple-making meant in the first century largely Jewish cultural context in which Jesus lived, so we either woefully neglect it with one hour per week “discipleship training” or condescendingly treat people like a subhuman pet project–both of which have left me with scars.88.For a more extended treatment, see my old post “An Unusual Anglican Church: How We’ll Make True Disciples.”
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because I’ve learned from the wisdom of St. John Chrysostom and have repented of my short-sighted, arrogant prostitution of the eternal Bride of Christ to a temporal political ideology;99.In my case, it was the fundamentalist belief that American Christian = Republican, but I’ve seen the opposite error manifested on the other side of the political spectrum. by linking Christianity with political party we create a stumbling block unto the Gospel for basically half the population, by the way.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because my peers are inadvertently being driven in droves away from the institutional church by canned, simplistic, pious answers when they ask tough questions about things in the Bible like violence, misogyny, and genocide throughout the Old Testament.1010.I’m not saying there aren’t good answers, but can we at least recognize that these are difficult issues that will require complex answers?
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because I’m tired of pastors pretending to be the spiritual equivalent of Superman, not only by setting themselves above their congregations by concealing their own sins but also in setting those people up for major heartache when the facade inevitably comes crumbling down.1111.This is one of the issues I dealt with in “An Unusual Anglican Church: Intentional Theological Diversity?“
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because, setting aside the issue of the Eucharist just now,12.I’ve heard a great many thinking women rightfully complain that they dislike theology because it’s such a male-dominated and centered discipline. The implicit message that is being sent is that male thinking (especially on God) is more important than female thinking, and that’s messed up I believe the nature of the Body of Christ requires that both men and women fill the pulpit because they communicate co-equally important and complementary perspectives on Holy Scripture.12
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because while my generation believes passionately in evangelism, we see through the unseemly bait and switch evangelism tactics where our churches ultimately care more about the “soul” than the “body.”1212.It’s a false dichotomy wrapped in Neo-Gnostic tendencies.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because it’s royally messed up that so many of my friends will learn more about addressing poverty and injustice in a single episode of Oprah than they did in a quarter century of Sunday School.1313.Kudos to Anabaptist and African American churches for being the shining exceptions.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because, I don’t care what anyone claims, we all have days where we question God’s mere existence and people need to be prepared for it.1414.People need to stop being fed these lies that after they become a Christian all will be well and they’ll magically prance around in a real-life Candy Land. The christian life will inevitably contain many dark nights of the soul. See: Paul.
- I want to be a pastor and start a new church model because American evangelical churches have a rampant epidemic of plank-in-eye disease that inhibits their ability to speak prophetically into the public sphere.1515.We need to deal with our own in-house hypocrisies–divorce rates, pornography addictions, etc.–before we chide others for their loss of sexual ethics in things like the government’s definition of marriage, for example.