A few weeks ago I asked my Wednesday night class this question, “How many of you would want your children or grandchildren to be preachers?” There were a few who could make a case for it but many could not. We want our kids to grow up to be all sorts of things, but “preacher”? On no…not my child. We know what churches do to preachers and it isn’t always pretty. Granted, there are many preachers and ministers who go through a long tenure at the same congregation in a healthy ministry and maintain a healthy family life. Maybe that is even typical…hard to say. But that is not perceived as typical because we all have our horror story of when things went south and the pain that was inflicted on ministers and their families. No, we don’t want our children to become preachers. We want them to have a stable job where people speak well of them and we have a hard time believing that can or will happen in ministering at a local congregation. And we certainly don’t want our grandchildren to be preacher’s kids…we know what happens to preacher’s kids. No, that’s certainly not what we want.
If you ask many of us in ministry there are certainly times we get frustrated…who doesn’t. But I think we would also say that ministry is one of the most rewarding and positive things we have ever or will ever do! There is a disconnect here that needs to be mended.
What is going on here? Part of the problem is that I think many have lost a compelling vision of what church is all about…that faith is all about…what God is all about…what ministry can actually participate in and the amazing blessing it is to partner with God through the vocation of ministry.
Sometimes I wonder if people really understand why we do what we do…not just in ministry but “in church.”
One of the times I wonder about this most is when hearing the things we fight over in Churches of Christ. We aren’t fighting over methods of discipling or outreach…or even sin…we fight over everything from clapping to who can pass communion. In doing so we communicate that the most important thing on earth is swallowed up in minutia while the very reason we would seem to exist gets a back seat. Again, real or just perceived…it is very powerfully communicated at times.
The vision and the message in those fights is less than compelling to a generation that desperately wants to change the world but less and less sees the church as a viable means of doing so. Go to youth rallies and college gatherings and observe the interest of the young people. They would rather pursue
short term missions and para-church non-profits than “work for a church” partly because they don’t get the connection.
We have to cast a more compelling vision. If we are going to fight, let it be over something important enough to get up stirred up like…maybe lost people or injustice…or maybe prejudice or the places that need a light to shine in them and around them. If we are going to fight, let’s let our kids see us fighting for what matters…fighting for what we find God and Christ fighting for.
If I am honest with myself, often the way we go about things is not as compelling as it could be or should be. That’s a shame. In the meantime we have a generation that is viewed as having checked out of church….but that is not entirely true or fair. They have checked out of the games that we play in congregational life that somehow we have confused as being “church” but in reality it is far from it. We have lost the imagination and involvement of our best and brightest young people…not because they don’t care or we don’t care about God or the church or evangelism…it is because they don’t see how to connect what we are doing (aka “church”) with making a meaningful impact on the world. So they will find a place where it can be done. Oh what a shame!
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be preachers…because we know what happens to preachers and that is not going to happen to my baby…not on my watch. In all of this something is very broken. It should break us too so that we go about the difficult work of fixing this. Let’s turn this around so that people can see ministry as the most viable place and position from which to make an eternal impact on this world…just like we find in the pages of the scriptures we so frequently say we are imitating! That is compelling.