Al Mohler

I Thought Most Pastors Were Short Timers

That is what they told me. They were the denominational representatives at a Placement Breakfast for seminary graduates in 1988. “Every week in Oklahoma there are a dozen staff members who leave and another twelve that begin at a new place,” the fellow I came to know remarked. Twenty-four staff changes any given week. Those statistics were enough to rattle any sense of longevity.

I remember reading the pastoral history of the first church I pastored. Very few pastors stayed beyond three years. I was one of those statistics. We enjoyed our time in Gould, Oklahoma. No one invited us to leave. In fact, I think they would have liked us to stay. We were going to return to Texas for my second trip through Seminary. We moved back across the Red River.

Today, there is only the history of the First Baptist Church, Gould, Oklahoma. The town boasted a population of 321 in 1989. Rural Oklahoma is full of good people but not many job prospects. The school consolidated with Hollis in 1990. Over time the lack of population growth combined with an aging population forced the church to close. We, of course, were saddened.

Yesterday Brian and I were chatting. We are new friends. He wondered about pastoral longevity. Brian thought most pastors were short timers. I had to agree that it did seem to be the case. I described a number of pastors I knew who had been at their vocational setting for quite some time, bucking that trend. What is the case?

Al Mohler remarked (2009) that the average stay for an evangelical pastor was about three years. Trevin Wax attempted to bust the myth by writing (4/12/2007) the average maybe more near 5-7 years. Sam Rainer wrote (3/12/2013) it was somewhere between 3-7 years. There are many variables that influence the statistic.

We celebrated the completion of 19 years at Snow Hill yesterday. We look forward to many more. I have been thinking about what may have contributed to what I believe is a healthy long-term pastorate. Every time I attempt a list I think of my visceral reactions to those who tout the way to do it.

What I have come to believe is that it is more about your manner of doing things than mechanics of what we do. Early on our church grew at a pretty good pace. I was asked to write a piece describing, “What we did.” All my attempts at alliteration, being catchy, or sounding smart failed me. The truth is we really liked each other. And, we still do. In fact I think we could say after all these years we love each other.

I find it very difficult to preach and talk about God being not less than personal while at the same time objectifying church members as a means to a larger church. Reading the Story of the Invisible God made Visible in Jesus leaves me acutely interested in the way people matter. And, when we talk about Pastoral relationships that also means how a congregation believes their pastor and family are people who matter. This is the activity of Love.

Shared suffering and grief, loving disagreement, and hope filled dreaming have strengthened relationships in our church. I read a description of a young pastor whose preaching style revealed a lack of self-awareness. That may be the case for not taking oneself too seriously. But, a deep self-awareness and honesty about who we are in our relationships goes a long way to deepen the bonds of affection people share. Too often authentic love is inhibited both by pastors who want to be what they are not and church members who will not allow a pastor to be who he or she is.

I do not mean to imply that people do not change or do not need to change. What I mean is illustrated by our interview before becoming Pastor and family in Gould. “Do you play the piano?” The question of course was directed to Patty. She did not pause. “No, but if you want me to take lessons, I might try to learn.” She was not a piano playing pastor’s wife who could provide a two-for-one deal. But, she was willing to let them know she would work to find a place among them to love and serve.

Patty was not asked to take piano lessons. Nor was I. We were invited to grow together. In that regard not much has changed. We have been invited to grow together at Snow Hill. I think we have.

We are as convinced today as we were then we are in the right place. I would even borrow a line from my late friend Lyle, “There is no place I would rather be than right here, right now.”

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Treyvon, a Legal System, and the Justice To Come

Dave Miller encouraged readers at SBC Voices to avoid going Nancy Grace in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict when giving an opinion.

Greg Horton only weighed in because his answer to a question was too long. (R)

Al Mohler reminds readers a tragedy still remains.

Marty Duren chides Christians for accepting confirmation bias.

Rick Davis notes the demise of the Fourth Estate.

I could go on.

But, since I began with Dave I will continue with Dave. He is right. Too many opinions skewed by a priori commitments make the point that hermeneutics goes all the way down. Careful how you state your case.

What really caught my attention was something Dave tweeted just after the Zimmerman verdict was handed down.

I read his exchange with Aaron Weaver and believe that Dave was attempting to target the way many view justice as having only been done when the outcome is what I want. Good point.

However, I did not read the conversation until today and have been mulling Dave’s Tweet since Saturday evening. I even threw in with Aaron when asking Dave for clarification.

 

Never one to pick a cyber fight with a fellow who wears a lime green suit and looks good doing so, I could not help but ruminate over Dave’s Tweet in search of another interpretation.

Rather than attempt to get polemical with Dave, I began wondering about the way Christian language works when it comes to justice. Taken at face value, without the benefit of Dave’s clarification, the comment seemed to affirm that we may equate a legal process with justice. Such a move would require a pristine legal system in order to produce justice. We do not have such a system. We may then conclude that we do not have a system of justice but rather, I suggest, a legal system. It may be a good legal system as far as they go. It may be considered better than most. But, that does not make it just.

Scott Jones points out one way our legal system has been compromised by looking at the very notion of self defense embedded in the U.S. legal system, thanks to John Locke, compared to the Grace-ing going on by the pundits. It depends on one’s perspective as to whether Martin or Zimmerman needed to defend himself. To hear Robert Zimmerman tell it, George’s brother, in an interview with Piers Morgan, in a most bizarre logic, Martin killed himself, was responsible for his own death.

Who needs Nancy with logic like that?

I need to think about it more but I am wondering how Christians in America have been influenced by the reference to our legal system as a system of justice. Our legal system outlines the way we will live together and when a person violates that code he or she is brought before the legal system to be tried and, if convicted, sentenced. But, a sentence does not equate to justice.

A life sentence for murder, even a death sentence, does not equal justice. Those are matters determined in a punishment phase of a legal proceeding. Justice in the sense of reconciliation and restoration, the sort that fits the vision of the Sacred Text, would mean the restoration of the lost life and reconciliation of relationships that brought about the tragedy.

When we describe a jury verdict, and if there be any penalty meted out, as justice is done, we err. Even more, when we work to make our understanding of justification understandable by likening it to our legal system, we make the life and work of Jesus less than it is. When Paul describes the to come subjection of all things under Christ, there seems to me a necessity for a more robust vision of justice than we often think.

Bart Barber gave me some things to think about along these lines.

Talk of the to come, apocalyptic, ordinarily takes the form of coming judgment and punishment. What if we told the story of justice to come complete with the reconciliation and restoration of all things? Might we bridge the damage done by equating legal with justice?

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Jonathan Merritt Outs Sanctimony or, When the Internet Should Go Dark

I met Jonathan Merritt last month. We had exchanged emails over a subject of common interest, the lack of SBC Leadership speaking to the brouhaha over at the ERLC. I have since read his book, A Faith of Our Own. There was little doubt the personal experiences shared in that part of his story were not exhaustive. He is not much older than our oldest daughter.

All of us have parts of our story we hold in reserve. On most occasions we get to open up those spaces to others on our own terms. Not so in other instances.

A friend alerted me to a Southern Baptist Christian blogger turned Christian Enquirer. Under the rubric of just giving facts, said blogger feigned no agenda. Repeatedly he narrated his decision in such a way to present it as inscrutable. Bloggers love web traffic. Even Christians love train wrecks. The convergence of wanting to be read and wanting to read about someone’s possible fall is the perfect Internet storm.

I emailed Jonathan. Read More

Komen, Lifeway, SGM and T4G Or, Maintaining the “as is” Structure

David E Fitch

 

Oh boy. Here’s a question from scotmcknight (@scotmcknight) . Dare I suggest Bill Kinnon (@kinnon) tackle this one? Ok gotta go 🙂 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/02/06/why-3/

Blame Bill Kinnon. He took the bait. David Fitch posted Scot McKnight’s, “Why,” about the different responses to Piper/Driscoll and Tim Keller. Kinnon trod where . . . well we will see where.

Yesterday I was reading the Out of Ur blog post informing readers of the recent decision by Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) to re-instate C.J. Mahaney as President. I vaguely remember when this quake hit last year. Evidently the handling of the situation is churning quite an aftershock.

Several things converged in my mind reading this post concerning my own tribe, the Southern Baptist Convention. Read More

Gender Roles, Context, and the Church – Who Decides? – Guest Post from Natalie’s Narrative

Locating the subject in theo-ecclesial debates is often determined by who frames the question. Such is often the confusion when inter-changing sex and gender. What would a “minority voice” consider as important in the discussions that often turn rancorous?

Today I offer a Guest Post from Natalie originally published over at Natalie’s Narrative. Her title, “Who Gets To Be the Arbiter of Gender Roles in the Church?” Since contexts are important it is not enough to appeal to a certain type of biblicism – see Christian Smith, Bible Made Impossible. Before jumping to that read, consider Natalie’s Narrative on the subject.

I wonder whether there has been thorough reflection on biblical definitions of gender roles translated into today’s terms. I wonder whether North American cultural norms have been uncritically adopted, which then gets clothed in biblical language, immune from criticism as it’s been equated with Scripture itself.

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