Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Pastors We See

There are pastors, and there are pastors.

Leadership in the church in America tends to take two very distinct forms.  One, we don't see, in the same way we don't see the air around us.  The other is the only thing we see, because it's so very bright and shiny.

What we don't see is the general reality.

Most congregational leadership exists in the small communities that comprise the vast majority of American churches.  These are the little neighborhood churches, the storefronts, and the gatherings that come together in schools and whatever space they can cobble together.

Within these churches, life revolves around community.  It's small, it's quiet, and faith has an intimate quality.  These little congregations aren't necessarily perfect.  Like human beings, some are sweet and beautiful, some are flawed, some are as mean as a rattlesnake.  But when you're talking about where most pastors reside, you're talking the small church.

That means most pastors don't really make much of a living at it.  They tend to be either poor, part-time, or otherwise employed.  If they're full time, they're lucky to live like waitresses or librarians, warehouse workers or cops.  It is humble work.  But if you're called to it, you don't much care.

They pour their heart and soul into their communities.  Some are great, and some, well, not so much.  But they are the norm.  They are the fat part of that pastoral bell curve.  When we think of what it means to teach and preach and care for a community, this is where most folks are.

AmeriChrist does not show us these people.  It does not wish us to understand the life and purpose of a pastor through their journey.

Instead, AmeriChrist, Inc. shows us the shiny ones, the one-percenters.  They aren't representative of the reality of pastoring, any more than being the CEO of Monsanto represents what it means to be a farmer.

Instead, they are those who have succeeded by every standard our society has established.  Within our culturally mediated expectations of what it means to be excellent, they define what it is to be the best, to be the thing to which every person should aspire.

They have grown a church, or taken over a growing church.  That church has gotten huge.  Big.  Vast.  Books have been published, and then pitched.  There is a campus, and a media empire.  It is shiny and glorious and remarkably lucrative.  This is what we are asked to aspire to.  It becomes our norm. In AmeriChrist, Inc., where the values of the marketplace define what a pastor is and does, pastoral leadership has several key features, features that track along an arc that leads to that shiny place.

First, pastors are Entrepreneurs.  Second, pastors are Managers.  Third, the pastor is the Chief Executive Officer.  And finally, the pastor becomes the Personification of the Brand.

So...what does it look like for a pastor to be an Entrepreneur?

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