Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another good article - ministry and addictive behavior

This one is a near-must read if you're a type-a minister like me. Sally Morgenthaler writes from personal experience how destructive cycles in ministry can fuel disastrous addictive behavior. She says that a sense of entitlement can be at the heart of making excuses for sinful behavior, and that that sense of entitlement is often the result of an unwritten contract between pastor and church: I please you, you pay me well and honor me and show me gratitude. The problem is that this system is based on making people happy. Besides its deep theological flaws that short-circuit the divine blessing in ministry, it also doesn't work. People tend to be less happy about their pastors than they should be, and pastors tend to be less happy with the way thier people treat them than they should be. So pastor is either witheld honor and gratitude, or he/she believes that it is withheld, and then he/she gets resentful that the church isn't treating him/her fairly, and then he/she starts making excuses for private sins because he/she believes that he/she deserves it.

On a side note, I still can't wait for a good gender-neutral pronoun - maybe we should just keep using "they" until all the grammar books give up and go along with it.

But really read the article - it's here.

Good article - Pastors have all the time they need

Today i read this article from Leadership Journal talking about the "gift of time" pastors have recieved - if you're feeling stressed it's a good read, and if you're not feeling stressed please comment so i know there is at least one of you out there somewhere :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Haggard thoughts

So, despite my theoretical schedule of getting the house clean today, i've spent half the morning so far poring over election results, and the other half reading and pondering about the Ted Haggard story. I find his story nearly terrifying- not because it causes me to doubt my faith or because i'm afraid of what effect his story will have on non-Christians.

I am concerned about the latter, but what really troubles me as i have seen a good number of Christian leaders fall in recent years, that it seems no one is immune - including me. As a lady minister i'm not particularly concerned that i'll end up addicted to porn or visiting prostitutes or the other common issues, although I won't deny that sexual addiction and infidelity occurs in women too. Still, i know there are plenty of hazards i'll be provided with, and that's what scares me. Often we tell each other that we need to be in an accountability group, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Rev. Haggard had one. I'd be shocked if I learned that he had become distanced from scripture, if for no other reason than that preparing sermons requires it. So i'm having less faith in the maxim that "This book [Bible] will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this book." I'd be shocked to discover that he had stopped praying, and for all i know he may have been faitful to take time off for rest. He might have had standards about when he was and was not allowed to be alone with women, but that doesn't do much good for male prostitutes. Large church pastors may appear to be especially susceptible, but i've known pastors of small churches to be found guilty of equally-serious sins.

All this adds up to make me wonder if there is any prayer, habit, boundary, or commitment that can keep a person from ending up in Haggard's position. And that's what scares me. Even Gordon MacDonald in a Leadership article makes the statement "No amount of accountability seems to be adequate to contain a person living with such inner conflict." (full article) Which makes me wonder if i have any ability to predict my future as it relates to what failures i may or may not commit.

I did come across one article on Leadership's website that was really long but totally worth it. Basically, the anonymous author doesn't say much about preventing getting trapped in private sin, but he does deal out a good dose of hope that it can be escaped from. It's called The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust. I'd really reccommend it if any of this is meaningful to you. It's good. He had prayed for years to be released and it hadn't happened. But the one thing that seemed to be present when he was finally able to escape that had not been present before was real confession, to a friend and to his wife. I wonder if that's the real key - when you're willing to admit it to those who matter. At that point the double life collapses and you can't hide it any more. But even before that there was a kind of awakening that was beyond his doing. It almost as if God said "It's time, i'm going to give you what you need to make the changes that you need to."

I'd love to find some research that shows one thing that all fallen ministers have in common - so i can avoid that thing and never get into trouble. Or, better yet, one exclusive trait of ministers who didn't get into trouble in the first place. But until i find it, the encouragement that someone was able to get out is enough for this morning.

Post-election sentiments.

As I was reading the election results a minute ago, our puppy came up and dropped a tennis ball in front of me. I thought, "you know, it would be a good day to be a dog."

  • A dog doesn't have to wonder whether the election results would have been different if he had prayed harder.
  • A dog doesn't have to wonder whether the election results would have been different if he had done more to encourage others to vote or done more to support a particular candidate.
  • A dog doesn't have to think about the people who agreed with him on most things but didn't vote because they didn't think they could support "the lesser of two evils," and he doesn't have to wonder if the election results would have been different if they had just voted.
  • A dog doesn't have to wonder if the moral culture in the country will get worse after the elections.
  • A dog doesn't have to worry about fellow dogs being encouraged to get abortions, or being aborted themselves, partially as a result of the decisions of the people that got elected. And, back to the first few, a dog doesn't have to wonder whether or not he could have done more to keep those people from being elected
  • A dog doesn't have to sort through the varying news reports and try to figure out who's being biased and who's telling the whole story.
  • A dog (at least one in a home rather than in a shelter) doesn't have to think about the economy. Of course, if its owners lose their jobs or something it could affect him, but he's blissfully ignorant. Plus, it would take a pretty bad recession to hurt him since his needs are pretty simple anyway. The people's mp3 players would probably go before his kibble. At least, i hope they would.
  • A dog doesn't have to think about foregin policy. Another blissfull ignorance. And, of course, there aren't many things dogs are at war with each other over right now, so he doesn't have to wonder what causes are worth the life of a dog, or what is the best way to protect the rights and freedom of dogs both locally and globally.
Of course, dogs can't know the joy of working for a cause, or of seeing victory. But on this day, when my meager contribution to the process has proved fruitless, when i'm concerned about the future of my state and my country, and when the mixed messages from the media outlets leave me genuinely confused about the issues in the first place, for this day it'd be nice to be a dog.

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Trick

I just discovered that if i spill a few drops of gatorade on the carpet, it can be quickly remedied by calling my dog over and pointing to the spot. He licked it up quite efficiently and now i can't even find the spot!

Sometimes it really is fun having a dog.


So i was reading Tim Schmoyer's blog and found out about a website called exchristian.net. I guess i'm not sure how to describe it. It's distrubing, but not because they're vulgar. It's because the people on there openly and actively claim that they tried Jesus and He failed them. As hard as it is to try to understand how someone could, as they claim, actively seek Christ and seek truth and still after many years find themselves empty-handed, it's even more troubling to see the Christians who get on the site and blast out some bible verses or books people should read and tell them they're all rebelling against God and going to hell. A few of the Christians' posts are more respectful, and they are in turn answered more respectfully.

If you want to hear the testimonies of people who've been disappointed with the faith, i'd encourage you to go read a couple of the posts. Maybe it will help us avoid some of the hypocricy and lovelessness that drove a lot of these people away. Maybe one of us will have the opportunity to respond to one of their questions in a way they'll understand. But whatever you do don't be an idiot and blast some rhetoric at them and expect them to convert.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My very own Kettle

Today I got an e-mail that the Salvation army is now doing "virtual" kettles - and I got one for my blog! I'm actually really excited about this, because i know it's getting harder for them to find "physical" places that will let them set one up. I never thought I'd have a "space" that i'd be able to let them use. If you could donate even the equivalent of some pocket change - I'd really appreciate it. Just click on the link on the left.

If you want to put a kettle at your own blog - check them out at www.redkettleklub.org - and then let me know that you did. I just set mine up like a business one and put my blog name as the name of the business, i hope there's nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Woo Hoo New Core!

I'm excited, i just got an e-mail about '07's Youth Specialties Core Training - it looks really good. I've been for the past 4 years and every year its good stuff - and this year's topic of hurting teens has me on the edge of my seat. If you're interested check out http://core.go.youthspecialties.com/