Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Problems with new pastors. . .

Newly minted pastors are often problems for old parishes.  Right now you are probably thinking that the direction I am going with this will end up talking about a lack of experience, failure to build relationships before making changes, etc...  Those are problems some people might identify (and maybe truthfully) but there are other problems.

New pastors come with enthusiasm.  Old parishes (like old pastors) often grow tired and lazy about things.  Perhaps there is a good side of complacency but I have yet to find it.  We who have been in the pews and in the pulpits a while have seen many things come and go.  The upside of this is that we know things will endure and we are not the saviors of the moment.  The downside of this is that we no longer get excited about much of anything -- certainly not church.  A new pastor comes along and he can hardly sleep Saturday night because he is so excited thinking about Sunday morning.

New pastors have dreams.  Old parishes tend to fade away in part because the people have stopped dreaming.  We have grown too accustomed to disappointment.  We have seen the peeling paint and ceiling cracks for so long, we don't notice these things anymore.  New pastors come along and they dream about addressing problems and fixing things we long time folks did not even know needed attention.

New pastors take faith and the church seriously.  Old parishes (like old pastors) are too likely to live and let live.  Doctrine, worship, and piety are old news.  A new pastor shows up and he actually believes every word in the creed (even to kneel or genuflect at the incarnation).  A new pastor expects people to pay attention to the Word and actually confess the confessions of the Church when, the truth is, we have come to take these things with a grain of salt, so to speak.

New pastors are interested in new people.  Old parishes (like old pastors) often seem to have made their peace with the fact that few new people come through the doors on Sunday.  In contrast to that, new pastors are often excited by apologetics (not saying I am sorry but rather defending the faith in a winsome manner).  They want to seek out people -- even the dead wood on the membership rolls -- and welcome them (back).

New pastors believe in the Church.  Old parishes (like old pastors) take the Church seriously, believe the Church is essential to the faith and the faithful and relevant to the age.  They expect great things from the Church and those who are her members.  A new pastor thinks that the Church is a good thing while many of those who have been around for a while think it is at best a necessary thing.

Wait, come to think of it, new pastors and new members are very much alike in this regard.  Maybe that is why we prepare ourselves for a new pastor and cannot wait when new members become as complacent and lazy as us old ones. 

Speaking personally here, I wish we could all remain new, fresh, with big expectations and big hopes and dreams for life together as the Church.  Being new is not so much a chronological thing as it is an attitudinal thing.  I love it when people wonder "why not" instead of shrugging it off with a "why would anyone want to..."  We need a mix of perspectives in the Church.  Too often we have too many who have gotten tired of doing thing, weary of disappointment when things do not go as planned, and adjusted their hopes and expectations too low to make it easier and easier to deal with their disappointments.  Church growth gurus are always telling us how excited and effective folks are when a mission is still a mission and how things tend to get old when the parish gets old (saddled with a building, debts, and an institutional memory).  It does not have to be that way.

There are folks in my parish who are old in age but new in attitude.  They are constantly looking hopefully at the future and expectantly at the Church.  Sometimes I am one of those people.  That is why I like about new pastors, freshly minted from seminary with the new pastor smell of a recent ordination.  They challenge me and the churches in ways we need to be challenged.  They tend to take the faith seriously, take the Church seriously, and take the work of the Kingdom seriously.

In my parish, we have folks who look at us and the Kingdom with fresh eyes.  We need that.  Buildings need to be freshened every now and then and so do our attitudes.  The folks operating in international and national mission in Synod are like new pastors -- they are excited, enthusiastic, and expectant.  They actually believe the Word of the Lord will accomplish God's purpose in sending it forth and that it will not fail.  When we catch this vision, things do happen -- not because we make them happen but because we are more likely to believe, confess, and teach boldly.  Yep, there will be disappointments and struggles and failures.  Everyone knows this -- even new pastors and new members.  But those who refuse to let these things dampen their hopes, dreams, and expectations of Christ working by His Spirit through the means of grace will also see accomplishments, victories, and successes (great and small).

As my friend Will Weedon so often says, we have not tried Lutheranism and found it wanting.  We have not yet tried Lutheranism.  New pastors and new members are ready and waiting to try Lutheranism while some of us who have been around a while think we have and things did not go so well.  We need each other -- some wisdom from age and experience and some excitement and enthusiasm about actually being Lutherans!


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent points. In my view, the best approach is to have newly ordained pastors spend one year in their home state, going to different LCMS churches to serve and assist existing pastors, developing relationships and learning the differences between various churches and groups of people. They should be exposed to youth ministry, families, and elder groups. They should spend time at inner city, college, and even in soup kitchens run by Christians. I think one year of this type of exposure will teach both humility and how to deal with people. It is important to deal well with people, and Jesus gives many examples on the Bible for emulation.

Kirk Skeptic said...

JF, you're assuming that people wish to be dealt with rather than being the ones doing the dealing, including running good men out of their pulpits and new members not perceived to be useful out of any chance of service inthe church. I do not share your assumption.