A friend sent me an interesting brief article based on a recent poll by the Associated Press, check it out: Poll Ask a pastor? For my slacker friends out there who won’t peruse a short article I’ll spoon feed you…according to the poll the majority of people of faith do not feel comfortable taking questions to a pastor. That seems strange to me. How do churches and other faith institutions improve that?
I’m in a strange and old profession as a pastor. It is not something I would chose or encourage anyone to pursue, unless they discerned a Divine calling. In other words, it is not a path one should go down unless you have some spiritual experience that guides you to embrace the role. There is no doubt that being a religious leader is unsettling vocation. I love being a part of the life of a congregation celebrating births, baptisms, weddings, traditional holidays and moments of spiritual growth. In a strange way, I also appreciate the hard moments funerals, hospital visits, and faith crisis. These aspects of my service are special and wonderful because I am invited to take part in some of the most intimate and vulnerable moments in the life of families. I enjoy networking with the community and building relationships in the church. The everyday tedium of meetings and people complaining about x, y, and z are necessary, but less enjoyable. If you are a person of faith, a clergy person (aka religious leader) is someone who is there to help you grow.
Someone who plays soccer can learn skills and improve physical abilities on their own in the backyard or the park. When that person has a coach they can hone their skills and be pushed toward further growth. Most people would agree that a coach helps you improve physically, so if you are “spiritual” person why would you not seek out a spiritual coach. Let me make it clear that I’m not pandering for affirmation or trying to justify my vocation. I’ll be the first to encourage people to NOT follow any religious leader blindly trusting everything they say, as some Christian traditions encourage. I firmly believe that God gave us brains and expects us to use them. I invite people to not check their brains in at the door. I appreciate when people question certain aspects of faith or have some critical feedback for my last sermon (at least they were listening).
So I wonder, do people in an age of technology, where answers can be answered quickly by Siri or Google, need pastors and other professional religious leaders? And if so, how have these people been helpful to you? How have you been hurt by religious leaders? Feel free to respond or reflect as the Spirit leads you and don’t worry about hurting my feelings (my identity is not wrapped up in my vocation, but rather as a child of God). Please share your thoughts.