Thursday, October 11, 2012

Squaring Off with the Southern Baptists

I hate Southern Baptists. 

Oh, not really.

I hate Southern Baptist preachers.

Well, that’s not exactly true either. 

I sort of hate a handful of Southern Baptist preachers and I have a solid reason for it. 

They’re a--holes.

I’m sorry to say it. I kept trying to think of a more polite word, but I just can’t find one. I’m even sorrier that it’s true that they’re a--holes. 

They may not be bad people, but they have some characteristics that lead them to do evil things, and that annoys me. 

Like the time my five-year-old son came home from one of their functions, afraid he’d go to hell if he weren’t baptized the proper way.  Before he told us, he spent several lying awake worrying that he would “die tonight, wondering if he would go to heaven.”

Before then, I used to try to let well enough alone, but I’ve had enough of the Southern Baptist organization coming after my people and telling them the same thing they told my child, that they were going to hell for being my church. So I don’t pull punches anymore.

In the place I live now, I squared off with the SB minister at the ministerial alliance meeting, and told him I didn’t want him trying to convert every graduating senior of the high school at the baccalaureate. I shook him up enough that he decided to put me on his church’s prayer chain. “We need to pray for the unity of our ministerial alliance, and then he mentioned my name.”    

A friend of mine and a prominent member of my church heard about it and she was pretty mad when she came to see me. “It’s being spread around town,” she said.

It made me laugh.  “It won’t hurt me,” I said. “It will make me look good. I’m a nice guy and everyone knows it, while he is an a--hole, and everyone knows that too.”

In fact, I got a couple of his die-hard members coming to my church because they couldn’t stand him anymore. By the way, soon after this incident, he suddenly left his church and moved out of town on a Sunday afternoon (it’s hard to believe he had problems getting along with his own beloved, exclusively saved flock)

When he quit, I realized my job was going to be more difficult because he wouldn’t be sending me any more of his members.  But it will be okay, I’m sure they’ll find a suitable replacement.

Okay, I’ll confess that I don’t really hate Southern Baptist’s at all. But they are sick and dysfunctional and it’s a contagious disease that they try to pass on to the entire community. 

They’re not the only churches like this, but they’re the biggest.

They intend to be of help. They feed hungry people, and have clothes closets, and will save the same person at least three times in his life. For a people who say they teach grace, they use a lot of fear and shame to motivate themselves and others. 

Most of the members are conscientious and trying to do right. But it also allows a place for more than a few a--holes to be their ministers. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Hardest Lessons

Thriving Pastor on Facebook posed this question: "What are some of the hardest lessons you've had to learn as a pastor? I couldn't pass this up, so here is a partial list.  

1. Seminaries train people to be theologians, but they don’t train us to run or start churches. We can’t do without theologians in a world that loves its pop spirituality, but we also need to know how to read a financial spreadsheet, organize volunteers, deliver a message, supervise staff, do the work of a social worker, maneuver in political waters, and relate to the public, all of which I’ve had to learn (somewhat imperfectly) on my own.

2. You won’t get the love you need from your church. No matter how much they say you're part of their family, it is not true (I expect some argument, but I'm right about this)  They pay you to do the job and when you can’t do it for them, they want you to leave so they can get someone else. Your family has to be ready for this, too.

3. God is never who you think he should be and she is never really what you teach others about him/her.  Theologians need to remember that the search to understand God never ends. That’s hard enough to accept for yourself, but it’s sometimes intolerable for your people who want you to tell them concrete answers to their spiritual questions. 

4. The quest for truth often needs to be put on hold so you can help someone in distress.

5. Most of the time, the people you help cannot return the favor. Don’t expect their loyalty. That’s not why you helped them in the first place (or is it?). 

6. Friends are hard to come by and come from unexpected places. The ministry can be unbearably lonely, so never, ever take a true friend for granted.