Atheists in the Pulpit

   We hear a great deal about the huge number of persons who leave the ministry each year. This is a little scary.

   We should, perhaps, be more concerned about many who do not leave. So many of the fellows I talk to each week report to me their shattered faith. They are functioning as atheists but maintaining their pulpits, hoping against hope to rediscover some kind of faith.

   Of course, I will not violate any personal confidences. It is not needful to name names. You may sit in the pew (or stadium seat) each week, not guessing the sermon  you hear is delivered by one who is going through the motions, running on fumes, operating on minimum life support systems.

   I contend pastoral ministers take little or no time for reflection and suffer as a result. The system under which most of us minister rewards activity, not reflection. We get persons who are enormously effective at two or three vital tasks. However, the effective fellow is so close to the fire, burn out is inevitable. He fears, correctly, a tail-off in production will end his tenure. A younger, stronger, better looking fellow will have his spot. 

   Meanwhile, the hollow man collapses in on himself. He becomes a functional atheist.

   Honestly, when is the last time you asked your minister about his prayer life? You have no idea what he does or what it costs him. In point of fact, you ask him how many meetings he has attended, usually meetings important to you. Or, you ask him if he has heard brother so and so's message on eschatology and when he plans to give his views on the subject. Or, you ask him if he has seen Sister So and So, whose bladder affliction is the raging topic on the church party line.

   For this, he went to Bible college and seminary. For this, he works sixty to eighty hours per week. Little wonder he is an atheist. He is a hollow reed. You can blow in a hollow reed and produce any sound you are capable of making. The reed only catches the sound and echoes it.

   On Sunday, you may listen to an functional atheist.

11 thoughts on “Atheists in the Pulpit”

  1. not all are functional atheist some are dysfunctional atheist.
    They still go through the motions and then get picked up by our scouts and find their way to one of our Bapticans for the highly enlightened leadership.
    We have become so theologically correct and politically connected that we have no need of Christ. Our slick presentations do all the work for us. God is no longer in the box we have brought into the 21st century. HE IS GOD 2.0 and man is it good ….. or not!!!

  2. No, we are not theologically correct or theologically incorrect. We actually do not care about theology of any kind. We do care about church health defined as buildings, budgets and baptisms. To say we are theologically correct is to miss the whole point of this piece and to fill it up with words without meaning.
    We have to see beyond baptists and corporations and Religion, Inc., to the emptiness that is the rule of life for so many of our people.. The atheists in the pulpit survive (and possibly thrive) because the pew sitters are practical atheists as well.

  3. I can see where Doug is coming from. I think there are a lot of people who worship their theology, rather than Jesus Christ. Baptist people should understand this more than anybody. In the name of theological orthodoxy people were manhandled using Satan’s tactics.
    This happens on the local church level too. So, this reinforces Rick’s main point, which is there are functional atheists in the pulpit and pew.

  4. Now Rick before I am drawn and quartered, let me continue the thought.
    Christ was born into a church that was theologically so correct it never acknowledged the birth of The Saviour. They were so politically attached to a system of governance that they even found it possible to crucify an innocent man. I would propose that we have surrendered the power of the Spirit of God for the exact same things the Pharisees did 2000 years ago and we have built an entire religion around it called american christianity.
    We have succumbed to the idea of being right, if we can get it all right the God has to like us. The sad part is He has never wanted rightness, He expects obedience. Nothing more nothing less. We however are creatures of habit once we think we have gotten it right we will be doing it for the next 30 – 50 years, see the recent past.

  5. Yes, Rick, there are many, many out there in that boat. Then there are those who play the game. They left God a long time ago but instead of learning to live as a wounded healer, they get friend to help them get a job “serving” in a position that isolates them from petty criticism and allows them the perks of an easy materialistic life. All in the name of Jesus and missions.

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