Save the Pastors. Or: Churches Are Dying Because Pastors Are Dying and You Are The One Killing The Pastors

   Since my farewell tour has been cut short, let me move on to another topic and see if you can read between the lines. It will be hard to do, because I single space here, but you can do it.

   Who is getting our pastors their 10,000 hours?  You know the theory. A person who works at something for 10,000 hours, a person with reasonable intelligence, will surpass a more gifted person who works at something for 4,000 hours or 6,000 hours.

   Who is getting our pastors their 10,000 hours?

   I am a high school basketball referee. It takes about ten years to feel comfortable on the court. I am in my tenth year. I have given the craft less than 10,000 hours over my ten years but sometime next year, I will get to 10,000 hours. That is reading rule, case and mechanics books, talking to other referees about situations, organizing my schedule, conditioning and calling games, as well as attending meetings and looking at video, going to camps and the like.

   Actually, if you include conditioning, I am beyond 10,000 hours, but you get the idea.

   I feel pretty comfortable on the court now. I know the rules, the game and I am in condition. I know when to assert myself and when to back away.

   I know the things you do not see in the books. I know TYP, which means Trust Your Partner. I know to point to the bench of the fouling team to report the call in a noisy gym, though the UIL mechanic says we must not do so. I know to point to the floor to show my partner we are not in a shooting position. I know to tell my partner how many subs are coming in during a dead ball in a multiple substitute situation.

   I know how to handle a false double foul. I have never seen one but I know what to do if I ever see one. I know all this because I have put in the 10,000 or so hours it takes to have some degree of mastery over a skill set.

   Who is getting our pastors their 10,000 hours?

   We are in a ministerial crisis in the USA. Southern Seminary says 80-90% of seminary graduates leave the ministry in the first five years. This is with seminary classes in a deep trough of attendees. The average age of a minister in the USA is 55.  It seems we have not many years left and not many new ministers coming in behind us.

   At some point, we are going to have to do some tough talking about why young people do not wish to pursue vocational Christian ministry. I have a few suggestions; go figure.

   We don't have anyone helping them get their 10,000 hours.

   I "surrendered to preach" in a small fundamentalist church when I was 13. The church got increasingly fundamentalist the longer I stayed, though, as a teenage, I had nothing to do with that fact. I did not even understand it. I just listened to my pastor, loved him and took every opportunity to go out with him on his duties.

   He gave me books to read. He quizzed me on what I read. He put me in front of groups and told me to speak. Like a trained dog, I could sit up, roll over and heel. I got in my 10,000 hours pretty early. I think I pretty well had in 10,000 hours, including one seminary degree and part of another by the time I was 25. I had started a church, preached everywhere, written and studied a lot by the time I was in my mid-20's.

   You don't have to like me. Queue up if you don't. Then, I will have you all in a line and can get you with one burst. Regardless, you cannot discredit my productivity and only a fool would question my work ethic. I have put in the time. I have paid my dues. I have produced. All this because someone put me in line to get my 10,000 hours.

   Please  don't tell me what your seminary, college, denomination, et al, is doing to ameliorate the ministerial crisis. If 80% are leaving in five years, if 1% of all churches are closing each year, if the UMC says it will cease to exist as a denomination by 2025 if they cannot attract and retain ministers, if 80% of SBC churches are plateaued or declining and if the SBC itself is now listed as a declining body, whatever you are doing is a miserable failure. Don't invite me to join your Church Death Movement. Moderates, don't blame the declines on the Fundamentalists, as your churches are declining rapidly without the felt influence of Fundamentalism. Fundies, do not blame the Moderate control of three decades ago, since you look like a complete fool when you make this claim.

   Ministers are dying, churches are dying with them and if you are mad at me for writing these statements, you are one of the ones killing the preachers and your church is collateral damage. And, for good measure, you really don't care if your church dies, so long as it does not change during your life time.

   I will have a bit more later but I am out of time just now.


8 thoughts on “Save the Pastors. Or: Churches Are Dying Because Pastors Are Dying and You Are The One Killing The Pastors”

  1. Rick,
    Your final paragraph indicates you will have a bit more to say later. I take it that this means you needed to pause in order to reload your shotgun!
    On a serious note, in seminary I noticed many (I think most) students came from relatively small churches. Of course small churches outnumber larger churches, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone. In terms of the 10,000 hours, perhaps many of these students were, in fact, getting some “church” training before leaving home.
    I learned recently that Hebrew culture emphasized the home being the center of religious instruction. If we assume the early church took their cue from the Apostles, who were steeped in Hebrew culture, it is not a stretch to assume that the early church also found the home to be a major source of religious instruction.
    In other words, the parental role (especially that of the father) was to raise up a child in the way he or she should go.
    It is interesting that today’s Christian views the church as the primary vehicle for religious instruction. Most parents that I have met do not seamlessly integrate religious teaching into every aspect of their lives (discipleship). Thus, instead of getting 10s of thousands of hours of religious instruction, our young are only getting 3-5 hours a week – while they are at church. And, if baseball season is in session some of these will not be getting close to 5 hours a week.
    I believe discipleship is the missing component in most Baptist churches today. Discipleship is not a program or a book study that can be purchased at Lifeway. Discipleship is seeking to make your life a carbon copy of the Master’s own life. Discipleship is simply not taught today. Discipleship is getting 10,000 hours of training done in less than two years, when discipleship is defined biblically.
    Instead of bring the best of who we could be into our churches (families who live faith in Christ seeking an extension of their home life and working to mutually seek a pastor who will teach them Christ’s teachings in word and deed), we bring whatever fills the vacuum — politics, petty issues, etc.
    So, most often, what is learned in churches little represents biblical Christianity. It does, however, represent a good approximation of cultural Christianity, if that is what one is seeking. And ultimately, Rick, isn’t cultural Christianity (Texas style) what has really got you worked up?

  2. Maybe, as a modern Hebrew and professor of secular Education once mentioned to Momma, a continuing student as teacher in Public Education, we should close a few doors, centralize assembly and charge to get in, with a few more Deacons per capita than currently exist it just might work … or is that just judaizing and too anti-Baptist?

  3. RobeFRe,
    I actually have a lot of hope and confidence in Baptist people. And, I think, smaller congregations offer more opportunity for accountability, which is a good thing. I definitely would not be a proponent of what you mention above — in fact quite the opposite.
    I sense you are suggesting something above, but I would not with to assume your meaning? Can you clarify your thoughts for me? I would be happy to respond in kind.

  4. MR
    The suggestion is one I heard in the seventies through my mom from a member of another faith, perhaps offered in jest, but seeming to have some rationale, whether divine or not, or effectual.
    I do not have answers for Dr Davis’ statement of facts which may be more rhetorical than we want to believe. The condition of the church has been faltering and dying frequently(cyclically?) since its inception and the times it was flourishing were often pro/consequent or even contemporaneous to events which in retrospect may not have been judged very Christian by there commonly observed character. In, brevity, I will say that in my own life I have sometimes become so enamoured with my own importance after experiencing what I can only describe as something at least akin to what I understand koinonea to be, that I know there needs to be a touchstone–something real, social, communicative and constant for me to be drawn back down to the understanding that God really doesn’t need me–He loves me and wants to love others through me. Sometimes the small churches seem to be formed on a whim of rebellion from tradition or existing control and just their mere existance places a draw on human resources such as those so elegantly and poignantly mentioned as stressed and declining by the good Dr Davis.
    In the timbre of Adam Smith–some things just need to go–not all of them but some of them.
    I am a lay member of a church, which for nearly ten years now has struggled with declining membership which had reached a high of some 250, and frailed pastorage, yet I love it and the challenge God has led me to there to help keep people seeing the opportunities for service and hopefully instilling in them the discipline of Christian faith in the gface(sic) of those challenges–yet if we just had a few more willing and able members and a bit more of a mind to use the resources availbable to us from such failing umbrella entities as we are all so familiar then we could return to the good old days of political intrigue and public squabbling to which we were so drawn–
    as I said, “for brevity’s sake!” }8~)
    B Frank

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