A web site for pastors who are hurting, pastors who are thinking of quitting, and pastors who have quit the ministry.
frus·tra·tion n: the result of expectations exceeding reality.
|The intention is to describe
aspects of ministry that are not often recognized or presented that can
provide a broader understanding of the dynamics of ministry to explain how
and why this can be one of the most challenging jobs there is.
I set this web site up to be able to share my perspectives and offer counsel to those who have suffered the "slings and arrows of outrageous" ministry (to borrow from Shakespeare).
I am taking a personal approach to this ministry because I see one of the many problems that besiege Christianity today is the impoverishment of relationships. For that reason I wish to be available to any who feel that correspondence could be helpful.
The Pastor as Vassal
While not very common, a pastor can find himself (more often in smaller churches) having to serve the wishes of a wealthy church member (or his wife). This relationship was portrayed by Karl Malden in the movie “Pollyanna”. A pastor seldom seeks out this sort of position, but he may fall into it unawares.
No one likes to think they have become a stooge or puppet. However, cognitive dissonance is a powerful force and we may often come to adjust our perceptions to allow for us to continue to feel comfortable in a situation that would be better left behind.
Stanley Milgram was a researcher in the 1960s attempting to understand why those in Nazi Germany would work in the system that exterminated Jews. He conducted experiments where average people were to give electric shocks of increasing voltage to people who answered questions incorrectly. He was surprised to find that about two thirds of people were willing to apply the most lethal voltages simply because they were told to.
Milgram concluded from his experiments that people were inclined to “follow orders” regardless of consequence because of what he called “agentism”. A person would come to set aside his individual responsibility if he saw himself as an agent of a system. With corporations, schools, and bureaucracies many people have come to act as agents and place themselves at the disposal of the organizations that employ them.
An agent is not free to speak or act as he feels. What is strange is that the agent may not even be aware that he is an agent. One measure of this condition is the frequency and degree of questioning. The person that is frequently asking “Is this right” or “Is this true” demonstrates his own evaluative agency.
A church does not have to belong to a denomination with hierarchal structure to run afoul of agentism. A pastor can make himself an agent of a doctrinal package or of the political preferences of his congregation. as well.
I once worked with a prison ministry and in conversation with a guy from New York was told that occasionally a priest would become a Christian and start to use his homily time to preach the gospel. The hierarchy would then remove him from the parish and assign him to work in the prisons. He said this worked to the advantage of the prisoners.
One can observe this phenomena over the last seventy years as well with medical doctors. It used to be that a visit to the doctor was to obtain his recommendations and advice regarding health issues. Over time doctors began to collectivize first in clinics and than as employees of corporations. As this transition occurred, medical advice also transitioned from advice to instruction and now appears to becoming medical mandates. Being told what we could do is different from being told what we have to do.
Since agents do not act as individuals themselves, they do not often see others as individuals, just as components to be brought into alignment with the system they serve.