My Belated Apologies, Paul and Art

darknessYesterday I cracked open Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.  This is the July selection for our Summer Book Club.   Here’s how the Introduction opens:

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.  – Isaiah 45:3

Immediately, this memory surfaced from more than 30 years ago.  As a young Christian in high school, I reacted strongly and arrogantly against a musical duo that performed at a Midwinter Retreat because they performed Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Near the pinnacle of the phase of my life when I knew everything, I was utterly certain that the line “Hello darkness my old friend…” was (bot so) subtly conjuring up the Prince of Darkness Himself at this unsuspecting Christian event.

Oh, the horror!  The Horror!

Then, today, I crack

HOW CAN IT BE!?  In scripture, no less, a positive reference to darkness!

I had no idea, as a 16 year old young Christian-who-knew-everything, that this could possibly be from the same source, the Bible, as all my outrage at the reference to darkness.

So, I didn’t actually know everything then.  I don’t know everything today. It hasn’t taken me all these years to realize this. But it is not every day that something from my past is brought so clearly back into focus.

I am sorry, Simon and Garfunkel, for being so arrogantly presumptuous and condescending.  I am sorry, duo who sang at that Midwinter, for all the attitude a 16 year old Christian-who-knows-everything can muster.

I am looking forward to reading this book.

I am also looking forward to giving others the benefit of the doubt.  It turns out I didn’t know everything at 16.  I still don’t.

Should Pastors be workaholics?

A friend of mine coming out of seminary had an opportunity to go on staff at one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the nation. It was a good move for him politically and financially. I heard that the interview with the Senior Pastor inclluded this statement: “I work 80-100 hours a week, and expect my staff to do so as well.”

That was a quarter century ago, before the MBA took over the UMC. We werenu all metric-cized then like we are now. There was, the implicit message from above that the more the churches we were appointed to looked like Frazer Memorial or Ginghamsburg, the more successful our ministry was considered.

Today’s question is: do the metrics and narratives that are expected include space for self care and healthy family commitment?

Many pastors of very large churches have chosen church over family, and have the broken relationships to show for it. So do many others.

I am not out to vilify senior pastors of large churches. I am willing, however, to vilify a system that pressures men and women, in the name of the gospel, to value job over relationship.

We all agree that church is about the ministry of reconciliation; of becoming more and more reconciled with God, of offering this opportunity to others, and of fostering their ability to move into it. Can we, together, find better ways to balance this with our quest for numerical growth and the immediacy with which our culture is so infatuated?