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Swing Wide the Prison Doors.

It’s freedom for the disillusioned because now we get to enjoy the richness of relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit without any intermediary or filter. I get to follow Jesus, not you. I get to be part of community that is rich and full. This flattened hierarchy thing that freaks so many people out? It’s actually pretty awesome.

This disillusionment pushed me away from revering you or heroes of the faith or mystics or doctrine purveyors or models or churches. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still wanting to learn from all of you. But it drove me to the true example, the true Shepherd, the true Father. In this new world, I can embrace you as a true man – or woman – after God’s own heart, flawed, moving forward as we all are towards our true renewed selves with open hearts to God.

Now, when I hear of you falling or a few skeletons in your closet, my heart is free to break for you and your own need for our Abba. I’m no hypocrite and my turn may be coming. I can make my response this time all about you, to love you, to be there for you, no judgements, only grace and second chances - imagine that.

As disillusionment spreads – and clearly, it is spreading – I wonder if it spells freedom for you.

Today one of the bloggers I read regularly, Sarah Bessey who blogs at Emerging Mummy, penned these words on another blog called Deeper Story. You can read the whole blog post at either of these links.

Her post today makes the assertion that disillusionment with the traditional church leadership model is a good thing. The definition of disillusion is “to destroy the false but pleasant beliefs.” This is a very good and important thing. For so many in the position of lead pastor (or whatever your particular flavor of christianity calls the “lead dude (usually) in charge), the job that most originally seek out because they feel the call of God or because they want to help people, soon becomes a prison.

A prison not made of bars of steel, but judgement, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations and a plethora of other ungodly expectations. In a survey of pastors by Barna, they found:

  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

The system is broken. I agree with Sarah. Disillusionment with this system is a good thing. No, a Godly thing. No one man (or woman) should be given that much power, or have that much pressure placed on them. It is impossible to live up to. In her recent post, Dear Pastor, Tell Us the Truth, Rachel Held Evans wrote a letter that holds the key to swing wide the prison doors for pastors and their families…TRUTH.

Tell us the truth.

Tell us the truth when you don’t know the answers to our questions, and your humility will set the example as we seek them out together.

Tell us the truth about your doubts, and we will feel safe sharing our own.

Tell us the truth when you get tired, when the yoke grows too heavy and the hill too steep to climb, and we will learn to carry one another’s burdens because we started with yours. 

Tell us the truth when you are sad, and we too will stop pretending.

Tell us the truth when your studies lead you to new ideas that might stretch our faith and make us uncomfortable, and those of us who stick around will never forget that you trusted us with a challenge.

Tell us the truth when your position is controversial, and we will grow braver along with you.

Tell us the truth when you need to spend time on your marriage, and we will remember to prioritize ours.

Tell us the truth when you fail, and we will stop expecting perfection.

Tell us the truth when you think that our old ways of doing things need to change, and though we may push back, the conversation will force us to examine why we do what we do and perhaps inspire something even greater.

Tell us the truth when you fall short, and we will drop our measuring sticks.

Tell us the truth when all that’s left is hope, and we start digging for it.

Tell us the truth when the world requires radical grace, and we will generate it. 

Tell us the truth even if it’s surprising, disappointing, painful, joyous, unexpected, unplanned, and unresolved, and we will learn that this is what it means to be people of faith.

Tell us the truth and you won’t be the only one set free.

Love,

The Congregation

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