One Step Ahead and Not Two

I read a recent article by a Baptist seminary professor called “How Seminaries Fail” and while I identified with some of what he said about seminary much of it seemed to me to miss the mark.  You can find the article here:

Here is the quote that concerned me most about the article.  “Seminaries should not focus on ministers being efficient, effective and successful. The church needs fervor, anger and desire.”

I have mixed feelings about the article. It reminds me of a seminary professor I had who strove to show that the early church had weekly communion. He then declared we should all go back to our churches immediately and change our communion to weekly and that everyone in the church should go for it just because we could prove it was done that way in the NT.

This professor had never pastored a local church and those of us who were working in churches at the time had to suppress a chuckle at the idea that we could just over turn generations of communion practice just because he said we could prove it was Biblical. Of course none of us went back home and tried to talk our churches into weekly communion over night.

I’ve met some of those angry young firebrand pastors over the years. I’ve heard the saying, “one step ahead and you are a genius, two steps ahead and you are a crackpot.” In my experience of ministry anger is not one of the more helpful emotions for good pastoral ministry.

Changing the church doesn’t take “fervor, anger, and desire” so much as it takes patience, consistency, and persistence and above all love for God’s people. I’ve seen young pastors burn themselves out trying to change the world over night. And I’ve seen angry young pastors find themselves with no place to minister when they didn’t learn how to lead through love and grace.   Such pastors can chase off more sheep than they find lost.  Experience often leads to a more measured approach.

If you want to look at the example of a transformational leader I think the Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope Francis is a pretty good example. Yes, he is shaking some things up big time in his Church. But he didn’t get to the place to do this over night. He has served his whole career in the Church and worked hard waiting for the right moment to make the big changes. If he’d spend his youth being “fervent and angry” I’m not sure he’d have ever been in a position to convince his Church to change things that really matter.

Sorry Dr. Younger. If your goal is to produce pastors who will be ineffective, do produce angry young pastors.  If you want people who will give their entire lives to the service God in a ministry that will change people through transformational leadership then produce consistent, thoughtful, well trained, loving and grace filled church leaders who are one step ahead of the church and not two.