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Assessing ministry psychologically

This makes for disturbing reading.  Jason Goroncy writes "Pastoral Ministry: Enter at Risk"  The statistics are sobering.

For instance, of 338 Protestant clergy in Canada:

* 94 per cent said they read Scripture for sermon preparation, but it rarely spoke to them personally.

* 86 per cent prayed regularly with others but had little time for personal prayer.

* 71 per cent did not feel spiritually affected while leading worship.

* 89 per cent sometimes felt like they were simply going through a ritual when they led worship.

* 70 per cent felt unfulfilled in ministry.

Read the whole thing here.

Bottom line - there's a real spiritual / theological problem here.  First there's a professional model of ministry invested in by all - clergy and lay.  And it's not as though ministers signed up thinking ordination would be a spiritual trip and 'Hey, why's everyone pressing me to be CEO!'  Typically selection for ordination involves selecting CEO-types in the first place (in evangelical settings anyway)!

Secondly let's realise that this is a 'job satisfaction' type psychological assessment which again buys into the professional model.  I wonder how Paul would have filled out the survey:

8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.  (2 Cor 4:8-12)

So however we assess it and according to whichever model (and especially when it's all-of-life, communal, missional, Pauline!) then one should enter pastoral ministry under no illusions!  It feels like death.  But then true life always does.


0 thoughts on “Assessing ministry psychologically

  1. codepoke

    You've stumbled into another one of my hot buttons, but I don't think I have time to enter into a profitable discussion. Instead, let me address just your last sentences:

    > It feels like death. But then true life always does.

    This feels like a throw-away at the end of a sincere, inquiring post, but it's too big to throw away. And I disagree so strongly it's hard to put into words.

    I decided against the professional clergy route 27 years ago. I'm still not sure whether I regret that decision, but I know I could weep right now for jealousy of you and your opportunities. I made my decision because I believed the hierarchy of the church was a lie. I found out not having a hierarchy is a lie, too.

    Still, I spent some years trying to minister in a non-hierarchical way. It was hard, painful, and only spottily effective. It felt like death, but our mentors assured us life always felt like death.

    It was a lie.

    It was a worse lie than statistics.

    Man, I've been out here living life, blessing people and living without the high of being useful to God or anyone, and it feels like life. Every day feels like the opposite of the death that lie was making me eat.

    I was fed that passage of Paul's for years. I know it well, and it does not apply the way your words indicate here. I don't know ANY answers to any of this. I am heartsick with jealousy at not being where you are. I'm a confused mess. But I know this much with certainty. If ministry feels like death, you're doing something wrong and you need to quit doing that.

  2. glenscriv

    Hi Code,
    I'm sure I'm doing many things wrong ;-)
    And to be honest ministry as ministry has been in the main a complete joy for me. But I do wonder how the Paul of 2 Corinthians would have filled out a job satisfaction survey - and whether our psychological notions of well-being would judge him manic or depressive or manic depressive or what? Those verses can be misused for sure, but they are there. And it's not just ministry - marriage is death-like (Eph 5:25) and so is the whole of the Christian life (Mark 8:34). All day long we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered AND *IN* all these things we are more than conquerers. It's those sort of thoughts that are behind my final sentence.
    I'm sure that often my self-pitying morosity majors on cross to the detriment of resurrection - and that's definitely something to be corrected on, so your comments are welcome. But however you look at it, cruciformity's gonna hurt. It's not the ultimate truth - (we are struck down BUT NOT DESTROYED) but it's there.

  3. codepoke

    I was taught it's the Lord friends who made Paul feel that way. It was not. It was the Lord's enemies.

    These days it's become quite popular to think the Lord loves everyone so He must not have any enemies. Paul was not so deluded. Paul listed his enemies by name and without apology. Paul even writes this passage to undelude a church who'd been sucked in by his enemies and God's, and this list is a compendium of sufferings he'd endured that those enemies had eschewed.

    It's when we become confused at how God's friends could hurt us that this passage is misused. Paul's enemies called themselves God's friends, but that didn't make it true. I've watched God's enemies call themselves His friends and crush people, then use this passage to tell their victims that, "then true life always does" feel like death.

    Hence the hot button.

    Most things that are true life should feel like life. Even in marriage, true life should not feel like death. Though sickness, sin, and the cares of life will bring the feeling of death to every marriage, the true life in it should feel like life. When it doesn't, something needs to be fixed.

  4. glenscriv

    I'm not saying true life doesn't feel like life too. It surely does. We gain a hundredfold of what we lose even in THIS life (Mark 10:30). But we also lose. Similarly, taking up the cross is our true liberation - it's when we begin to really live. But crosses are still deaths and they still hurt.

    So I'll admit that throw-away lines like 'true life feels like death' are open to misunderstanding and abuse if not balanced by the resurrection joy of walking the Golgotha road. But I still think the Golgotha road hurts. And neither Jesus nor the apostles were afraid to teach people of the hurt - even the necessary hurt - of treading that path.

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