Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Religion majors make bad pastors

My college required we each enroll in one"religion" class per semester.

Some of us got hooked. We were the kids who majored in Religion.

And so it came to pass that in those days, a great many well intended, thoughtful men (mostly men) and women opted out.

Instead of exploring the philosophies and or histories of our collective civilization, we studied Paul's original Greek when he established the 1st Century church in Corinth.

Stuff like that.

As a consequence, at graduation, we weren't fit for much - other than a life in parish ministry.

So off we went - in droves - to seminary.

The "Yikes!" factor

When we broke into the congregations, we discovered the obvious.

No one cared about Jesus' Hebraic roots.  No one was moved by our facility with first Century Greek.

Instead, we were the ones "moved."

We encountered real people with real jobs, real lives - with real problems.

Husbands and wives who hated each other. Lost children - tossed aside by busy parents.
Addicted teenagers - lonely, anxious and hooked to smart phones for dear life.

Unfaithful spouses who lusted after co-workers.

And the yearning.  The ever present, non-stop yearning - for all the many, many things they would never have - and then many, many people who would never love them.

Our response?

Let us pray.

Before it's too late

I know there are still young people in love with the church - on fire with the gospel.

Perhaps you're one of those young people.

If you are -  take my advise. Major ye not in religious studies.  Study other things as well.

Entrench yourself in the science, American and European history. Explore the regions of geography and astronomy.

Experiment in new ways of organizing reality; consider the Buddhist approach to disengagement, the Hindi love of compassionate action.

Take time to dip your spirit in the real world of suffering.  Volunteer your time at a shelter for battered and abused women.  Talk to the women.  Seek out the men.  Hear their thought processes and let it all in.

Learn the ways of the hungry, the empty and the old.  Deepen your knowledge of the systems of poverty, loneliness and despair.

Then - return to us.

Come home to the Beatitudes.

Live again in the light of the Lord's Prayer - where we believe and know that the Universe alone holds the power and the glory of all good things.

Because, my young friend, unlike other professions you chase, ministry is a forever work.  Life, as you knew it, disappears.  Like childhood - once you cross into the intimate world of ministry, you are never the same again.

Never again will you look at a family and assume all is well.  Never again will you take for granted the good health, stability and strength of people you meet.

Because - you are a pastor - and pastors know otherwise.

And they learned it the hard way.

It is wonderful work - but hard work, and all consuming.

So - if you must do it, get eager.  Get ready.

But more than these - get a good education.

And get real.