Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Much Needed Word

I read a story today about a pastor named Matt Chandler, of whom I have unfortunately been unaware until today, giving an address at the Southern Baptist Pastor's Convention a few days ago. In his talk, he didn't hold back on calling out the hypocracy he sees in many clergy.

One quote literally made me stand up and cheer, causing my toddler to give me a strange look. "I, unfortunately, with a great deal of sorrow have walked away from the idea that all of you are men and women of the Word. I've just come to find that a lot of you are really good at cliches and really bad a tying in the Word."

Chandler articulates well my own frustration with many of my fellow clergy, and often times, myself.

While I probably have some significant hermenutical differences with Chandler (for example, I'd couch the issue in terms of the Kingdom of God rather than "The Word", but ultimately that's not that big of a deal), his critique of clergy is spot on. We often pretend that we have everything figured out and are afraid to admit that we are human beings on a journey like everyone else.

What makes us do this? Part of it is pressure we put on ourselves that is rooted in a genuine desire to please God, but it's twisted by a lack of real trust in God's grace. Part of it is the (either real or presumed) pressure that comes from the people in our congregations. On some level they want a "perfect" (whatever that means) person to lead them. Or it might just be the result of their experiences with other clergy who do a darn good job pretending they don't have any flaws. If folks are buying what they're selling, then they expect us to sell them the same bill of goods, too.

While Chandler's talk was directed at Southern Baptist pastors, his challenge transcends denominational and, dare I say it, lay/clerical divides. We all need the kind of reality check Matt Chandler is offering. I for one am thankful he had the courage to say it.


John Meunier said...

Wow. You and I really read that story differently.

I did not interpret him as saying we are all on a journey and it would be good if pastors owned up to that.

I read him as saying, "You pastors are hypocritical sinners who are destined for hell if you don't straighten up and stop hiding behind hip stories and cliches."

It is interesting how two people can read the same thing and get such different things from it.

Matt Kelley said...

That's me expanding on what he's saying. I haven't heard the whole talk (I'd love to see a link if you have one), so I'm giving him a charitable reading. I can certainly see how you could read it in the way you did, since it's a powerful statement and there isn't much context given in the story I linked.

Such discrepancies are indeed interesting. That's what makes this whole thing interesting.