Monday, July 26, 2010

An Argument for Retaining Theological Interviews

The most recent issue (July 27, 2010) of the Christian Century hit my desk today.  There are two very valuable articles on megachurches in it, about which I may have more to say later.  However, what immediately caught my eye was a little piece title "False Shepherds."  It reads as follows:

"For clergy, losing faith is not only an occupational hazard, it's often a huge and burdensome secret.  If they remain in the pulpit, it's because they need a job, or to protect their own family or congregation from the secret they carry.  In a study reported in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, a common denominator among pastors who claim to have lost their faith is exposure to historical-critical study of the Bible in seminary.  These pastors are often protected from having to divulge their secret by denominational and congregational processes that scrutinize pastoral candidates for their pastoral and relational skills but only superficially test candidates' theological commitments (RNS)."  ("False Shepherds," Christian Century [Juuly 27, 2010]: 8).


Rev. James Leistico said...

1) Just heard Ken Ham speak on this very topic. Though instead of clergy, he was talking about the decline in church membership and those who leave because they have come to see the Bible as filled with fairy tales - his lecture's argument being we as pastors/church need to do a better job at apologetics so the people see the Bible as historically accurate. (Basically the lecture was a summary of his book, but can't remember the title. I had it here somewhere before our vacation. I'll see if I can't find it.)

2) at Doxology we used a few case studies where pastors had lost their faith, but kept on being pastors (though it seemed like it had little to do with historical-critical, and more to do with the wear and tear of slogging it out with sin until they surrender to it.

3) I'm finding it very humorous that the prof who was sick for my TI is arguing for TIs. B-)

Deaconess Pam Nielsen said...

Very interesting. It's not just clergy who are losing their faith - in many cases they and the church has forgotten how to teach the faith, the Holy Scriptures from infancy as Timothy was taught. I have been researching trends and history on Sunday School and have found that we see only 30% of the children baptized in Lutheran churches enrolled in Sunday School 3-4 years later. And we need to be honest, that missing 70% are not all in our Lutheran day schools. They simply are gone. Where are we teaching the Word of God to children at their developmental level? Parents don't know how to do it because we haven't taught them. Historically SS has sent the message to parents that "the church will take care of this for parents" and I think that has been a very damaging message. Somehow the church needs to teach families about their faith - modeling and instructing parents to do as both Scripture and Luther urge - teach the faith within the household. What does it mean for me when all around my life is crumbling, trials, storms, and trouble? How do we teach our people to see Jesus in the very midst of life? How important it is to teach God's Word as true no matter what our reason and all our senses might tell us. These things keep me awake at night. How to create materials that equip pastors and other church workers to do this very thing. How to create materials for parents to teach children.

Fr Basil (Daryl) Biberdorf said...

I'll have to take a look at the article. However, an aspect of this that's underappreciated, especially for the more senior clergy today (i.e., age 50+) is that their training for ministry began in high school, often attending denominational undergraduate colleges and earning pre-ministry degrees, proceeding straight to seminary and placement from there. (Never mind the Scriptural vision of what it is to be a presbyter -- an "elder".) Should they acknowledge their inner lack of faith, what, exactly, are they going to do for a living? Their education has all too often left them bereft of employable skills.

Often these crises of faith are reached right as the kids are in high school, and paying for college is right around the corner. This isn't the time most of us want to be considering a major career change.

Having said all that, it's time to revisit how catechesis is done. Sunday School isn't enough. Lutheranism (and my own Orthodoxy) were merely aping the Methobaptists in copying it, even as all the current research confirms what we know instinctively: it's just not enough. The kids will get 4-5 hours of math per week, but maybe 45 minutes of religious education. We can do more at church, but, really, fathers and mothers need to be involved fully with the religious training of their children.

Rastaman said...

Jim, is the book you're thinking of Ham's "Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It"?

Deaconess Pam Nielsen said...

Larry and Jim,

We've looked at Hamm's book, some of his arguement makes sense but much is weighted toward his emphasis on creationism. One of my editors offers: The essence of Hamm’s thesis is that we need to spend more time in SS teaching students that God’s Word is literal truth and educating them in how to defend the Word. One comment he makes is that more than a third of any SS curriculum should focus on the Book of Genesis. I agree with much but not sure about his emphasis on 1/3 of time in Genesis.

Have you read his book? What are your thoughts on it? I do think there is much to be said for how we teach something - especially God's Word - in light of all the other things we throw at kid's. Father Basil is correct. We have too often made the things of God look just like the things of the world - blurred the lines or eliminated them altogther. Biblical art that looks like Disney Fairytale art, music that sounds like all the other here today gone tomorrow dittys of childhood. We need a sea change.


Rev. James Leistico said...

Pam, no, I haven't read the book yet, though the lecture covered much of the material, and based on that, I agree with your assessment. As for being focussed on Genesis, I don't have so much of a problem with that. WAM III in Genesis showed us connections to a ton of doctrines from the first 12 chapters. (I think during my vicarage year CTS offered as an elective "Genesis 13-50" since apparently my class wasn't the only one not to make it much past chapter 12!)

In reference to your first comment, Ken quoted similar stats. One problem that seems to go unrecognized is that of the 70% of baptized kids gone awol, many are in homes where the only time the parents darken the doorway of the church was for said baptism (many times not even for their own wedding) - and it's been my experience that such families try to schedule the Baptism for a time other than Sunday morning. I wouldn't say it's as high as 70% here in Randolph Co., but it still is a higher % than I am comfortable with.
We could lessen the % if we would say, "No, you parents are not members here at this church, thus you have no access to the privileges of membership." Or if we said, "No, you parents have sinned greatly as members by neglecting the services of the Lord's house. Until you repent we will not baptize your child." (Not saying we should respond this way to requests for Baptism, but I am expressing our need to be honest about who all is in that 70% - and in no way is it entirely the guilt of the Church. But when we want to get people/the Church to change their ways, guilt and fear are great motivators on an earthly level... though not on a spiritual level.)

Daryl, the upside to the very real and honest problems you point out is that my crises of faith have resulted in me making a bad long-term vocational decision - since, if I had had "employable skills" I probably would have left the ministry years ago. Multiple times. A brother in the circuit did have other skills and did leave the Office - and during one crisis, another brother and I commiserated that we didn't have that option. Though now both of us are glad the Lord kept that door closed as we have both moved to a more joyful place in Ministry (though our physical locations and the churches which called us have not changed. Ironically, it was at his church that I heard Ken Ham speak.)

Prof. Rast, yes - though that's the subtitle. The main title is "Already Gone" - Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard.

Hope my ramblings make some sense. If they don't please ask me about what I said since my words haven't been working right today. (Told Laura that "The watch in my battery is going bad." Hopefully when I need to say something tonight at Church Council my words will work better.)

Joanne said...

I'd like to suggest that "the big secret" of lost faith in a pastor isn't all that secret to his sheep. It's so much better when he has faith, but balaamlike he can still function and perform most of what the congregation needs. The unbelieving, but performing pastor (faithful to his calling) can keep the doors open and word-and-sacrament happening. But, the parishioners don't bother this pastor much because he's busy and worried by so much. And, death makes him so sad.