In Cochran v. City of Atlanta, the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia said that the city’s restrictions on non-work speech, which were used to terminate Cochran, “do not set out objective standards for the supervisor to employ” and do not “pass constitutional muster.”
But sometimes we are tempted to want more, aren’t we? In the United States, the pastor as celebrity is a real issue. Some people will only come to church if a particular pastor is preaching. Conferences are filled with speakers who draw a crowd. While not all famous preachers intend to perpetuate this culture, and conference designers often have good intentions, the fact remains that many aspiring pastors want to be just like these prominent figures. Imitating godly leaders is right and good, but often it’s not godliness that compels aspiring leaders; it’s the celebrity and fame they crave.
“An early study (analyzing 1978 and 1980 General Social Surveys) found that white members of (mostly) conservative denominations (Baptists) were less likely to attend service with blacks than were white members of mostly liberal denominations (Presbyterian, Episcopalian),” Yi and Graziul wrote. “(Other) recent studies, however, show steady growth in interracial worship, and this trend is more pronounced among conservative than liberal denominations.”
In other words, evangelicals are now more likely than mainline Protestants to attend multiracial congregations and to report African American and Hispanic friends.
In this era of Facebook feeds and selfies, when image clothes identity, grief is an ill-fitting garment. It hangs on us, constricts our breath, and subverts the illusion that we can fabricate meaning from glossy photo ops. When our friends endure suffering, we spout platitudes that inflict more harm than good. When we bear its shackles ourselves, artifice crumbles away, and we struggle to frame our anguish within a Christian context. Angry at God, we fear our own anger. We wonder how the world steams on, while we linger in the shadows.
When Christ breathed His last words, “It is finished,” that veil ripped in two. Now, we have access to Him at any time because of our High Priest, Jesus. When we worship, we do it fully in the presence of God because of Christ. This means many things for us as worship leaders. Here are a few.
We pastors are rightly expected to invest heavily in our churches. But sometimes, the way we invest makes us more subject to the emotional roller coaster than we should be. To use an economic analogy, too many pastors relate to their churches the way an investor relates to an “Exchange Traded Fund” (ETF). An ETF is an investment fund that balances stocks, bonds, commodities, and other investments in a way that will most closely match stock market performance. The net result is that market performance is nearly identical to your investment performance. So in a year like we have been having, anyone invested in an ETF is pretty happy. Conversely, 10 years ago ETF investors probably wondered if they would ever be able to retire!
A favorite from the archives:
The worst times in my marriage have all surrounded money… specifically our lack of it. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: if you work for a ministry, you’re rarely livin’ large. These days all our needs are met by my salary, certainly; but there were a number of years where there was a lot more month than money. We were so broke our friends couldn’t wrap their minds around how little money we had. We’d often have to choose when to buy what essentials, and try to make everything stretch as long as possible until the next pay day. So we didn’t have a budget line for things like dates and babysitters, since our budget line for groceries barely covered what we had.
(You probably have a better idea of why I have a habit of working on too many things now, huh?)