Wesley Bros: OMG Clergy Excellence!

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This one’s in honor of everyone finishing up seminary exams or recovering from the Holy Week ministry binge. I don’t know how YOUR denomination do, but mine is all over some “clergy excellence,” and we have all these reports and numbers we have to keep to prove that our church isn’t dying.  It’s set up to combat the fact that the mainline denominations really are not growing.  It’s also set up to combat lazy or crappy pastoring.  The problem is that we have to be more perfect than Jesus, and the pressure to always grow and do great things can really be overwhelming.  I find myself pouring more energy into excellent programming, and not enough time in real discipleship formation.

John Wesley, who prayed daily at 4:30 AM, gave this advice on Aug. 7, 1760 to clergy who didn’t take care of their own souls: “[This is] what has exceedingly hurt you in times past, nay, and I fear, to this day … Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.”  Great advice, listen to this advice.  Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your kid when the plane starts going down!  Still, John Wesley lived estranged from his spouse, so even with all his excellence and effectiveness, I wouldn’t commend anyone to model their lives after him.

I love this hymn by Charles Wesley: “Make My Heart A House of Prayer,” because it evokes honesty in brokenness, and calls us to make adoration of God our first task as Christian.  I love this verse:

Thou know’st the way to bring me back
My fallen spirit to restore
O for Thy truth and mercy’s sake,
Forgive, and bid me sin no more:
The ruins of my soul repair
And make my heart a house of prayer.

If you or someone you know suffers from clergy excellence, please give them some chocolate today.

Charlie Baber

Rev. Charlie Baber is author and illustrator of the weekly web comic: Wesley Bros. When he isn’t finding new ways to mash-up church history with modern culture, he has actual responsibilities as a Deacon serving at Highland UMC in Raleigh, NC. Check out Charlie’s site at www.wesleybros.com.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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bill krill
bill krill

Perhaps the genuine issue is that the majority of pastors are so out of touch with the reality of their congregants, and the UMC is so incredibly inadequate at continuing education in areas that really count (not to mention seminary courses), that ‘excellence’ will forever be out of reach.

Methodist Pie
Methodist Pie

This is a paradox: The General Church spouts Clergy Excellence, while modeling organizational dysfunction. Never mind the FUBARs of General Conference and the Connectional Table: BLAME THE PARISH PASTORS!

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