Monday, April 16, 2007

“Deli Church” – Jack, You Got at Least Part of it Wrong

Jack Haberer (the Editor of Presbyterian Outlook) had an article called “Deli Church in a Supermarket World.” For the next few days I want to take a closer look at the article.

“I hate to say it — I don’t want to misjudge — but I fear that too many churches have extended their pastors an unwritten and probably unstated but well understood term of call: ‘You don’t expect much from us, and we won’t expect much from you.’”

I would like to respectfully say, “NOT!” There may be a few churches out there that don’t expect much from their pastor, but I have run into very few of them. Most churches have an expectation that the pastor is on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week. There is the expectation that the pastor will be at everything that goes on at the church—the pastor needs to be resident theologian, prayer warrior, passable preacher, teacher of the young and old, barista (coffee maker) and mechanic. If anything, the smaller the church the more they expect of the pastor. Oh, did I forget to mention, that if the pastor has a spouse then the spouse is part of an informal clergy couple/team.

I can think of only a few churches which had low expectations of the pastor. One of those churches was a small, struggling church in Los Angeles. At its peak in the ‘50s there were 300 in worship each Sunday (they had to worship in the Fellowship Hall because the sanctuary was too small.). I was at the church for a couple of years in the early ‘80s. The church had shrunk to a Sunday attendance of 42. The pastor was a very nice man—but he was about as inspiring as a slug. He loved that church. They had very few expectations of him. I ran into a couple of church is Southeast Alaska that have few expectations of their pastors. These were village churches and quite remote, geographically speaking. The church members knew that the pastor would be there for a couple of years and then be gone. I have to say that not all village churches are like this!

So… the part that I disagree with is the low expectation on the pastor.

I think that Haberer is correct in that too many Presbyterians do not want the church to expect too much from them. There are those people who are there every week and there are those folks who project the attitude of “you should be glad I’m here when I’m here on every second or third Sunday.” Too many Presbyterians have no desire to be in a class or Bible Study.

When I came to Evergreen almost nothing happened at the church apart from Sunday morning. There were no small groups or home Bible Studies. Evergreen was a “low expectation” church. Evergreen became a “high expectation” Purpose Driven Presbyterian Church two years ago. It will take many years to change the culture of our church. I am confident that God will transform our church.

So… Jack was correct in that too many Presbyterians do not want the pastor (or the church) to expect much of them.


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