Has the American Dream Killed the Office of Pastor?

As we’ve left full-time ministry and “gotten a real job”–as a family member who shall remain nameless once put it–I’ve been intrigued by what has gone on in my own heart regarding even the very concept of vocational ministry. In what is mostly an over-reaction to my new stage of life, I’ve even found myself wondering if I’ll ever want to be back in full-time ministry.

Lee Ferguson, a dear friend from my days in Murfreesboro, commented recently on the blog with a great quote from Eugene Peterson. Here’s the quote, requoted:

“North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistant…I love being an American. I love this place in which I have been placed – it’s language, its history, its energy. But I don’t love ‘the American way’, its culture and values. I don’t love the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. I don’t love the dehumanizing ways that turn men, women, and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. I don’t love the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies”

How do we reclaim what it means to be ministers in this American context? Especially in terms of raising support for ministry, I think the question is one we must not avoid. Our livelihood and calling depend on it.

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