An Old Preacher's Admonition: Please, Quit!
Years ago, when I was a young pastor in California, some well-meaning chowderhead gave me a book titled, Dear Preacher, Please Quit! (If you were that chowderhead, I apologize...for not telling you sooner.)
The book's author was no Rhodes' scholar. Nor was he much of a theologian. Nor was he a writer.
His name was Roy Branson, and he was mostly an ignorant, prideful preacher that thought every preacher that wasn't him wasn't good enough to be one.
Dr. Branson's self-publishing publishing house Landmark Publications advertises the book thus: Dr. Branson details why the majority of preachers are not called and should quit. How the ministry is shamed by egos and meaness. [sic]
He never says how large a majority the uncalled preachers comprise. Nor, apparently, did he ever catch the irony in his accusation that most preachers (the majority, you know) are chock full of ego and meanness. The irony here being how ego-maniacal a preacher has to be to make such a sweeping statement about other preachers, along with the fact that the good Reverend Branson has about as much meanness in his pen as any preacher I have read.
I don't remember much of what the book had to say. (Well, it didn't say a word, but I read it and don't remember that either.) I do remember the tone was caustic, the rhetoric unschooled and the overall quality—um, how do I put this both politely and accurately?—abysmal.
I had not thought of that book in years and years and years...until it popped into my head for no apparent reason this very night. Then, Bam! I thought of it and now I don't know how or why.
Never one to let a good title go to waste, I would like to pilfer it and level a little meanness of my own.
(Yes, all that stuff was just the introduction.)
Dear preacher, please quit...
- Thinking you can only include music in your worship that was written within the last fortnight. I am not saying you should run out and buy hymnals for everyone and get rid of your light and sound technicians. I am saying that if you are cheating your people out of learning the words and music of great hymns of the faith that have stood the test of time, you are cheating your people. You won't let your people sing Amazing Grace but you listen to—and revere—the Beatles and Johnny Cash? There are some gospel oldies but goodies, too, you know. Why is retro cool everywhere but church? Don't worry. You won't lose your contemporary street "cred" if you acknowledge you know a song that was around before Al Gore invented the Internet.
- Trying to substitute style for substance. I love the casual Sunday morning dress-down thing. Sure. Who wants to wear a coat and tie if he doesn't have to? I like the laser light show and the mimes and on-stage drag races and whatnot, too. But, you know what separates you from any old Broadway or off-Broadway show? Two things: they put on a better show than you, but you have eternal, immutable, holy TRUTH. Your hairdo and skinny jeans are not going to make up for a lack of real biblical substance, my friend. There is not much difference between a shallow church and a shallow grave, in my book.
- Pandering to petty people. Ole Deacon Cuss-n-Puff will only grow pettier and meaner if you pet him. Pray for him? Sure. Love him? If you are able. But, for God's sake, for pity's sake, for the church's sake, for your own sake, don't fear him and don't feed his habit. You won't respect yourself and he won't respect you, either.
- Ogling greener pastures. People have become downright suspicious of the fact that, when "God calls" a preacher to a different ministry, it is almost always a bigger congregation, a bigger city and a bigger paycheck. I am not saying God doesn't move his chess pieces around. I am not saying He doesn't take a man that has proven himself over a small flock and promote him to a bigger one. I am just saying that the grass is not greener there. I know. I have been there and back.
- Listening to people telling you to quit. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
I would like to thank Dr. Branson for the title, Mr. Gore for the Internet so I would have a place to express my opinion, you for reading my blog, and God for everything else.
God bless you and yours.