Mark Galli is speaking my language (again). Every pastor and church leader needs to read his article, “Why We Need More ‘Chaplains’ and Fewer Leaders.”
Much to my personal dismay, “chaplain” is apparently a dirty word — at least to those who claim to know what makes a good leader in a healthy church.
Mark recently received one of those ubiquitous church growth communiqués listing qualities of healthy/unhealthy churches and suggesting kinds of pastoral leadership that can solve the problems. One mark of an unhealthy church was, “the pastor has become a chaplain.”
“Chaplain” was fourth on a list of five types of pastors — Catalytic, Cultivator, Conflict-Quelling, Chaplain, Catatonic. Fourth is not good.
It’s nice to know “experts” think people like me are just one step away from being catatonic. Gee, thanks.
Mark Galli rightly opposes this analysis. But let me be even more blunt than he is in his fine article – this kind of analysis, this motivational corporate business-speak dressed up with a few spiritual words to make it appear applicable to church settings, is a pure abomination. Not that we can’t learn anything from the corporate world, but for heaven’s sake, the American church has bought into this “wisdom” to such a degree that most church “leaders” wouldn’t know genuine pastoral theology if it bit them on the nose. Of course pastors must provide a certain level of institutional leadership — any group of people that comes together will have to deal with institutional matters — but when corporate leadership paradigms come to define who we are, what we do, and how we do what we do, we are in deep doo-doo.
To his credit, Galli is willing to speak out, as the evangelical circus parade passes by, that the ringmaster has no clothes, and that the entire circus apparatus and even the audience is supporting the lies that the ringmaster is believing.
What is so bad about being a “chaplain” pastor? Chaplain pastors, according to the piece Galli received, “want to bring healing to hurting souls.” Heaven forbid!
We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well. Thus the attraction of megachurches, where people can blend in and not be seen if they want. Many thought leaders who ponder church life naturally end up championing massive institutions and denigrating (inadvertently, to be sure) the healing of hurting souls. And this in a community whose theology is supposedly grounded in the universal and cosmic love of God who gives attention to each of us as individuals.
Mark also notes that a chaplain is essentially a servant, not an entrepreneurial leader who functions in the style our culture honors with the most attention and accolades. I understand the longing for respect that many pastors have. They (rightly) feel that they are doing some of the most important work in the world, but get little recognition for it. The temptation is strong to make use of resources that are readily available and to pattern ministry after corporate models that influential parishioners will appreciate and support. When it “works,” as it often does, the result is a religion that sparkles, a faith for winners.
There’s only one problem — that isn’t Jesus’ way. I mean, isn’t that obvious? If you’re a minister and it’s not obvious to you, I question whether you should be in ministry. As Mark Galli paraphrases:
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles like to be seen as “leaders,” “entrepreneurs,” “catalysts for growth,” and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ ” (Mark 10:42-45).
Jesus could not have been clearer, whether by word or example. And so it was with the apostles, who spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth as suffering servants, not superstars; who built humble communities of loving service, not “great” churches.
It is time to reclaim good words like “pastor” and “chaplain” from the foolish counselors who are leading us astray and undermining the foundations of the church.
The American church is in deep trouble, and Mark Galli has put his finger on a primary reason — her leaders have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing or how they’re supposed to be doing it.
Is it possible we’ve lost touch with the One who can show us?