On Tuesdays, between now and April 14, I’ll be sharing excerpts from my new book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. The book is arranged around seven sacraments—baptism, confession, communion, holy orders, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage—and today’s excerpt comes from the Holy Orders section in a chapter entitled "Epic Fail."
"It’s strange that Christians so rarely talk about failure when we claim to follow a guy whose three-year ministry was cut short by his crucifixion. Stranger still is our fascination with so-called celebrity pastors whose personhood we flatten out and consume like the faces in the tabloid aisle. But as nearly every denomination in the United States faces declining membership and waning influence, Christians may need to get used to the idea of measuring significance by something other than money, fame, and power. No one ever said the fruit of the Spirit is relevance or impact or even revival. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—the sort of stuff that, let’s face it, doesn’t always sell.
I often wonder if the role of the clergy in this age is not to dispense information or guard the prestige of their authority, but rather to go first, to volunteer the truth about their sins, their dreams, their failures, and their fears in order to free others to do the same. Such an approach may repel the masses looking for easy answers from flawless leaders, but I think it might make more disciples of Jesus, and I think it might make healthier, happier pastors.
There is a difference, after all, between preaching success and preaching resurrection. Our path is the muddier one."
Pre-order Searching for Sunday here. And check out this Pinterest board I made, which includes images that inspired me as I was writing the book and to which I'll be adding additional quotes and resources over the next few weeks.
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