"Ministry a satisfying vocation.” Headlines like this one appeared in newspapers, church periodicals and elsewhere this past spring, as Duke’s (Lilly-funded) Pulpit and Pew Project reported the initial findings in a national clergy survey. It was not the only, or the most important, finding of the survey. But it was the one that reporters and editors found most fascinating and newsworthy.
Something has gone terribly wrong with Protestant clergy. The majority of them say that they are “happy, content,” as a recent Christian Century news headline proclaims (March 27-April 2). And since the Century says it, it must be true.
With his folksy, conversational style, Pastor Frank Harrington turned Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta into a megachurch over three decades. At its peak, Peachtree had nearly 13,000 names on its rolls—six times the membership when Harrington assumed the pulpit in 1970.
I love Eugene Peterson’s remark that “if you are called to it, being a pastor is the best life there is” (see David Wood’s interview). Like every pastor I have days and seasons when I’m not sure of that.
In the early 1960s, Eugene Peterson was planning to finish a Ph.D. in Semitic studies while he worked as an associate pastor at a Presbyterian church in White Plains, New York. He already had degrees in the field from the Biblical Theological Seminary in New York (now New York Theological Seminary) and from Johns Hopkins.
It was a sad day in the history of the church when Paul’s statement about being “all things to all men” first came to be seen not as a call to diversity but as a claim of versatility. St. Paul the Jewish apostle to the gentiles turned into Reverend Paul the Jack of all trades.