Aug 16, 2011

Pastors See Change in Society Pt. 1

People occasionally ask me, “How has being a minister changed over the last three decades?” It is a question that might be asked of any calling or profession. From the vantage point of ministry, the question offers an engrossing perspective on modern life.

A perceptive mentor remarked that pastors probably have more experience with life-change than any other profession: The work compels ministers to be specialists in transitions. I must admit the mentor recognized a virtually certain truth. As those who work with individuals and congregations, pastors eat and breathe change within the world parishioners face.

North Americans have witnessed massive changes in the function of the leaders of our public institutions. When I was 25 years old and straight from seminary, I knew — as Sgt. Schultz used to say on “Hogan’s Heroes” — nothing. Yet my congregation said, “You are our pastor, and we will do what you say — so lead us.” Uncomfortable as I was with directing folks 50 years my senior, I soon realized that by virtue of position those I led granted me authority.

Today, despite my 32 years of experience and oodles of education, novice church members hardly hesitate to tell me how to “do it” better. A core issue for leadership in the 21st century is how to guide without the built-in authority assumed in previous generations.

 Nowadays everyone has access to information online — data, statistics, and facts. A doctor whose professionalism and expertise I value confided to me that she spends far too much time with patients during office visits notifying them that the Internet cannot diagnose as well as she can with an in-person examination.

We may know “stuff,” yet maybe we don’t understand what it means.  A great change has taken place during the recession.  Scrambling businesses have showed a readiness to swap people who possess institutional memory for new employees hired at reduced salaries. This money-saving strategy flows from a belief that knowledge of facts often trumps wisdom of experience. Yet our Judeo-Christian heritage speaks to wisdom’s place in human relations. We want wise persons among us. It is good to be smart — better to be wise. Have we as a postmodern culture substituted knowing facts for using them wisely?

Photo Courtesy of busy.pochi/flickr


LM said...

In my humble opinion and to answer the question....Yes! From the first day of school onward we are, in a sense, taught to learn. The vast collection of information available on the internet seems to give people the feeling of knowledge without the benefit of experience. To say that someone is intelligent just because they can spout facts does a great disservice to the wisdom gathered through time and trial. We have as a people forgotten to listen and learn and most of all we have pushed aside the very people that can teach us the most. God Almighty gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason....I think it's time we use them wisely!

Anonymous said...

I see a definite decline in society as a whole. There are still good and wise people out there, but there is the "me" generation mixed in that has taken over, with the help of a certain union that will remain nameless. Now, in large part because of this union, our authority figures have very little authority, so the good and wise part of our communities have to figure out how to live in a virtual war zone, not to mention try to keep our kids from falling into the "me" mindset. I guess there has always been a struggle between the selfish and the good 'n' wise, but it just seems to be getting worse. Probably because of the incoming technology taking over a lot of jobs to 24 hour news, we have more access than ever before to changes in lifestyle, and not always in a good way. We've come too far to go back now, so I'm not sure what the answer is, but somehow we've got to get civility and respect back into our society.

Debbie said...

Definitely. But I would even go a step further. Many make decisions not only without wise counsel, but without all the facts. We have become a society that knows a little about a lot, but not a lot about anything.

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