Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Approval Ratings

According to a new study clergy approval ratings are at a 32 year low. The good news is that we are doing much better than politicians but that is not saying much.

The study measures attitudes toward clergy ethics and the news is not comforting. Among Catholics, Protestants, and occasional church goers the numbers are down. Interestingly, the numbers are higher among the irreligious.

Commenting on the study, Scott Clark writes:

During the same period (e.g., 1850-1950) the radical egalitarian impulse of American religion enervated the vitality of American Christianity. That I’m commenting on this poll is all the evidence you need. Since when did faithful pastors care what their popularity or reliability ratings were? Jeremiah was so faithful he was lowered into a well (Jer 38). I guess most pastors are more worried about their cost-of-living adjustment than being put into a well. The democratizing impulse in American religion (see Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity) has marginalized the significance of the pastoral office. In many cases we’ve been complicit with the re-ordering of the preaching office into that of a therapeist, cheer-leader, or CEO.

Maybe the people are on to something? If most pastors were doing their jobs, proclaiming the law and the gospel clearly, distinctly, and unequivocally how would people be able to doubt our ethics? On what basis? They might doubt the story and they might doubt our sanity for persisting with an apparently impossible account of things (God the Son became incarnate of a virgin, obeyed the law for his elect, was crucified for it, and rose the third day) but they couldn’t doubt our honesty or sincerity and yet a considerable number of people do. Why? Perhaps it is because we too often give them reason to doubt us?

As Mike Horton rightly says, we’ve been given a script. We have a limited but significant part to play in the story of redemption: we are heralds. Our job is to announce the truth. Our job is not to organize buildings, bodies, and budgets. Our job is not to accumulate power in this world. Our job is not to manipulate people or build empires. Our job is not even to make people feel better. We’re not CEOs. Of the three biblical offices, ours most closely resembles the office of prophet. The deacons inherited the priestly office of receiving offerings. The elders inherited the kingly office of ruling the covenant community. Our job is to serve the Word by announcing it, by teaching it, by explaining it. The other biblical metaphor is “shepherd” (pastor)—not “rancher”. We’re to announce the bad news, the good news, and look after the spiritual well-being of the flock entrusted to us by the chief shepherd (1 Pet 5:4). That’s it.

Read Dr. Clark's entire post HERE.

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