You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. – Harvey Dent
How does a pastor lose her prophetic voice?
When does it happen?
At what point does the preacher decide that it’s safer to be the voice of an institution rather than the voice of God?
At what point in ministry does calling warp into a career?
At what point do we settle for the status quo instead of challenging it?
Does it happen when we get tired of … fighting? With the Powers; with the Church; with the institution; with culture…
Does it happen when we realize that time is no longer on our side so we need to make sure that we have a stable, secure, comfortable future? So we do anything and everything not to mess with our pension? I mean, it’s easy to risk everything when we have nothing to lose… but as we grow older in life and accumulate… well it’s more difficult to risk everything we have when we have lots-to-everything to lose.
And really, how many prophets in the Bible got to retire, alive?
How do we go from speaking the truth to constantly telling people what they want to hear…?
How does one avoid the seduction of climbing the institutional ladder of success?
How does one avoid becoming an institutionalized yes-person of the UMC? Because let’s face it — on our bad days, the UMC is an institution. And institutions have a vested interest in keeping the things the way they are. We have invested money, history, and tradition to keep things going on the tracks we have laid. We have a way of rewarding those who drink our kool-aid, no questions asked, and have a way of making life miserable to those who ask questions that threaten status quo.
But let’s be fair. On our good days, we truly live out our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. We embody grace and love. We point to the God who is already working in the midst of us.
As preachers, we are prophets and poets. But after a while, there’s a seduction to just tell the people what they want; to comfort and never challenge; to entertain and never inspire; to just pat people on the back of the shoulders for just coming to church.
It’s important to comfort; it’s not a bad thing to be entertaining; it’s vital to affirm and give praise. But can we afford to be just comforters, entertainers, and back-patters?
How does one remain a prophet and a poet throughout their lives?
… I’m asking for a friend.