This one’s in honor of everyone finishing up seminary exams or recovering from the Holy Week ministry binge. I don’t know how YOUR denomination do, but mine is all over some “clergy excellence,” and we have all these reports and numbers we have to keep to prove that our church isn’t dying. It’s set up to combat the fact that the mainline denominations really are not growing. It’s also set up to combat lazy or crappy pastoring. The problem is that we have to be more perfect than Jesus, and the pressure to always grow and do great things can really be overwhelming. I find myself pouring more energy into excellent programming, and not enough time in real discipleship formation.
John Wesley, who prayed daily at 4:30 AM, gave this advice on Aug. 7, 1760 to clergy who didn’t take care of their own souls: “[This is] what has exceedingly hurt you in times past, nay, and I fear, to this day … Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.” Great advice, listen to this advice. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your kid when the plane starts going down! Still, John Wesley lived estranged from his spouse, so even with all his excellence and effectiveness, I wouldn’t commend anyone to model their lives after him.
I love this hymn by Charles Wesley: “Make My Heart A House of Prayer,” because it evokes honesty in brokenness, and calls us to make adoration of God our first task as Christian. I love this verse:
Thou know’st the way to bring me back
My fallen spirit to restore
O for Thy truth and mercy’s sake,
Forgive, and bid me sin no more:
The ruins of my soul repair
And make my heart a house of prayer.
If you or someone you know suffers from clergy excellence, please give them some chocolate today.