by Samuel Rowen
Our look at what makes pastors (and missionaries) weep; power In proverbs; finding support In a good learning setting; and rooting out theological education’s colonialism.
Christian leaders were asked to identify their difficulties, both personal and professional. (Craig W. Ellison and William S. Mattila, "The Needs of Evangelical Christian Leaders in the United States, Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 1983). Analyzing the 288 responses, the authors found a discrepancy between what the leaders were doing and what they would like to be doing. They wished they could do more small group discipling and training of lay people and less administration.
Senior pastors with staff indicated less difficulties than pastors without staff, except with sexual temptation and interpersonal conflicts. The associate pastors reported a higher degree of difficulties caused by stress, lack of time, "failure of their dreams to be fulfilled, and unrealistic expectations of the senior pastor." Over 60 percent said they were disappointed or depressed by these pressures.
The leaders with the greatest problems saw themselves less aggressive, less assertive, less consistent, less joyful, less confident, and weaker than others saw them. Their most significant problems were stress, frustration, and inadequacy.
The leaders spoke out about better preparation. They wanted (1) more practical responsible internship experiences; (2) more training in administrative-management skills; and (3) more training in human relations. Ellison and Mattila conclude that lack of time and unrealistic expectations are the major problems in ministry.
The same issues pop up among missionaries. Some work or internships have been either encouraged or required by many missions. The service opportunities in colleges and Bible schools have not been sufficient, because the difference is too great between a "visiting" ministry as opposed to "living with the results" of your ministry. The spate of management seminars got its major impulse from mission boards and then filtered down to the pastors.
There is ample evidence to show that the leaders surveyed by Ellison and Mattila and missionaries are cut from the same cloth. However, there are other factors unique to the missionary. Deputation takes from one to two years. One mission reports an increasing backlog of fully processed appointees with only 50 percent support after two years. Internships lengthen the time before he or she actually arrives on the field.
The number of missionaries coming through Missionary Internship in 1970 was around 100. In 1983 there were over 400, but during this time, the count was increased by short three-to-five-week programs. The eight months’ internship program has declined from 100 in 1970 to 32. Preparation is important, but the pressures to get missionaries to the field faster pull in the opposite direction.
Management and human relations training are also mixed blessings. Management training had a field day in missions 10 years ago, but it is now questioned by some, believed in by others, and tolerated by others. Some question whether leading people is merely a "scientific" process, as is taught in much management theory. The process is strong in efficiency, but weak in human values. There are more "burned out" mission leaders and missionaries than we like to count. Making leaders more human by giving training in human relations skills has also received mixed reviews. It’s easy to label this "secular humanism" but there are too many horror stories of destroyed churches and marriages to avoid learning these skills.
We can’t ignore the importance of the issues uncovered by Ellison and Mattila. Everyone has the same amount of time. The ability to do more things does not mean we will do more worthwhile things. The drive to get more things done quickly is not the answer. Peter Drucker’s pointed distinction between "efficiency" and "effectiveness" hits the nail squarely. He says that efficiency is the art of doing things rightly; effectiveness is the art of doing the right things. He suggests that we have become efficient in doing the wrong things. If we more consistently did the right things, maybe there would be enough time. The bottom line is values.
Joseph Healy, M.M. ("A Rural Gospel Group," Africa Service Bulletin, No. 76) uses Washubi proverbs to teach biblical unity and community. The following examples illustrate the proverb and how it is related to the Bible.
"One finger cannot kill a louse." In discussing the meaning of this proverb, the Christians emphasized sharing together, working together, and supporting one another in the family, neighborhood, village, and out-station. They saw the worth of their small communities. The Bible passages were about Jesus sharing with his disciples before ascending to heaven (Luke 24 and John 21), and the descriptions of the first Christian communities in Acts.
"Blood is thicker than water." They discussed relationships and the close bonds in the family and the clan. One man told of the African custom of two close friends cutting their arms and putting a small amount of their blood in a pot of beer. Then they drink the beer to symbolize that close friendship is like a blood relationship. For the Bible text they used I Corinthians 11:23-26 to explain that Jesus Christ invites us to drink his blood, symbolized in the communion service, in order to share his divine life. The bond with Jesus and with each other is the closest relationship we have: it is our deepest blood relationship.
"Eating is sweet: digging is weariness." Another translation is: "To dig is weariness: to reap is joy." The Washubi often used this proverb and lived its meaning in their everyday lives. In farming the first part is hard work: clear the land, cultivate the soil, plant the seed, weed the beans or corn. But the last part is easy: harvest the crop and eat it. The Tanzanian farmers like another proverb: "He who earns his living in the sun, eats in the shade." Various Gospel passages were used: parable of the sower, parable of the weeds, parable of the workers in the vineyard.
"When elephants fight the grass gets hurt." This proverb means powerlessness in the midst of larger forces. The members of the small Christian communities felt this way because of sickness, bad weather and lack of rain, witchcraft and evil spirits in the village. The discussion led to the importance of Christian faith. God our loving Father will help us in trouble and difficulty. Many Bible texts illustrate this theme such as the words of Christ: "In the world you will have trouble, but be brave; I have conquered the world" (Jn. 16:33). "I am with you always: yes, to the end of time" (Mt. 28:20).
In preparation for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches last summer, the pre-assembly document called Issues stated an essential point for planning and education in a congregational setting. Agneta Enermalm-Ogawa says, "It affirms the educative dimension of life in community." ("Some Essential Conditions for Learning in Community" in Ministerial Formation, No. 23, 1983). She identifies four essential conditions:
(l) We cannot learn in community without knowing the corporate character of our Christian faith. (2) Before we can teach and learn, we must make clear what kind of community we are. (3) Another prerequisite is that we take our humanity seriously, i.e., we are more than a circle of acquaintances meeting in a room. (4) We do a better job, if the ministry is seen as the ministry of the whole people of God, and the ordained ministry becomes a focus of unity among a multiplicity of gifts.
These conditions are useful to evaluate the direction of church programs. There is no such thing as a "lonely learner." We belong together and we grow together (Eph. 4:13). To recapture this dimension of church life would go a long way toward alleviating stress. The lack of adequate support is one of the greatest reasons why we can’t manage stress. It we are tied in with a learning community, we will get substantial support.
In "Theological Education in a World Perspective" (Ministerial Formation, No. 4, 1978), Lesslie Newbigin asks whether the models of ministerial training and education in Europe and North America are really the right ones for the Third World. Workers for the Theological Education Fund found that Third World Christians were asking three questions.
First, about structures. In rapidly growing indigenous churches, leaders receive their training "in and through the exercise of their gifts of leadership in the situations to which they belong." Western-style training "can only exist in a colonial situation where there are large foreign funds to support it." Further, Western-style training produces an elite who tend to identify with other elites rather than with the poor.
Second, about methods. Does education really happen in classrooms, or, rather, does it not happen as the minister tries to relate the gospel "to the real issues of obedience which the church faces in this particular time and place?"
Third, about content. Newbigin maintains, if we continue to assume "that ‘advanced’ theological training must be in a European language," that training will "exclude itself from what is most creative in the contemporary encounter of the gospel with the cultures of the Third World."
Newbigin asks the same three questions of the British theological scene. He concludes that since English theology is dangerously culture-bound, it needs Third World Christians to make us aware of this. It is always easier to see the culture-relatedness of theology when looking at the church in a culture different from one’s own. Therefore, renewal in theological education requires the disciplining force of the whole church.
Theological schools in Europe and North America would greatly benefit from joint theological projects based on genuine acceptance of leaders and thinkers from other parts of the world. We need a structure which inhibits the transfer of technology and ideas from the haves to the have-nots. The colonial pattern of the one-way flow of ideas will not allow for the dynamic renewal of both partners.
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