Many of you write to me each week about things besides the issues I raise in this column. In reading your email I often remark to myself, ‘Boy, ministry today takes guts.’
How do you do it? Some of you make bungee jumping look easy. Sure, there are plenty of pastors making big compromises and taking the easy way out today. (They don’t read my column though—or at least don’t write.) But, I am struck by the gutsy ministry going on today. I admire you for it—admire your guts. Many of you are paying a price for swimming upstream. And, even if I don’t always agree with every point, I admire your guts. For instance,
1) In a day when easy-believism prevails, some of you have the guts to insist that Christian conversion actually should change lives and make people different than they were. That takes guts.
2) In a day when the prevailing conversion models are largely gradual and additive (‘accepting Christ,’ ‘starting new’ or ‘receiving Christ’), some of you have the guts to preach repentance and decisive turning away from sin.
3) In a day when many ‘evangelical’ churches flatter people, approving and excusing all kinds of sin so long as they keep coming, some of you have the guts to tell your own church folk they’re sub-Christian, then watch them cross town to be approved elsewhere. Whew!
4) Some of you have the guts to caution church members about the hazards of TV, movies, videos, and the Internet, in a day when the only thing you can be legalistic about is anti-legalism.
5) In a day when the only acceptable view of God among evangelicals is of a soft, tender, understanding Mister Rogers in the sky, some of you have the guts to remind people of ‘the other face of God’—His stern, wrathful, judgment side which hates and punishes sin.
6) In a day when people can get an uplifting, cheery, feel-good, pop psychology from a smooth-talking ‘communicator’ across town, some of you have the guts to preach deep theological truth which requires hard chewing on the part of your listeners.
7) In a day when the accepted fad is to concentrate primarily on felt needs, and most people pick a church based on its need-meeting services, some of you have the guts to purposely design church services to meet God’s needs, and the actual deepest (spiritual) need of people.
8) Some of you have the guts to preach about sin, actually naming it, condemning behaviors and attitudes from the Bible, in a day when the worst cultural sin is ‘intolerance’ and a lack of sympathy for ‘victims.’
9) In a day when the sacred is trivialized and the holy is treated lightly, some of you have the guts to elevate the sacraments, insisting on a more frequent coming to the Lord’s table.
10) Some of you have the guts to expect Christians to abandon self-centeredness, straighten up and live right, begin tithing, and attend church more than an hour a week, even though we live in a day when entry level religion has become the norm and most folks believe God marks on a curve.
11) In a day when religion has been privatized and it is difficult to coax seekers to even glance up and nod as the sign of their spiritual need, some of you have the guts to issue decisive calls for decision, even encouraging people to walk out to the altar in front of the entire crowd! How do you do that?
12) In a day when interest-driven studies and meeting immediate felt needs are the pattern, some of you have the guts to insist on the Bible as the primary text in Sunday school and small groups. Amazing!
13) In a day when thousands of evangelical churches will take into membership just about anyone who walks by, some of you have the guts to tell prospective members to wait a while before joining your church. Whew!
14) In a day when the vast majority of evangelicals have fallen headlong in love with modernity, some of you have the guts to call for separation from and non-conformity to worldliness and a worldly mindset.
15) In a day when shallow, universalistic, bloodless, generalized choruses are the only ‘politically correct’ music, some of you have the guts to insist on including music with the deeper themes of Scripture. How do you survive?
16) In a day of pragmatism, when doing ‘what works’ is still the route to fame and money for an evangelical pastor, some of you have the guts to make ministry decisions which fly in the face of conventional wisdom just because of your convictions.
17) In a day of therapeutic preaching, smoothing over sin, and general ‘Phil Donahue-ism’ some of you have the guts to tell church members committing adultery they should stop it. What gall!
18) In a day when most people want affirmation and encouragement while they continue to live like they always have, some of you have the guts to preach on the holiness of God and proclaim His call for the church to be a holy people. Whew!
19) In a day when most religious consumers want a sentimental, nearby, immanent helper-God who will enable them to become self-actualized, holistic, successful human beings, some of you have the guts to proclaim a majestic, holy, all-powerful, transcendent God more concerned with justice and righteousness than finding his children parking places at the mall on rainy days.
20) In a day when some gleefully criticize the pastor, sign petitions against new ideas, form protest groups and power blocks, use the phone to recruit votes, and generally make their pastor’s life miserable, some of you have the guts to persist and stick with it. You keep on keeping on, despite the pressures on you. What guts!
I admire gutsy pastors. Most of you have enough guts to do some of these things. And some of you have enough guts to do many of them. A few of you have enough guts to practice all of them (‘course you’ll be looking for a new church soon). But, whatever you think of the individual issues, you’ve got to admire gutsy ministers.
© Keith Drury, 2005. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission
Keith Drury served The Wesleyan Church headquarters in Christian Education and Youth leadership for 24 years before becoming a professor of religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books of practical spirituality, including Holiness for Ordinary People, Common Ground and Ageless Faith. Keith Drury wrote the Tuesday Column for 17 years (1995-2012), and many articles can be found on his blog “Drury Writing.”
Keith Drury retired from full time teaching in 2012. Keith is married to Sharon and has two adult sons and several grandchildren. He is retired in Florida with Sharon and enjoys cycling.