The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you are an extrovert. In some ways, a religious crowd is the easiest crowd to gather in the world. Our country’s full of examples of that. But for most, pastoring is a very ordinary way to live. And it is difficult in many ways because your time is not your own, for the most part, and the whole culture is against you. This consumer culture, people grow up determining what they want to do by what they can consume. And the Christian gospel is just quite the opposite of that. And people don’t know that. And pastors don’t know that when they start out. We’ve got a whole culture that is programmed to please people, telling them what they want. And if you do that, you might end up with a big church, but you won’t be a pastor.
Whenever I read words like these form Eugene Peterson, I want to know how much time he has spent around “big churches.”
On the one hand, something rings true in what he says. I went to a satellite church of one of our big United Methodist mega-churches earlier this year. In the sermon, the campus pastor was going on for a few minutes about “our leader.” I thought he was talking about Jesus. Turns out he was talking about the senior pastor at the main campus. We do fall into cults of personality rather easily. So, I understand the worry there.
On the other hand, it seems rather convenient to dismiss extroverted church as not real church. I am an introvert, like Peterson, so I suspect I’ll never lead a big, big church. Indeed, the thought of doing so makes me shudder a bit. Not only am I introverted, but I’m also not much of an administrator. These are not my gifts. And yet, I do not see why we would dismiss those gifts as not useful to God’s purposes. By some accounts, 75% of people in the United States are extroverts. They need church, too.