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Not The Way That Ministry Works (via Sarah Condon)

Sarah Condon, writing about fame and self-destruction offers a peculiar, yet not alien observation about the background of some of those who enter pastoral ministry.

I have a mentor who often says about ordained people, “Something bad happened to you if you want to be a priest.” Meaning that people are attracted to ministry as a means by which to fix what is broken. Maybe we come from tough family situations and/or we have an endless and neurotic need for love and attention.
I was once in a clergy conference where the speaker asked how many of the people in the room had a mother who often “took to bed” or who was actively an alcoholic. In other words, how many people had mothers that they felt they needed to take care of when they were children? Easily 75% of the people in the room raised their hands.
For these people, there was the hope that the Church might be the Mother that would care for them. This is, of course, not at all the way ministry works.
And it is not the way fame works, either…
…fame, like the ministry, is not going to heal any deep wounds. In fact, it will exacerbate both.

Read the whole post here.


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Anxious Pastors Leading Anxious Churches (via Sarah Condon)

Local churches don’t need more people to come along to save them.
They have the task of sharing with others about the one who has already saved them.

From Sarah Condon:

The fact of the matter is that most of our ideas about how to fix the church are terrible, my own included. We over-exaggerate what we can do, and we forget that nothing happens that has not first be named by God. We figure that our ministry du jour will grow the church because we love our latest idea, and if we love it, how can anything be wrong? Well if we love it, then everything can be wrong with it.
All of this makes for anxious pastors leading anxious churches. When we do not care about the ancient of days God who we worship, when we fail to see his hand guiding us, then we have only ourselves, our egos, and our interests to fall back on.
I believe this description applies to a great many of our churches: nice places, full of kind people, who are told, Sunday after Sunday, that they need to bring more people to church or do more work for Jesus. It can feel like scrambling to please an absentee parent. Our anxious hearts suffer, all a while trying desperately to do more and more for God Almighty.

Sarah Condon, Churchy, Mockingbird, 2017, PCs 152-153.


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The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short (via Sarah Condon)

Though parenting young children can be the most demanding of seasons in a person’s life, it is also a time that our minds return to with an increasing fondness as the years pass.
Sarah Condon writes an essay on The Work Of Love which is parenting:

It is hard to recognise that you are in the sweetest time of your life when you are in it. People often say to young parents that “the days are long, but the years are short.” They are right. In a very short time my children will be adolescents, and then teenagers, and then I will have one very quiet house. I know that there are happy years beyond these. But for some holy reason, these are the years we return to in our memories, even decades later. I am convinced that the work of love we do stays with us no matter how much time has past.

Sarah Condon, Churchy, Mockingbird, 2016, pg 59.


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The Ocean Between Remorse And Redemption (via Sarah Condon)

There’s a world of difference between feeling bad and being sorry.
A marker of that difference is whether the response to your wrongdoing is about managing the situation or seeking mercy.
Sarah Condon mentions the example of Judas:

This is where we learn the full meaning of what Judas has to teach us, one that’s less about betrayal and more about where we go with that betrayal, or you might say, how we handle sin. After all, a betrayal from one of the disciples should signal to us that our own betrayal of Jesus Christ is inevitable.
It is in how Judas handles his sin where the lesson is found.
Judas is seized with remorse. So he returns the bribe. But here’s the thing. He doesn’t find forgiveness. The chief priests send him away.
Remorse and redemption are an ocean apart. Judas has done what we all so often do. We try to fix the smallest part of our fallen selves. Because naming our sin and asking for mercy can require a humility we are unwilling to offer.
And so our sins follow us and haunt us, just as sin followed and haunted our brother Judas all the way to the grave.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Christianity As Identity, Not A Magic Potion (via Sarah Condon)

From Sarah Condon’s book Churchy.

Everyone has wounds from childhood that will follow us into the grave. Christianity is not a magic potion to make our pain vanish. but it will tell you to whom you belong. That is the best way I can describe “putting on the armor of Christ” (Ephesians 6:11) We are not necessarily fighting a battle with other people so much as fighting our own well-developed patterns of self-loathing sin. … Jesus interrupts this destructive cycle. He puts a safeguard around our hearts and whispers, “Remember, you are mine.”

Churchy, Sarah Condon, Mockingbird, 2016, pg 36.