June 25, 2017
Matthew 10:24-39
Romans 6:1b-11
Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

Going Native
Proper 7 | OT 12 | Pentecost 3

Click here for the full installment.

C. David McKirachan
"Going Native" by C. David McKirachan
"Grace Abounds" by David O. Bales
"Having Compassion" by John Fitzgerald

Going Native
by C. David McKirachan
Matthew 10:24-39

A few years ago, when I’d been in my then church about 10 years, I took a continuing education course called Renewal in the Long Pastorate. Walter Wink and Roy Oswald came at the attendees from both directions, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. To get in you had to be in your present parish at least eight years.

Alban Institute had done a study on people in long pastorates. The average pastorate lasts around five years. They fiddled with the figures and studied pastorates that lasted beyond seven years. The presupposition was that something was wrong with the pastor or something was wrong with the parish or both. What they discovered surprised them. Long pastorates tend to be healthier in most ways. They are better for the parish, the pastor, and the pastor’s family, if they have one. They also discovered that there are a few things that a pastor has to watch out for to keep the ministry from going over to the dark side.

But all of these dangers center on a basic red flag. A pastor has to keep from going native. Channeling Robin Williams, I immediately thought of grass skirts and out rigger canoes. But they didn’t mean the South Pacific. The people who had begun to too closely resemble their congregation were flirting with stagnation. Instead of being a stranger in a strange land, they became ‘Good ol’ Pastor Obadiah.’ Their relationships with the people in the congregation became more important than their willingness to provide a prophetic witness to the people.

That kind of rattled my teeth. My ministry has lived in a relational atmosphere. I’m always thinking about creating ‘a home where no one is a stranger.’ I always worked on inclusion rather than exclusion. And a lot of times that meant stepping inside the swing.

I worked with fire departments. It always made perfect sense to me to run into a burning building. So when Joe Schmoe threatened to leave the church because of the color of the new hymnals, I put my arm around him and tried to offer someone he could trust in the middle of his difficulty. I’ve had my life threatened, gotten punched, spit on, and told that my mother should be ashamed of me. But I found if I stuck to it, I was able to provide a non-anxious presence for someone who felt like they were losing something important, to them. It didn’t always work, but some of these situations had become moments of grace that brought people closer to places of acceptance and commitment than they’d ever experienced.... >>Click here for the full installment.

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Proper 7 | OT 12 | Pent 3