Do you remember a radio show CFRN (Edmonton, Alberta) used to have on Sunday nights called Ask the Pastor? Many years ago I used to listen to it. I have no idea if it still airs, but I got to wondering…
I wonder if one of the hurtles that a Pastor faces, perhaps daily, is the "expectation of answers." Not that a Pastor shouldn’t be hell-bent (ahem) to discover and uncover truth where ever she is lead, and then have the articulation to offer a hard-won answer where appropriate.
No, that’s right and proper. What I’m talking about, that is, the understanding I was reared into, is that a Pastor’s endowment was theological certainty and ensuant practical acuity. In other words, part of the package of being a Pastor was having the antennae for clear signals from above that translated immediately to pious life and the rightful dispensing of answers for others.
Mercifully, we’ve moved away from here, but there is still more than a ghost of this thinking around. And pity the pastor. Because it’s not the pastor’s fault. Historically we "believers" have demanded answers for things for which there are only nuances. Or more questions. And Pastor’s in turn have given us either regurgitated Dallas-theology or faked it, hoping "it" would finally arrive. Or, having had to live masking a sort of surreal confusion brought on by the pressure of "having the answers", sometimes pastors have the experience of John Updike’s Pastor, ("In the Beauty of the Lillies") who woke up one morning to find himself "utterly without belief."
Well, this brings me to make a shameless plug for NEXT. (You may have already noticed their link on Grow Mercy.) A place, a church community, that is lead by people (pastors) who have opened themselves up to re-engaging the big questions (and small ones too). Questions from just how it is we are "saved" to same-sex issues, to inerrancy, to faith and certainty. They have pushed themselves off the reef (the one we were all told was real ground) and are trying out their sea-anchors. And on this Jesus-centered existential exploration they are inviting others along.
Check them out, check out their "Statement of Intention" and certainly check out their team-blog, and see what I mean.