Pastors as entertainers vs. helping people grow spiritually

In an op-ed in the New York Times, G. Jeffrey MacDonald argues that part of the reason clergy are so burned out is that expectations from parishioners have changed:

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy…

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly.

Even as MacDonald suggests there is a large trend toward more consumerist church experiences, he does not mention how pastors might have fed into this or gone along with this. If he doesn’t think pastors have gone along with this, then perhaps the issue is that congregations have taken more control over local churches and demand things like video screens over protests from clergy. If he does think pastors have gone along with this, why did they do so?

I would be curious to hear how MacDonald would change the situation: should change come from pastors, the congregations, both, somewhere else? Is it a matter of the church giving in to cultural pressures?

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