Not dead, I swear.

It’s been a very, very long time. My typing fingers have dust on them. I almost can’t remember what a smarmy smile feels like on my face.

But I recall it looked vaguely like this.

But I recall it looked vaguely like this. Only with me, instead of this random dude.


So yeah, I owe you guys a major explanation. I’ll need to explain why things have been so quiet, and why typing my thoughts felt impossible, and why I didn’t even bother to reassure you that we are still alive. But this isn’t that post.

(As an aside, we are alive.)

No, this post is starting out a little more “easy does it” than “Just Do It.” I’d like you to turn your attention to Internet Monk again – specifically, this article.

SLAM. Boy, did I feel that one. If you’re too lazy to read the article. . . please leave. But if you refuse to leave and are too lazy to read the article, it’s basically a condemnation of a Christian culture that seems to idolize “leaders” while become sparse with “pastors”. It talks about how being a pastor is basically a crappy job that nobody wants, all the while being the most important task a person can take upon themselves. Pastors, the author points out, don’t lead the sheep – the walk behind the sheep.

SO poop.

You know. Where this stuff is. (HINT: It’s poop.)


I read this article, and I thought – “Wow. Guilty.” I would totally rather be a leader than a pastor. Leaders get all the cool stuff, and they write cool books, and they’re basically min-CEO’s. And that’s pimp. It just may not be, you know. . . the best thing for us.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Do we have an unhealthy obsession with Christian leaders, at the expense of Christian pastors? Or is this article nothing more than a pile of sheep-grass-investment-pellets?

(As an aside, I’m still talking about poop.)



About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

13 responses to “Not dead, I swear.

  • melissa sutton

    Wow. I must get into the mindset to give my opinion on this one. I don’t want to get all fired up either, haha. Good to see you back!

  • Darren Beem

    Good to see a new post from WtFaith! Glad that you’re alive.

    To reverse the sentiment. From a sheep standpoint, it can be easier to have a leader than a pastor. Leaders will give you inspirational charismatic messages and not get into your business. A pastors work is not just “on” Sunday, it’s done on the six other days. We would rather have the six days to ourselves. Leader are cool and who doesn’t like the cool kid.

    So, yes, part of the problem are the leaders who don’t really care for their flocks, and part of the problem are the rest of us who enable them.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Nice perspective, Darren. In the spirit of friendly debate, couldn’t the argument be made that those six days are the days we need to be shepharded the most? And if that’s the case, doesn’t that make shephards all the more important?

      • Darren Beem

        Oh, you’ll find no disagreement from me. I totally agree the other six days are important and that’s where the real living, loving and pastoring takes place.

        The problem is that how do weigh that against our (perhaps greater desire) for space, freedom and autonomy?

        Yeah, there are maybe not enough true pastors out there, but I would argue that maybe (in part) the reason for this can be found when we look in the mirror.

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    When I said repost an article or two, I didn’t expect all the commentary and funny pictures!

    I almost didn’t read the article because it sounded kinda boring, but then I figured if you went to the trouble of posting it (and you haven’t steered me wrong yet), then I would. This might be kind of rambly because it’s been a hell of a week.

    It’s been four years since I regularly attended church, so I don’t know how qualified I am to discuss this, but I thought the article was great overall. One of the things I used to love about Hillside was the almost tangible feeling of love and unqualified compassion when I walked in the door. Having a surfer pastor and hipster associate pastor (Nick Lusk was before your day!) was awfully cool and hip, but that wasn’t what attracted people to the church.

    Again, I don’t go to church now, but I DO have a strong opinion on the relevancy of the modern church. Rachel Held Evans did a fantastic piece a while back in praise of uncool churches. It seems like back in the early 2000s, there was a surge to make churches relevant – which ended up meaning shiny, attractive, popular, plastic, and pretty. Today, so many people and churches think that God has given them favor because they have tons of followers and tons of money (that’s exactly what the cultish guy I used to follow believed) – and in doing so, they’ve become far more irrelevant than the staid, old-fashioned church they were trying to replace.

    I personally believe that the most important aspect of relevancy is thinking – how will my church meet the needs of the most marginalized, poorest, smelliest, filthiest, and/or hated people in society? How can I meet the needs of the Time-Warner CEO *and* the drunk passed out in his own vomit on the corner?

    I’m pretty sure that takes a shepherd, not a leader.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Nice! So would you say that your point isn’t that you disagree with the author’s main point in his article but that you feel that his definition of “shephard” is inaccurate? Or the same, but with his definition of “leader”?

      • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

        Nah, I think both definitions were accurate. I’m not sure it’s “the” biggest problem facing the church today, but it is a problem and I thought his points were good.

        I wouldn’t say I really had a point when it comes down to it…funny how that mirrors real life…

  • Jay

    We’ve got a pulse! Glad to hear you’re not dead…unless this is the trustee of your estate writing on your behalf.

    I think Darren has an incredibly insightful thought! Being and feeling myself to be a pastor more than a leader, it’s tough. People often say they want the “help” but do it with an arm out that we’d stay at a distance. The only way to help is to be close and to connect the other six days of the week as Darren said.

    I also found the article to slam church leaders unnecessarily hard. I think the blog writer needs to get out more because there are tons of small churches with great-hearted shepherds struggling every day to make it and be a life-giving community. There are hundreds of pastors giving themselves to the point of exhaustion to help people (this isn’t healthy either, but their heart is big). And sheep bite. You get bit enough times, you pull back. It doesn’t surprise me that SOME (let’s be careful the the implication in the article that it’s MOST) church leaders are looking for these sexy positions. Is it that they’re looking for an enterprise or for some stability in life? Not that a steady, good income is a good reason, but it’s the very thing that most of the sheep are looking for too.

    Finally, I guess what’s really been getting me lately is this: no one is responsible for your own spiritual growth other than YOU! The article seems to place everybody’s spiritual well being squarely on the shoulders of the pastor/leaders. It’s not their responsibility. My spiritual life is my responsibility. Pastors help me walk through it, face it, and grow, but ultimately it’s my responsibility. Further, Jesus invites everyone to play. If you’re a follower, then you’re called to be in the game. Christianity is not a spectator sport that only pastors and leaders get to play. Everybody plays. In addition to Darren’s insight, this is one of the biggest things killing the vibrancy of the church: consumer Christianity. 1Peter 2 talks about followers being a royal priesthood to the world. And 2Cor 5 talks about us all being Christ’s ambassadors and having the ministry of reconciliation to share with a dying world.

    It’s not up pastor’s (and I’ve been one full-time for 12 years now) and leaders, it’s up to us to be the people God has called us to be to pastor, lead and love the world around us together rather than expecting somebody to do it for us.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I love that you brought some pastoral perspective to this conversation. It didn’t occur to me to think about how easy it is for pastors to burn out. If a pastor, bitten one times too many, decides to serve God in a way that still delivers the message but limits his or her change to get bitten, doesn’t it make some sense for them to go that route? And I know that shephards will, on occasion, get bitten by sheep – but let’s not take this metaphor TOO far. People are not sheep, people are people – and people should know better.

      As for the article being unnecessarily hard, I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine where I was taking shots at the American Evangelical church culture, and she rightfully pointed out that such observations are often true about CERTAIN churches. Some pot shots taken at mega-churches, for example, can ring true. But, she followed that up with a challenge to get more involved with SMALL Evangelical churches, especially in urban environments, who are doing incredible work. The trick, we determined, was that we hear more about the BAD work being done by leaders than the GOOD work – probably because the good work isn’t as sexy a story.

  • Peter Benedict

    I wish I’d read this when it came out… but better late than never!

    I’m in Jay’s ballpark, perhaps for different reasons.

    Vineyard pastors (like me) are almost never “pastoral” types. In MN, people have a picture of what a pastor is: A humble, gentle, listening, serving, caring, see-you-in-the-hospital type person. I refer to that type of person as being a shepherd, having pastoral gifts.

    But the Bible defines the task of pastorship for us in Ephesians 4. Our job is clear: “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” That’s two responsibilities there, with an argument to be made that it’s one responsibility (equipping God’s people to do His work) and one result of that job (the church being built up).

    Nothing in there about visiting the sick, ditching leadership for Bible study, etc.

    So how can a pastor best do this? How do we equip people for God’s work, or as it’s translated in other versions, how do we equip people to do “works of service?” My own gifts lie in exhortation, motivating people toward action. Should I abandon preaching and raising up other leaders in favor of doing more hospital visits? Or should I train others to do hospital visits, so that they’re equipped to do works of service?

    I imagine there are large/mega-church pastors who don’t focus on equipping others for works of service… but I haven’t met one. I’ve met a decent number of people working in large churches, and they’re all focused like a frikken’ shark-mounted laser beam on raising up leaders who can equip more people for works of service.

    I am so thrilled when I find someone with a stronger pastoral gift than I’ve got… like our mutual friend Gay Narron, or like many of our small group leaders. I make a conscious choice to always be serving at least one person whose life is a train wreck, dealing with them during the ins and outs of the next relapse, the next trip to jail, the next relationship filled with abuse or codependency or whatever… but I’m not first and foremost a shepherd. I’m a pastor.

    Sometimes there’s a difference. The writer of that article doesn’t agree, and that’s his right. I think he’s gone a little too far in reaction to something I find easy to imagine. I’ve just never run into it yet.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Those are some solid arguments, Pete.

      Following this conversation, I’m seeing a lesson unfolding here – easy answers aren’t easy or answers. Just saying that “the problem with the world is that we have more leaders than pastors” is a great way to get conversation started, but as an argument it’s rather shallow. While I have a hard time arguing against idea that the Creflo Dollar’s and Joel Osteen’s of the world are doing more harm than good, to lump all “leaders” (as defined by the article) into the same category is both a disservice to the pastors and their hard work, as well as being full of logical fallacy.

  • Peter Benedict

    Easy answers aren’t easy or answers… deep, man. Deep, and applied meaningfully, and probably a good critique to apply to myself as much as I want to apply it to those who criticize me & mine. Thanks.

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