Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

pity the Poor Preacher



Frequently, these days I see evidence that a preacher in what I would assume to be a fundamentalist, evangelical group is questioning some of the assumed tenets of orthodoxy. This evidence usually comes as a passing remark or question raised in a sermon or written article, with little or no elaboration. Such evidence is admittedly easily misinterpreted, but I honestly feel like many who have taken on the full time ministry see more holes in orthodoxy than they freely admit from the pulpit.


The whole church system, with its paid clergy, makes a perfect mechanism for stifling change and any resulting spiritual growth. Our ministers and preachers generally go off to a seminary for religious instruction which really means indoctrination in the theologies of the past. They are then employed by churches, large and small, where older members, those most steeped in the doctrines of the past, control the funds and exercise the political power in those groups. Preachers quickly learn, if they are not already aware, that new ideas and challenging questions are not well received by those who wield the real influence in the church. Anyone, especially the preacher, who dares to challenge the status quo will likely face harsh opposition. The preacher is the least able to counter the pressure to conform to the past for the obvious reason that his or her livelihood depends on keeping the church leadership happy.


All this leads to what I perceive as a truly pitiable situation. A man or woman devotes their life to being a spiritual leader and then finds that ultimately he or she is not allowed to lead anywhere but right back to the doctrines, practices, and assumptions of the past. No growth is ever tolerated in this environment. Studying the scriptures and pondering the lessons of spirituality becomes a jaded effort to reinforce the old theology rather than any honest effort to understand more fully and thereby reach a new, grander picture of spiritual reality.


So pity the poor preacher. Ministry work, regardless of the dedication and good faith of the minister, is too often stifled by tradition, church politics, and the fear of financial pressure. A church paycheck insures that most preachers will choose conformance over being completely open and honest about personal convictions or beliefs. Thus the church is left to wonder about this comment or that sermon remark, not knowing for sure what the preacher believes or says. Occasional veiled asides are all that he willing to risk, driven by an inherent need to express his personal faith but afraid to take the risk of offending the local guardians of the faith.