There’s been a good bit of recent research on clergy burnout as well as clergy dropout. In an interview that I did with George Barna not too long ago, I made the comment that I receive one to two emails a week by pastors who have testified that Pagan Christianity has impacted their lives.
A friend of mine suggested that I post some of these emails for others to read.
What follows is just a sampling. I don’t believe in passing on private emails, so I’ve excerpted the email addresses and removed the names of the authors. This way their identities are concealed.
It should be noted that I have friends who used to be pastors and left the clergy system after having a crisis of conscience. (See www.housechurchresource.org/expastors to read some of their firsthand stories.)
I also have friends who are still functioning as pastors in the institutional church. While we disagree on the matter of ecclesiology, this hasn’t affected our friendship. They are all good people who are faithfully serving the Lord, and I have great respect for them.
Here are some of the responses:
This first entry wasn’t an email, but a public response to the book by a pastor. The rest are emails I’ve received.
Pagan Christianity by George Barna and Frank Viola answers the questions as to why I’ve felt guilty for being in ministry for 13 years and why I’ve felt guilty for getting paid to do what I’ve done.Of course, that’s not the purpose of the book – the information is pretty powerful to provoke change and awareness… and one can leave feeling a bit guilty for going along with the flow. However, it should bring about much more than guilt. It should bring about an awesome awareness of the sucker like way people go along with the flow of cultural history in the name of living “by the Book”. I often told my friends after services “There just has to be more to it than this. I can’t stand seeing all of these people pour into here in search of connecting with God and leaving with just a little buzz of energy, some information about a topic, and less money in their pocket.” I don’t want to preach anymore if this is all there is to ministry. There has to be MORE TO IT!!! … I always felt guilty for receiving a ministry salary and couldn’t explain why until now. In ministry – my salary and benefits were way above the average household income of our community but still less than many other Sr. Pastors. Pastors in churches of 500 or more make a really great living. I always felt guilty living off of the tithes of people who didn’t even make half of what I made. WAAAAAAY less than 10% of the budgets of the churches that I have been a part of went to help relieve the oppressed, feed the hungry, take care of the poor, and make life possible for the sick and dying. I typically felt that Sunday mornings and most programs were a waste of time.
So much time, money, and energy went into one event where so very few lives were really transformed
So much emphasis was put on one man’s performance
So much emphasis was put on one hour a week
So much money was poured into the facility and salaries that facilitate that one hour a week
So many people didn’t know any better but to go along with the cultural “worship flow”
I say all of this to say: There’s More! There’s so much more that can happen in the name and power of Christ – but it’s not going to happen until the Western Church breaks free from its mode of operations.
Dear Frank and George,
I’m a senior pastor of a large congregation. When I first heard about your book, I read a number of negative reviews so I dismissed it entirely. This changed after I read some of the endorsements and reviews by men who I respect. So I got a copy and read it. I want to thank you both for your painstaking research. I will admit that it was tough to read, but you were right in that I’m struggling with my conscience now. I have known all along that what I’m involved isn’t God’s will, but I’ve been too afraid to admit it. (We pastors are very good at dismissing what we don’t want to hear and justifying it.) Some of my friends in the ministry have confesssed this same thing behind closed doors …
As a pastor in a local congregation, your book is able to document and articulate suspicions and feelings that I’ve had for quite a while now. As I process the material and its ramifications, I wonder if you have any thoughts and advice for pastors who may decide they need to leave vocational ministry in order to embrace a more biblical way of being the church …
I sure appreciated reading your book, Pagan Christianity? Thanks for doing all the research and taking the time to shed light on issues that need to be brought to light. I imagine you are receiving a number of e-mails like mine so I’ll get right to the point. I’m sure I’m not the only person that can tell you that after 23 years in the full-time ministry, I too, am fully aware that “this” is surely not what God had in mind for His church. The issues you brought out have bothered me for many years and I’ve been viewed as somewhat of a rebel for how I felt about such issues … Thanks for your help and again thanks for the work you’re doing to bring the church back to it’s original intent.
For the Lamb,
I am a pastor in the [states his denomination]. For many years I have felt restless, unsatisfied, even disconnected with how “church” is done. I had some ideas and feelings to support me, but nothing as concrete as you have provided in “Pagan Christianity.” Now it’s as if I have a foundation to help explain my disillusionment with the calcified, predictable form of institutional religion.
This book is one of the few that has truly revolutionized my thinking and perspective. Where do we go from here?
In His hand, for His kingdom
Hi, my name is xxx! I’m an Associate Pastor at a church and I just read Pagan Christianity. It confirmed a lot of the things I’ve been seeing in my own studies and opened my eyes to some things I never would have seen. Thank you.
I’m in a bit of a desperate position because when I was 12 I chose to become a pastor. I’ve always been a futurist so I looked at what I believed was the best vocation a person could aspire to be a part of and chose Pastor. I graduated HS early, fast tracked college and Seminary and now I’m 28 with a Masters Degree and 10 years of professional ministry under my belt. Now that the next and final step to achieving my earliest goals is to take the plunge into a Senior Pastor position…. But I find that I’m extremely troubled by that idea now. There are so many things that are unbiblical about it that I can’t justify it any longer, but I don’t know how to get out of this mess that I’ve gotten into ….
I recently read Pagan Christianity.
I am the pastor of a church that is about 8 years old. We are a traditional paradigm church, although we have always been a little bit weird …. I am very interested in experiencing organic church as you describe it, and I can definitely relate to the feelings of pastors about their position. I would love to be a tent-maker as I believe I would enjoy ministry much more than what I do. I am already working on that with a network marketing business.
… One interesting aside came from a friend that I discussed your book with. His wife was reading it and said, “Why didn’t [states his name] know these things? He has a degree in theology.” My answer was basically follow the money. The professors, pastors and teachers make their living carrying out the form and institutions that are established. To get up in “church” or the classroom and say what you’ve written would be a cause of significant financial consequence through the loss of jobs for these pastors and professors.
Thanks for your good work…
My name is xx and Christ manifested Himself to me in 1981. After being Baptized and serving in many different areas of the “church”, I received a degree in Biblical studies,felt called to preach, was “ordained” in 1996 and have since served as “Pastor” in 3 [states the denomination] … In short, your book (Pagan Christianity) has opened my eyes so wide-they hurt. To finally read in print the scattered thoughts of my heart was both exciting and alarming. For as you warned, many (those whom I hold the dearest) respond only angrily to any mention of the truths presented in the book.
My name is XX. I am from XXX and I am 56 years old. I was a pastor in XXX for 10 years and was attached to several churches before and after that time in my life. I pioneered a church in XXX and left it a thriving congregation of 200 young men and women. However I questioned my organizations methods and practices and left that fellowship which led me on a personal quest to discover my faith in Christ. As I read Pagan Christianity I was very excited because much of what I was saying about the church I found in the book the only difference was you had done the historical research that I couldn’t seem to find. I sincerely thank you for your effort ….
I am a Baptist pastor and was given your book from a brother who is involved with a house church. I am being challenged for sure! I am trying to paint an historical picture for myself and then to share with my family and church men. I have researched the following so far and wondered if you had info to fill in the gap for me …
Tonight I finished your book. I read it in one day. I am a graduate of a Bible school and I attented Seminary at Fuller and took Church Growth. I love your book and it is my hope that you will have millions to read it because the hour is late. I call this a hallmark book …. I have spent thirty years trying to figure out what the “church” is really. I also read 10,000 books. So, I have eight years of education past high school and this includes a hitch in the XXXX.