Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Worldliness & Method in the PCA

I'm come to this year's General Assembly with as much consternation as I've ever experienced coming to one of these things. Over the years, I developed a progressively more jaded attitude towards our denomination as a organizational entity. It's a funny thing, as a people bound by a common confession of faith and as churches working for God's kingdom, I love our denomination. As an organization we look impressive, but I'm deeply frustrated and ashamed of what is below the surface.

Don't get me wrong, it's could be so much worse. I can't imagine how Catholics feel about some of the things which lurk below the surface of their waters. I'm grateful that I don't have to apologize to people for child molesters or homosexual clergy.

The problem with the PCA is our core worldliness. I don't think we're that much more worldly than other denominations, we're just better at it. When it comes to emulating the wisdom of the Western business world, we do it better than most others. We're worldly, but we're competent. Our permanent ministry heads are excellent administrators. Other denominations make the mistake of hiring scholars to run their seminaries and missionaries to run their missions boards. We know that you don't have to be an expert in theology to run a seminary. You don't have to be a battle-scarred missionary or a cutting-edge missiologist to run a missions organization. You need to be an effective administrator and fund-raiser. And that's what we makes me embarrassed.

Since the temptation for all of us in the American church is to accept the idols of our own culture, the PCA's method of managing ministry with the tools of the business world resonates with most of our churches. We like the fact that the head of our seminary is good-looking, well-dressed, well-spoken and polished. We'd rather have him than someone who is a gifted theologian but dresses oddly and is a little crusty in his demeanor.

When you start to look underneath the veneer of what we're doing, one of the consequences of this type of ministry is that sophisticated scholars, cutting-edge missiologists and battle-scarred missionaries tend to get forced out when they challenge the decisions of the bureaucrats. I spent a couple of hours with a someone who has been forced out after challenging some things our denomination is doing. Administrators often don't respond well to dissent or boat-rocking. The concern that I have is that the competency, management and institutional survival often seems to have become the de facto goal, rather than the Kingdom building which is always the stated goal.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - in part. It would be good to have a battle scarred missionary in charge of the missions - if they have the gifts or abilities to administer over such a large organization. A mismanaged organization wouldn't achieve its stated goal either. Truly good administraters know that the stated goal and the defacto goal should always be the same and in a Christian organization worldliness should play no part regardless of who's "minding the store". As for the seminaries - the liberals put scholars in charge of theirs in the sixties and we see where that got them. Not sure that's the solution either. A good Godly administrator has a role in every christian organization. Keeping them on track is the role of the members of the organization. Maybe as a denomination we as a body have failed to call our leaders and administrators to a higher standard.