I’ve Found Our New Pastor (or at least his age)

Having gone sleepless the last two nights, since my church’s pastor announced his upcoming resignation, I’m ready to share my brilliant plan for church leadership, pastoral succession, and the alignment of the stars. Allow me to trot these ideas out for you so that perhaps somebody can suggest any possible flaws in the plan.

First, I’ll note that our intrepid executive pastor and current HGIC (head guy in charge) Jeff shared a podcast from former Lifeway CEO Thom Rainer. In this five-year-old recording, Rainer speaks with church-leadership-search expert William Vanderbloemen, who brings a host of interesting tidbits to the table. One of his suggestions is that church’s tend to “hire too fast and fire too slow.” I’m not sure about the second of those, but when people hear my great idea, they’ll know that we can’t possibly hire too fast.

Vanderbloemen suggests that there are some age issues with pastors. He claims that if he looks at a long-time pastor and the growth chart for his church, he can with fair accuracy identify the pastor’s 40th birthday and 55th to 60th birthday. Essentially, he’s saying that most pastors really hit their stride at around 40 and that their effectiveness plateaus or drops off in the late 50s. Hearing that, despite my sleep deprivation, I had a flash of insight, developing my system.

We start by soliciting applications from any interested parties, but we immediately eliminate anyone who is younger than 36 or older than 40. The perfect candidate will be stepping into our pulpit on his 38th birthday. That will give him two years to get to know the church and make whatever changes he needs to effect before his performance magically jumps into overdrive at age 40. I know that this sort of move has the potential to raise issues of age discrimination, so we might need to create another rationale. Regardless, I think this move is utterly essential.

After we identify our candidate, we do not sign him up with an eye toward keeping him until he limps into his 80s. Instead, we offer him a contract that is understood to terminate when he turns 60. I realize that his peak years might end when he’s 55, but we have to hope that if he makes it that long, even a decreased effectiveness won’t be too bad.

“But wait!” you protest. “What if our pastor is super awesome even into his 60s?” I have a plan for that as well. We maintain the option to renew him on a year-by-year basis. At 61, maybe he’s still good, but at 62, we show him the door. I’m sure he’ll understand. There is a precedent for this. School bus drivers, in Missouri at least, once they reach 70 have to retake their test every year. Given the similarities between pastoring a church and piloting a bus full of unruly kids, this seems relevant.

Clearly, as William Vanderbloemen would surely agree, the way to find the perfect pastor is to follow not the Holy Spirit but data and science. In fairness, I don’t think that’s at all what Mr. Vanderbloemen would suggest, but it was fun to consider the idea.

Can’t Anybody Take a Joke?

Over the last few days, former President Obama recorded a video send-off to retiring Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade. In this little ditty, Obama joked that he had to give up a career he loved. Of course, people thought, “Yeah, you gave up being president.” Then he added that he didn’t really have a choice. “Yeah, the Constitution and all that.” Only then did he get to the punch line: “My knees were shot so I had to give up basketball forever.”

That’s cute and imminently forgettable, but then in our current political climate nobody seems capable of judging anything as forgettable. Everything, it seems, is deadly serious and indicative of the speaker’s entire moral universe.

I saw this mentioned via an article that noted

It is common knowledge that Obama rode the bench for his high school varsity basketball team, Punahou School, in Hawaii. His hoop dreams ended early in his life.

Are you serious? I ask, because I’m pretty sure that Obama wasn’t serious. A commenter on that article opined,

Obama takes another event in honor of someone else and manages to make it about himself.

Really? Did he really? It was a joke. Although a lot of Tweets thought the video positive, @RapMuzak found it offensive:

“Really offensive”? Really? Did we mention that it was a joke. And @VeganMarine shared this gem:

Just a note @VeganMarine: Should you ever want to praise me as a class act, please don’t do it by calling someone else a “turd.” I’m sure Dirk Nowitski is moved by your support.

Here’s the bottom line, to me. We need to chill as a people. There’s not a thing wrong with the former president making a little joke video to honor the player of his choice. And there’s nothing wrong with the current president joking about something else–like perhaps saying that George Washington should have named Mt. Vernon after himself. There’s nothing wrong with either of them not making a video for a particular player.

This world is full of plenty of things that can truly upset us, things that deserve our criticism. Why would anybody get worked up about something like this?

Not-So-Family Feud

A certain person in my family listens to Family Feud at ear-rattling volume for about three hours a day. What is it that bothers me the most about this? It could be the sound pressure that would make Metallica jealous, but it’s really the incredibly tacky–and not terribly clever–questions and answers that make up the show. My theory is that for any given category, someone will answer “Your butt!”

Steve Harvey: “Name something you wouldn’t want to leave on an airplane.”
Player: “Your butt!”
Rest of Family: “Good answer! Good answer!”
Audience: Howls of laughter.

If there’s an obvious sexual reference to make, then you make it. The more crude and middle-school-worthy, the better. And I’m not the only one to notice this. It wasn’t that long ago, 1960 to be precise, that Jack Paar got into a huge kettle of hot water over a truly clever bathroom joke that he delivered as host of The Tonight Show. That jokewhich played on a linguistic misunderstanding as to what the “WC” might be, “water closet” (restroom) or “wayside chapel,” wouldn’t even budge the taste meter among today’s comics.

Over the course of sixty years, we’ve gone from finding the W.C. joke to be unacceptably suggestive to seeing the steady diet of crass stuff on Family Feud as perfectly okay–or even desirable. Steve Harvey is apparently pulling in $12 million a year for that gig!

And before you start suggesting that I’m overreacting, let’s remember that Paar’s Tonight Show, like Jimmy Fallon’s, aired well after primetime and when the kids had presumably gone to bed. Family Feud runs in the daytime or for hours during the evening on whatever cable channel that is blasting loud enough for the neighbors to hear from my family member’s house.

We’ve seen a coarsening of taste and standards over those sixty years. Of course, you could point out that Shakespeare had some–or a lot of–suggestive jokes. The Greek dramatist Aristophanes had a whole play based on fairly lurid stuff. So what’s the difference? I’d point to a couple of differences. First, for all their naughty humor, both Shakespeare and Aristophanes mostly supported healthy sexual mores. Second, those writers were actually somewhat funny.

The stuff that masquerades as humor on that game show or coming from any number of mediocre comics is the verbal equivalent of fake vomit. Fake vomit isn’t really funny, but it can be shocking. To continue to draw laughter, it has to grow ever more shocking. And then we get to a place where a steady torrent of crudeness seems normal.

People don’t lose their sense of decency in one step. They don’t slide from Leave it to Beaver to Bob’s Burgers in a single move. Instead, they allow stuff, little by little, to come into their home and seem normal. And pretty soon, they’re wallowing in a cultural cesspool.

Where exactly should we draw the line? Is Leave it to Beaver edgy? I’m not going to try to establish a line, but I do believe that we need to take seriously the stuff we allow past our eyes and ears.

Steve Harvey: Finish this statement: When you’re mentally lazy, you sit on _______.
Player: Your butt.



New Age Onion Slicing

I’ve never been one for all the New Age hocus pocus, but if works, who am I to say no? I’m pretty sure that the onions mentioned in Numbers 11:5, the only mention of onions in the Bible, I’m pretty sure, were cut up using crystals. But then those Egyptians are behind most of the best New Age stuff, aren’t they?

If you’re looking for deep spiritual truth here, you’ve picked the wrong entry. Just enjoy.