So here's my quandary. I have all these things I want to write about. If I take the time and write scholarly articles and a book or two I will have the potential of reaching the professional accredited people of academia, the pastors and leaders of Reformed Christianity and other factions. However, because I lack the proper credentials and I'm not tied in with their institutions, I will have no audience. Because I'm questioning too many things, too many unassailable traditions and constructs, again...I will have no audience.
I could write the articles with the hope of reaching regular people within the Churches and the increasing number of people on the outside of the Church. But if I write scholarly articles, to be quite honest, these people aren't going to read them or understand them. The issues can be difficult enough without bogging them down with academic trappings.
So in the end I decided....just write. Write conversationally. Write as if someone is sitting in the chair across from me. Write it in a flowing manner, with something of a dialogue. Write because these things burn in my chest and I want to release them. So few care and so few can listen, so put it out there. You never know, you may find three or four people willing to listen and consider. Write, because it helps me, forces me to explain myself, put my ideas to through the test of elaboration.
Many people won't know what I'm talking about, some will, and some will be interested and challenged and want to learn more. So just do it and see what happens.
At first I thought, just remain anonymous, but sure enough people keep asking...who are you, what are your credentials? Well for obvious reasons, I didn't want to tell them. I'm nobody and I have no credentials. But then I realized it doesn't matter. If they're the kind of people impressed by degrees or the type of people that believe they're mandatory for someone to bring something to the table...then so be it.
I wanted to remain anonymous because all the people I was trying to reach and affect...accredited people in the Reformed world demand the credentials I lack.
But then not far into this, I realized I was making a mistake. There's no point in trying to reach them. They have too much invested in their systems and institutions.
The system has forms of government which insulate it and protect it...an almost invisible hand guiding congregations and preventing them from slipping one way or the other. They would argue this is a positive aspect of their political forms. Individuals within the congregation may hold to a wide variety of views, some in total opposition to the Denominational/Institutional Guardians...but they're kept from having any influence, the ability to function as a catalyst is neutralized.
It is unpleasant to think in these terms, but these pastors have invested their lives in this system. Their livelihoods, pensions, healthcare all rest in the hands of the institution. It's not easy to question that and end up out on the street...or end up like me, on your knees in an attic pulling wires up through a wall, or in a crawlspace plumbing a shower drain. Many of these men have pretty easy lives. Many will scoff at that, insisting they spend hours in study.... but I find the quality of many sermons to be often poor and formulaic. I've known men that could do just as well picking up a Bible and teaching an impromptu lesson. That's not to say there aren't some good teachers and preachers, but often what's being produced falls far short of what someone should be able to generate when that's their primary task.
The system is very broken. The Churches are relying on the seminaries to weed out those who aren't genuinely called to the ministry. The seminaries are largely relying on the Churches to fulfill this task. The bottom line is...if you have bachelor's degree and the available funds or means to access the funds, and you can survive while you procure the degree...more likely than not, unless you completely botch it...you can end up in a pulpit. Consequently there are many men that are poor teachers and substandard speakers, occupying these positions. Some of these men, finish the undergraduate degree at 22, finish seminary at 25 or 26, enter an assistant pastorate for a couple of years and are on their own, pastoring a church at 28 or 29.
At that point many of these young men have never had a real job, or lived in the real world. I heard some young men say frightful things while I was in seminary. Even though I was only a couple of years older than many of them, in comparison I was more than a little worldly-wise. I come from a very broken, very disturbed family with a lot of ugliness and scandal. I've done a variety of things, traveled quite a bit and often alone, lived overseas, worked many different jobs and this was all at a pretty young age. I'm not bragging, I merely wish to say I knew a bit more than some of these men that had grown up in sheltered homes (and I don't begrudge them that one bit) and had pretty easy lives. They came from middle class ease and stability. They had parents that helped them through college, provided them with a car, a place to come home to and so forth. This is all well and good, but these men are ill equipped to take a position of leadership where they're going to counsel families struggling to pay bills, dealing with the hardships of life, trying to raise children, and may even be adult converts with a lot of baggage from their past.
They're not going to understand how tired working people are...how when you come home at the end of the day you just want to sit down.
A lot of parents are frankly lazy and inconsistent. I've worked very hard to not sit in a chair and ignore what's happening in the other room with my kids. To not let things slip. Even though I don't feel like it, I get up and deal with things.
But I totally understand why people don't. At the end of the day, I can fully grasp why people just want to sit down in front of the television and be at peace. But we can't. And some people need to be told that, but I guarantee you they will resent it when it's coming from a young man in his twenties with one or two children who aren't all that well behaved. I'm not sure why this is the case, but I can't tell you how many churches I've been to where the pastor's kids are the worst behaved in the Church....often to the point where his 1 Timothy 3 qualifications should be questioned.
I saw these men in seminary and I've seen them at work in churches. It can be quite destructive. I realize the Presbyterian argument is... that's why we have other elders, a plurality...presumably older men. Sometimes having older men works, sometimes it doesn't. The Biblical model is a plurality to be sure, but the Presbyterian model usually entails a 'pastor' and 'ruling' elders. This provides some plurality and can help to keep the pastor from becoming a congregational tyrant (as is often found in Independent Baptist Churches)... but since you still have the clerical figure of the Pastor, the Elders never carry the same authority.
I've seen Elders that are basically 'yes' men. I've seen Elders that are Elders because their the late middle aged men in the Church not because they have any gifts or knowledge. I've also seen how often the people don't want to be visited by the Elders, they want to be visited by the pastor.
The whole system is broken. I'm all for an educated clergy (properly understood) and I understand the need for the leaders to not be ignorant of the Bible or doctrine. 1 Timothy and Titus make that clear and I believe it strongly. I've seen ignorance in authority, and it's a very bad situation.
But this whole system of seminary degrees, the bureaucratization and institutionalization of the Church, I believe has been a bad thing. I find a lot of Presbyterianism to be nothing but an empty form trying to hold it all together. I wasn't interested and I left seminary...I wasn't sure if I might still be called upon at some point to serve in the Church as an officeholder, but I knew it wouldn't be within the Presbyterian system.