An Indispensable Churches Post
One of the public policy discussions in the education arena these days centers on the issue of teacher pay. It seems as though some people are of the opinion that for too long teachers have been paid like other union members, with a pay scale based on seniority. These people would have a teacher’s pay adjustments based rather on the test scores of their students. The reasoning seems to be that this is the most accurate metric of the teacher’s effectiveness. So the argument goes like this: good test scores are the result of good teaching, poor test scores are the result of poor teaching. Simple enough. So if you have a whole class of students who score low on a standardized test relative to some other class, it’s obviously the fault of the teacher. Never mind the possibility that a myriad of other factors (parental support, capabilities of the students, amount of funding, “test-anxiety,” etc.) can influence the test scores of students. The rationale here is that if the students perform poorly the direct cause must be poor teaching. So let’s blame it on the teacher and tell them they have to change or leave.
One of the gaping chasms in the way we deal with one another in love in the church is that pastors are often treated the same way as these teachers. Whatever metric you may want to use, if the church doesn’t measure up to that metric it’s the pastor’s fault. Low attendance? The pastor’s fault. Low giving? The pastor’s fault. Inactive youth group? You guessed it. And on and on. And this isn’t always coming from disappointed members of the congregation (although occasionally it does). Sometimes this comes from judicatories as they look at congregations that “need to be revitalized / transformed” and the consultants that they send in to help. Why isn’t the congregation living up to the metric the judicatory likes to use? Because the pastor is not conducting the ministry the right way. Because he needs to improve his leadership skills. Because he isn’t . . . / because she doesn’t . . . / because they won’t . . . .
But this reasoning assumes a direct link between the pastor’s ministry and the ability of the congregation to meet a metric imposed upon it from the outside. This reasoning fails to take into account a myriad of other influences. This reasoning grossly fails to take into account the degree of opposition to both the pastor and the congregation by the dread enemy of all God’s faithful people. And this reasoning isn’t reasoning at all – it’s blaming, a sin started by Adam in the Garden of Eden and one that we have never been able to shake.
What blaming does not do is this: effectively call a “sinful” person to repentance. What blaming does instead is this: effectively drive a wedge of suspicion, mistrust, and resentment where there should be love and peace and fellowship. Jesus is the one who made the church perfect with His blood; we cannot make it perfect by blaming one another for ineffectiveness. What we can do is love one another as Christ has commanded us to do, as He has done for us, and leave it at that.
Everything else is just spreadsheets.