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Tuesday, March 2, 2004

'Nice is different than good.'

The Christian Century's February 24 article about a Duke Divinity School Pulpit & Pew study of the mainline Protestant ministry, "Assessing the Clergy Supply in the 21st Century", sums up the uninspiring conclusion in the headline: "Young, Male and Married: What Search Committees Want."

But I found this passage, quoting Anthony Pappas, an American Baptist area minister in Massachusetts, the most compelling paragraph in the story:

Pappas also declared that too many seminary students are being equipped to be "chaplains" for local churches rather than being prepared as "entrepreneurs." That conclusion, he wrote, came from seven years trying to place "some of the nicest, sweetest, caring-est persons God ever created into congregations that desperately needed total transformation."

I'm reminded of the lyric in Into the Woods, when Little Red Riding Hood is rescued from the wolf and announces her discovery that "nice is different than good." The Christian Century doesn't share its content on-line, so you'll want to visit the library and read pages 9 and 11.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 2 March 2004 at 6:07 PM

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March 3, 2004 12:18 PM | Permalink for this comment

The "problem" is that none of those congregations wants transformation.


March 3, 2004 01:49 PM | Permalink for this comment

I think "none" is too strong, Melanie. I think in all congregations, some people see the need for transformation, while many just want their church to be "the same as when I got here." It takes a lot of effort, some good luck, and skill to help people see that healthy churches are changing, growing churches. Yes, some people would rather be comfortable than healthy. But in my experience, churches can come to a place of wanting to transform.


March 3, 2004 05:51 PM | Permalink for this comment

I hope we all can see that the "need for transformation" and the desire for the church to be the same as it was when each member arrived are ideas that live richly (but not well) side by side in far too many churches. After all, we're told the former is right, and we feel the latter is right.

It means nothing changes, everyone is frustrated, there is a disunified notion of what the church is today, and the blame gets put (in part) on the unchurched who are (in one way or another) not as special or esoteric as the people in the church.

You can keep this going -- provided the lawn gets mowed -- until the church is in a death spiral.


March 3, 2004 05:54 PM | Permalink for this comment

Oh, Philo don't you think that we didn't see you flex your metrosexual cred with the Sondheim reference.


March 4, 2004 09:11 AM | Permalink for this comment

Regarding Sondheim, let me simply say that the Bernadette Peters recording of Into the Woods is much better than the Vanessa Williams recording. And, um, I like opera better than musicals . . .

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