Before he retired, famous radio talk show host, Bob Grant used to say “It’s sick out there…and getting sicker”. He was talking about society in general and the attitudes of the citizens. He was broadcasting from a radio station in NYC and a look out of his window, as well as the callers who called in to his show were what prompted his trademark statement.
While I have a radio program, I don’t broadcast from a window high above a city. In fact I broadcast from a windowless studio in a rural area. Nor do I take calls from listeners. I do have guests, but we simply sit around the mics and have a conversation, allowing the listeners to ‘sit in’ with us, from the convenience of their kitchen tables or in their cars. But I have to agree, it is sick out there, and getting sicker. Not from what I can see from a window in a studio, but from a window known as the internet, I can get a glimpse of what is out there, beyond my secluded studio.
I am not addressing the public in general; I am addressing the so-called Internet clergy that proliferate today. I am sure this post will generate a lot of hate mail, from those who feel offended by what I am going to say. But as always, my response will be ‘so what?’ If the truth hurts you and cuts you like a knife, instead of blaming the messenger, take a look in the mirror. What am I talking about? A quick perusal of religious web pages will bring you a dizzying array of names, titles, churches you never heard of, and fakes and frauds of all stripes. I never agree with Ted Turner on anything. But I think I have to agree with him on one thing: Religion is a magnet for nut cases. What do I mean?
The Bible should be the highest authority on any matter for any Christian, let alone for any clergy. Those who desire to lead the flock entrusted into their care MUST teach and preach as well as handle accurately the Word of God. Period.
But sadly, I find page after page, web site after web site of people who have so many titles and letters after their names that Campbells Alphabet Soup wouldn’t be able to keep up. One site had a ‘Bishop’ with the following letters after his name: PhD,PsY, DD,ThD OCF, St.O M.Div, DSM, KP, EOST, and a few other letters. He then claimed he was Primate and Presiding Bishop Metropolitan of his church.
At first glance it was impressive. Until you found that he was a Bishop of a church in which not even his wife attended, and he did not have a building or parishoners. But he did look the part…his mitre was perfect, his chasable, stole, pectoral cross, alb and even his ‘Bishop’s Ring” and crozier were perfect. He had an invitation for other ‘clegy’ to join him, and had quite an impressive set of ‘rules and regulations’, as well as ‘orders’ as to what was expected of his ‘clergy’. He had 50 or so ‘clergy members’ listed on his page, but sadly, you will find the same names on many other ‘church’ web pages as well. Could we say ‘credential collectors?’
My guess is that if we stopped at his house on Sunday morning and knocked, we would find him answering the door in his underwear, unshaven and hung over instead of leading a flock. But don’t dare question his ‘authority’ he might get mad and smite you.
Or perhaps we can read of the ‘seminary’ that takes your money, says it is accredited and is one of the top institutions, with a who’s who of clergy as staff and ‘professors’. But again, a closer look will uncover that the ‘chancellor’ lives in Philadelphia, yet the school is registered in…perhaps Arizona, or better still, Chile or Bermuda.
Oh, and let us not forget the ‘wedding ministries’ that proliferate. A marriage between 2 people is a sacred vow, a covenant before God. But for a fee, these pastors will marry anyone, even if they never met them before, and will allow the couple to modify the ceremony to suit their more ‘spiritualistic, non-judgemental, non-Christian’ side.
I can go on and on and on. I can especially expound on the ‘denomination jumpers’ whose names can be found on numerous different denominational church sites. But I digress. It is both madening and saddening that these people simply play church and may look the part, even fooling others, and fooling themselves, but NEVER fooling God. The apostles taught the truth, and fought for its purity. Yet every single one of these churches and misfit pastors preach different than the next guy, perhaps believing they are (wrongly so) Divinely inspired. Error is error. Pure and simple. I am a Lutheran, but I do not believe that Martin Luther was Divinely inspired. If his teachings contradict Scripture, well then Scripture wins out every time.
I rarely wear vestments when I preach. A suit and tie ‘suits me’ just fine. But there are times when we get formal, but it is not for showy display nor is it necessary for salvation. What is necessary for salvation is that the preacher’s words are accurate, his actions in harmony with Scripture, and his stand for the truth solid, sound and beyond reproach. Yet I get a lot of grief by ‘pastors’ because I ‘don’t look the part’. I don’t belong to any ‘Holy Orders’, I don’t follow or always use our own liturgy, I don’t preach according to a lectionary schedule.
I don’t always fit into the mold of what a Bishop or even a simple pastor thinks they should fit. But I first and foremost follow Jesus Christ, look to Him, preach His word, not mine, follow His rules, not mine…or Luther’s for that matter. I will be as bold as Luther, but do not hold him up as infallible, and I will always speak the truth of the Gospel, no matter how unpopular. I don’t need to see, nor do I even ask for, any ‘paperwork’ from any congregation or diocese I oversee.
As long as they preach the truth, and live the Gospel, that’s good enough for me. And if I don’t look the part, good. If I don’t act the part, even better. I prefer to follow Jesus. And he didn’t have any letters after his name either. I may have earned titles and degrees, that are important to the world, but the better title is Christian. That’s why I never use my titles, and letters after my name. I don’t need them. I am…Christian.
To all the alphabet soup pastors out there, stop playing church, and start being church.
You will find your ministry expand beyond your wildest imagination.
Until next time,
I am simply: Pastor Sam
By Pastor Samuel Guido