Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Clergy Junk Mail

I can't believe how much unsolicited junk mail I get - both snail-mail and e-mail. It's outrageous.

Just because I'm a Lutheran pastor, people seem to think I would be interested in buying sermons, putting a platform for a band in the front of my church, purchasing banal and doctrinally flabby trinkets to hand out at Sunday School, attending "prayer breakfasts" with every corrupt elected official in Louisiana (sorry to be redundant), going on "Christian cruises" (can you just imagine anything more repulsive?), attending conferences with women pastors and guitar-twanging youth leaders, etc.

Part of this is our own fault. When a marketing firm or even a small business sees the word "Lutheran" (or at very least "Missouri Synod Lutheran") next to our names and the names of our churches, it should be unthinkable to send us a catalog with a priestess decked out in a rainbow stole on the cover. They should know that trying to sell me a rock concert-worthy mixing board or drum kit for my worship service would be a complete and total waste of money. They should figure sending an ad for a "leadership conference" with all the latest Christian fad leaders who believe hipness trumps doctrine would be wasted on a Lutheran pastor. It should be apparent that goods and services highlighting non-traditional worship and non-denominational theology are just not something we're in the market for - as if they were trying to sell crucifixes to Jewish rabbis or the Book of Mormon to the local Moslem imam.

But it isn't.

Enough of our brethren serving in the pastoral ministry of the LCMS are gulled and beguiled by this nonsense that it becomes a good bet to send this stuff to me. They should see the name "Lutheran" and the last thing that should come to mind is that I would be a potential purchaser of Amy Grant's greatest hits (should that last word even be in the plural?).

But they don't.

So, thanks a lot, guys. You know who you are. You're the bureaucrats who live for the latest Barna poll, who can't wait to clog my inbox with Ablaze!(tm) junk and invites to the latest synod and district events featuring Emerging Church gurus and efforts to undermine the liturgy. You're the latest breed of fad-pastors who want the church to look like an overpriced suburban coffeehouse. You're the beancounting leadership that has the synodical handbook committed to memory but could not care less what the Book of Concord says. You're the "hip" pastor that would rather die than go out in public wearing a clerical collar (I mean, someone might recognize you as one of Christ's called and ordained ministers, oh horror!) - let alone a traditional cassock. You're the great thinkers in our synod who are constantly devising new ways to get men into the ministry without seminary training.

Thanks a lot, guys. You're all the the reason I get nonsense like the following. It's because the name "Lutheran" has been devalued into the meaningless mush of postmodernist Protestantism.

From an e-mail dated August 18, 2008...

As clergypersons we should all desire to be better leaders. It is so easy to make mistakes while managing a congregation, dealing with staff, and being a visionary leader. We all need help. This is why my friend Pat Day and I have decided to put together the best speakers and workshop leaders we could find to do a 3-day conference on leadership and effective management in the local church. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers:

  • Bishop Robert Schnase – Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Hal Sutton – Professional golfer
  • Claudia Lavy – author and professional speaker on church effectiveness
  • Buddy Roemer – former governor of Louisiana and congressman
  • Rev. Tyrone Gordon – senior pastor of St. Luke’s Community UMC in Dallas
  • Dr. Tim Walker – senior pastor, First UMC Midland, TX, author, consultant
  • Rev. Jessica Moffatt Seay – senior pastor of First UMC Bixby, OK
  • Grady Golden – president of Builder’s Supply Company
  • Dr. Bob Whitesel – author, associate professor, and founder of C3 International
  • Dr. David Trickett – president of Iliff School of Theology in Denver
  • David Wetzler – founder of ChurchSmart Resources
  • Ivan Smith – President of Ivan Smith Furniture chain of 48 stores
  • Rev. Michael Ward – senior pastor of Central United Church of Canada, Calgary
  • Dr. Everett Piper – president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University
  • Dr. Brian Bauknight – director of leadership development and large church support
  • Kurt AndrĂ© – senior partner with TAG (The Armstrong Group)

Each one of these speakers offers important knowledge on how to be a better leader. There are also workshops offered by these speakers and others on over 40 subjects.

The conference is September 23-25 in Shreveport. The price is still reasonable and a hotel within walking distance of the church has rooms available. You can register online at www.leadershipnexus.net or by mail. Although the early-bird deadline has passed you can bring someone from your church and still receive the group discount. (Group registrations must be mailed in.)

This conference can help all of us be significantly better leaders. If you have any questions about it please email me. I hope to see you in Shreveport!

Yours in Christ,

Bob Pierson

Executive Director

Leadership Nexus

7103 S Columbia Place

Tulsa, OK 74136

Cell: 918-809-7489

Office: 918-477-7549

Email: bpierson@leadershipnexus.net


revalkorn said...

So you're not going to go with me?

Father Hollywood said...

Only if you're buying the beer... ;-)

The Rev. BT Ball said...

should I feel some pride in confessing that the only speaker for this conference that I have ever heard of is Hal Sutton? I suppose I might be interested in going if he were giving golf tips instead of leadership advice.

As for having the name Lutheran and others figuring you were with them because the rest of the LCMS is it seems-

I had the Gideons come to the church about a year or so ago. I told them gracefully (I thought) that I couldn't be a part of their local efforts. They actually asked, "why not?" I told them that as a pastor of the LCMS, I have committed to not participating in missionary and tract endeavors of mixed confession, which is exactly what the Gideons are. Their response, of course, was that there are many, many LCMS pastors, congregations and laymen who either support the Gideons or are Gideons. I told them that laymen might make errors in public confession due to ignorance of their own church's position, but the pastors and congregations of the LCMS have committed themselves not to join missionary and tract organizations for the sake of the unity of the faith and the common confession of the Gospel and all its articles; I left out "heterdox" in the missionary and tract organizations in the spirit of charity.

They clearly thought I was crazy, some kind of strange LCMS Lutheran who didn't care about reaching the lost in hotel rooms and I wasn't even wearing my cassock.

B. Ball

Orianna Laun said...

I really liked the one which came to our church--it was a catalog for invitations to the neighborhood. Buy their edgy flyers and invite people to church. The funniest was the one that had a lovely picture of wooden pews inside a church (I think CPH might have used the same stock photo as a bulletin cover) and the message said, "When your bum goes numb it just isn't funny."

revalkorn said...

Knowing the quality of the beer you drink, I'd be tempted, but I can't afford beer that good right now!

Bryce P Wandrey said...

These kind of emails are the reason I have two different email accounts: one for personal stuff and the other for business stuff (which gets slammed with SPAM). I have to say, if anything actually showed up in the post I simply chucked it. I think I tried to read it in the first couple of months as a pastor but after that I simply had to throw it and spend my time reading something far more valuable.

Father Hollywood said...

I know what you mean. Pretty much every day a wad of unopened mail goes into the trash.

But I do have to wade and cull through the official LCMS stuff before I chuck it. Every now and then, they have something important.

Then there is the mail from individuals - like the packet I got from the local incarnation of Mohamed who was arrested by Catholic Social Sevices and who has taken the matter up with the Vatican and the League of Arab States (life in New Orleans is never dull).

I officiated the wedding of one of my parishioners, who upon receiving the marriage paperwork in the mail (which he needed for INS), not only tossed it, but shredded it - because he thought it was junk mail. Doh!

Father Hollywood said...

Fr. Ball:

I got the same reaction a few years back when a local pastor asked me to join him for the opening prayer at a high school football game (this is the deep South, after all, and if we're not combining Catholicism and voodoo we're syncretizing Evangelicalism with the pigskin).

I told him "no thanks" so I could remain with my team (for whom I served as chaplain) where we would kneel and pray the Our Father together in the end zone as was our custom.

He looked at me like I had two heads. He gave the "great God wejustwanna" prayer about good weather and such all by himself.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Orianna:

I amassed quite a collection of those oversized "edgy" postcards for the latest trendy ultra-suburban coffee-churches (one of which actually included the Starbuck's logo as the only iconography of any kind).

The problem is when everybody is "edgy," there are no edges left (wasn't that the moral of The Incredibles?). Although, I find it really hard to view a guy in khakis with perfect smiling teeth and blow-dried hair toting a cup of Starbucks and a trophy wife to be "edgy."

I have to admit that I find the marketing aspect fascinating - like people who believe pro wrestling is real.

revalkorn said...

Okay. Now you've done it. You've questioned the reality of pro wrestling. Them's fightin' words!

*sigh* Yeah, I know it's not real, but it's brainless entertainment, and you have to admit, you have to be a pretty good athlete (and actor) to make something that fake look even halfway decent.

Father Hollywood said...


No doubt.

When I was a kid, I had cousins and aunts - adults - who bristled at any notion that it wasn't real. They would even go to the armory to watch the fights live. I went with them once, and even to my untrained eight-year old eyes, I could see the shenanigans.

But then again, I grew up in the Akron, Ohio area, home of Rex Humbard AND Ernest Angely - not to mention David Allan Coe. I think Marylyn Manson came out of there too - as well as Jeffrey Dahmer.

Anyway, my favorite move was pounding the guy's face in the turnbuckle. That just seemed to me the ultimate in being pwned.

Past Elder said...

Rock on Father H!

You know, maybe there's a parallel between the church wars (of which the worship wars are the most obvious) and what's happened with pro rasslin.

I loved the AWA as a kid -- Verne Gagne, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Big Tiny Mills, etc -- and later the WCW and ECW. Both killed off by Vince McMahon marketing.

Even the ECW fans applauded a really good series with a good work rate. Being a veteran of Western and Eastern wrestling styles, you could say, yes, there is some real skill in being able to put on exhibitions like that, as opposed to staged brawls like stunt men.