What preachers are scared to say (Part I of II)

BY TERRY MATTINGLY Modified: January 21, 2013 at 9:24 am •  Published: January 21, 2013
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-- Clergy struggle to work 60 hours or less each week. Even on Sundays, he noted, they've "been 'on,' like rock concert 'on,' all morning. I'm smiling and being social, but I'm actually fried. ... You know that important thing you needed to tell me as you shook my hand and headed off to brunch? I forgot it, along with the important things eight other people told me. Sorry, I didn't mean to, but you better write it down, send it in an email, or leave me a message for when I get back in the office."

-- Truth be told, clergy care more about "the regulars. I know I'm not supposed to, but I do. You know, the ones who show up in the pouring rain, there for every fundraiser and Bible study. When a perfect stranger shows up demanding the rites of the church and treating me like I'm an unfortunate prop in their personal movie, it's a problem. ... I'm having serious theological qualms about this, I'm just not telling you."

-- Clergy work for a bishop, a vestry or another source of authority, but they ultimately must confess that, "I work for God." Yes, it's hard to please everyone, but an honest preacher also must be able to say, "If I stop challenging you, you'll know that I am either exhausted or scared. Neither is good for you or the church you love."

Brinn said he didn't worry that members of his small congregation would misunderstand this candid shot over the pulpit.

"I really wrote this piece for all of the pastors who don't have the freedom to be this honest in their pulpits," he said. "Way too many pastors try to bury their problems. ... I am convinced that 75 percent of American clergy are terrified of their congregations."

NEXT WEEK: Why are many clergy so afraid of their flocks?

(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)

(c)COPYRIGHT 2013 United Feature Syndicate

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