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From the new introduction to John Piper’s revised and expanded forthcoming edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea for Radical Ministry (B&H, 2013):

Among younger pastors, the talk is less about therapeutic and managerial professionalization, and more about communication or contextualization.

The language of “professionalization” is seldom used in these regards, but there is quiet pressure felt by many pastors: Be as good as the professional media folks, especially the cool anti-heroes and the most subtle comedians.

This is not the overstated professionalism of the three-piece suit and the power offices of the upper floors, but the understated professionalism of torn blue jeans and the savvy inner ring.

This professionalism is not learned in pursuing an MBA, but by being in the know about the ever-changing entertainment and media world.

This is the professionalization of ambience, and tone, and idiom, and timing, and banter. It is more intuitive and less taught. More style and less technique. More feel and less force.

If this can be called professionalism, what does it have in common with the older version? Everything that matters. The way I tried to get at the problem ten years ago was to ask some questions. Let me expand that list. Only this time think old and new professionalism.

  • Is there professional praying?
  • Professional trusting in God’s promises?
  • Professional weeping over souls?
  • Professional musing on the depths of revelation?
  • Professional rejoicing in the truth?
  • Professional praising God’s name?
  • Professional treasuring the riches of Christ?
  • Professional walking by the Spirit?
  • Professional exercise of spiritual gifts?
  • Professional dealing with demons?
  • Professional pleading with backsliders?
  • Professional perseverance in a hard marriage?
  • Professional playing with children?
  • Professional courage in the face of persecution?
  • Professional patience with everyone?

These are not marginal activities in the pastoral life. They are vital.

You can read the whole excerpt here.

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4 thoughts on “How “Professionalization” in the Pastorate Has Changed in the Last 10 Years”

  1. Danfi says:

    I believe this “professionalism” that subtly ties itself to the spiritual-blessedness that Christ speaks of in the beatitudes; is due to the power of social-media. Social media has done a great job of making vacuous our spiritual dispositions that the Lord graciously brings us in. With right diction, a “holy” page layout on twitter, facebook or a blog, along with a great quote that strengths your current bruising (or lack thereof) from the Lord, you cannot escape sounding like a professional Christian.

    The cyber world that the church has found itself in, has unfortunately handicapped the true church of God from witnessing fruit bearing, from an eye-witness vantage point. We are left to witness the fruit individuals bear on the cyber tree of the internet world. The current church is full of echoes (myself included), echoes of great personalities such as Piper, MacArthur, Platt and the like.

    Pastors feel the need to emulate or achieve this standard that the internet world has fixed for them. Professionalism in the church is the result of individuals seeking to replicate that which they see on youtube, blogs, and social media sites. These great personalities mentioned above are not the cause for “professionalism” in the church, but their God given status and academic accolades, along with their preaching charisma and vernacular has indirectly produced “mini-professionals.”

    In the past a man of God was effective to the degree that his surrounding community could observe his words and deeds; not his internet success or book purchases. How can a young man desiring to pursue the pastoral ministry guard himself from this professionalism? Given that my generation is founded and established on social media outlets?

    1. Matti says:

      Perhaps these great personalities, like Piper is doing here, should use more of their influence speak about the dangers of the social media. But they themselves seem to be so immersed in it that they don’t recognize it.

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    When we look at our favorites clergy that demand salaries and benefits to minister we applaud their faithfulness. When we look at someone from a different stream of the church we declare them worldly because they don’t dress the right way or they know something about pop culture.

    If you want to get rid of professionalization in ministry, quit demanding that clergy attend vocational schools and have the clergy quit demanding to be paid.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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