Ask the (Former) Fundy Preacher

Someone requested a “ask the spiritual leader” in a “what types of ‘Ask The’ threads would you like to see” thread going on right now.

I graduated from a small, private, conservative religious college in southwestern Missouri with full intentions of a career in the ministry. After graduation, I went straight to Kashiwazaki, Japan to teach English to an English teaching/Christian missionary outfit. In all honesty, I would probably still be doing the same work in Japan had I been working for better people.

After Japan fizzled out I took a ministry at Amoret Christian Church in Amoret, Missouri (a little farming town down the road from Kansas City). Full-on Bible-thumping preaching every Sunday for a number of years, with plenty of weddings, funerals, and baptisms to boot. I preached a literal 6-day creation, no sex before marriage, the whole bit.

My ministry in Amoret ended (long story), and I decided the ministry wasn’t for me. That’s been well over ten years ago. Now I’m just a regular layperson. I still go to church every Sunday, and I’m still very involved with my church, particularly in the area of children’s ministry. There are some things my church teaches that I’m not 100% comfortable with, but in the main I believe that my church and my spirituality are a good fit.

Spiritually, I’m in a much different place than where I was a decade and a half ago. I drink. I smoke pot. I no longer believe in a literal 6-day creation (I’m leaning toward Theistic Evolution at the moment, but I’m not fully committed to that idea, either). I’m also toying with the idea of incorporating some Buddhism into my life. The Sangamon Zen Socity has meditations every Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Church; I may stop by now that chess season is over (I coach chess at a local Christian school).

Ask me anything you want, I’ll be honest. I’d prefer not to be drawn into debates about my beliefs, as there’s plenty of room in GD for that type of thing. I’d also prefer not to be called upon to justify my actions; those were a decade and a half ago and I’m a different person now.


Cool thread.

Why did you decide that ministry wasn’t for you? Was that a difficult process, considering how much of your life had been devoted to ministry at that point?

Did your beliefs change gradually or did you have a radical change of heart?

Do you keep in contact with any of the people from your past ministries?

Leaving wasn’t a difficult process at all. By the time my career in Amoret was winding down, I just knew I’d had enough of the politics, the living in the fishbowl, etc. I still have some regrets about the thousands of dollars I spent on an education I’m not using, but I’m not the only member of my generation whose job != their college education.

My beliefs changed gradually, and are still changing. No radical change of heart, sorry.

No, I don’t keep in contact with any of the people from the past. I found my old boss in Kashiwazaki on FB and sent him an e-mail asking what some of the people I remember are up to. He responded with some platitude about he had “moved on” from me and didn’t want to discuss it, blah blah blah. Then he regretfully told me what he knew. Ass.

What are the personal qualities & skills one needs, to be an effective preacher of that type?

Do you get annoyed at stereotypes about your former religion? (often, fundamentalist = scary)

Did you ever feel like you were going through the motions when you were preaching? That you had to fake the passion, or that maybe you didn’t really feel 100% of what you were saying even as you were saying it?

Cool thread. If you were a biblical literalist, did you also participate in healings? If so, how did that work? If not, was it because you weren’t quite comfortable with the whole scenario?

Well, despite what the media portrays, the job does require intelligence. There’s a lot of research and creativity that goes into crafting a sermon. You also have to be comfortable with public speaking. Compassion is a big key. You also have to be likable and have a sense of humor.

Yes, I very much get annoyed at stereotypes about my religion. Here’s how I look at it: About 300 guys graduated with me in my graduating class. Maybe half are still in the ministry. Of those 150 guys, maybe, MAYBE, one or two are the type of “fundy” that so many fear (for example, actively sitting on school boards trying to get evolution removed from the cirriculum, etc.). Most are just trying to make a living doing something they feel passionate about.

Only at funerals. I’ve only buried a couple of people that I really knew or cared about. The rest were just names & faces, and I had a hard time pretending I cared that they were dead.

No, my denomination didn’t (and doesn’t) go for that. We believe that God heals miraculously from time to time, but just as often God uses the tools available to us (i.e., modern medicine). I never once did a “lay-hands-on-and-pray-for-healing” type thing. Never have, never will, never seen it done.

How much time does a preacher spend in “typical preaching” as opposed to counseling, preparing, studying, or the mundane business of church running. What was easy, what was tough

I’m astounded at the number of skills our minister needs to have in addition to just the public speaking.

How large was your congregation? Were you a full-time preacher or did you have another job? I ask because I grew up in an area where this type of church was common but congregations were mostly small (<100 people) and the preachers often had to hold another job to make ends meet.

Define “Theist Evolution”. What’s the difference from Intelligent Design?

What was your own doctrinal tradition and/or the denominational affiliation of the church you pastored? The Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ/Christian Church grouping seems to have one of the most confusing taxonomies imaginable. As near as I can tell there is a heavy Baptist influence there along with Wesleyan and, If I’m not mistaken a certain charismatic element as well. And of course Reconstructionist, which in and of itself is a very broad field. Did you practice the a capela tradition?

FWIW, your personal story resonates with me…as I was raised in one of the strictest fundamentalist faiths imaginable (the conservative holiness movement), then became agnostic as a young man and finally moved to a sort of nominal Unitarian/deist mindset.

Theistic evolution essentially amounts to a belief that evolutionary theory is accurate, but that God still created the universe and started the ball rolling - i.e. “God created evolution.” It does not require direct divine intervention in the evolutionary process, more like a belief that God set things in motion towards an inevitable result.

Guess that makes me a Evolutionary Theist. Cool! :smiley:

Actual preaching: 20-25 minutes Sunday morning, and again Sunday night. Sermon preparation varies; usually about 5-10 hours, but I could knock one out in an hour and a half when pressed. Usually volunteers did Sunday School, but if I was called upon, another hour of preparation for Sunday school.

I rarely did counseling- there just wasn’t any demand for it.

Most of the mundane business of running the church (paying bills, answering phone calls, etc.) was handled by the secretary. I had a lot of downtime where I’d just sit in my office and read.

ETA: As for what was easy, weddings were the easiest. All I had to do was read from a script. That was it. Funerals were tough. As I said upthread, I had to pretend to care when usually I didn’t.

Around 60 when I started, around 180 when I left. I had another part-time job.

What Diogenes the Cynic said in Post #14.

Well, the most basic explanation of the whole Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ/Christian Church movement boils down to this [NOTE: I’m going to be grossly simplifying and/or leaving a lot of stuff out in the next few sentences]:

Under the heading of “Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement” (look it up on wikipedia; it would take too long to explain here) are three distinct movements.

  1. The Churches of Christ do not have a “headquarters” or a governing heirarchy. All decisions affecting any one congregation are made by that congregation only. In the southern US, most Churches of Christ practice the a capella tradition. In the rest of the US, it’s probably 50/50: one local Church of Christ congregation may be a capella, another may use instruments.

  2. The Christian Churches also do not have a “headquarters” or a governing heirarchy, either. I’m not aware of any Christian Church churches that don’t use instruments. All the ones that I’ve been involved with in my life do use instruments.

  3. The Disciples of Christ are a denomination in the sense that they have a governing committee and [maybe] a headquarters somewhere (Cincinnati, maybe - I really don’t know that much about it). They tend more toward liturgy and ceremony than the other two groups.

I preached at a Group #2 Christian Church (and I attend such a church today, although my church is much larger, much more progressive, and urban than the one I preached at). We don't have any "official" doctrine in the sense of a creed or a catechism, although most of what we believe is in line with what you would find at, say, a Baptist church.

For the record, most leaders and congregants in our tradition eschew the idea of charismatic gifts.

What college did you attend. Or if you’re hesitant to name it, can you mention the city where it’s located?