Revitalising Your Pastoral Life!

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Congregational life getting just a bit so-so and routine?

Has that electricity that marked your call when you were first installed at your current charge gone flat?

Worried that the eyes of your congregation may be starting to wander flirtatiously to ogle younger, better looking pastors?

Then you need to write a book on the Christian approach to marriage and sex!

It seems to be the latest thing: middle aged pastors writing books about sex and/or talking about it in the pulpit all the time.  Don't get me wrong: if you and your wife being "on the job" seven days in a row has revitalised your marriage and your spiritual life, nobody could be happier than yours truly.  I am absolutely delighted for you.  Really, I am.  But I do wonder if the rest of us need to know about it.  I especially wonder if your children and your parents-in-law and your congregation need to know about it.

I also wonder why the theme has become so prominent in contemporary evangelical discourse, with a veritable cottage industry surrounding the issue.  Anyone who says the church does not talk about it enough has (a) not taken any notice of what is now a near constant theme at Christian conferences and in the most high-profile and successful conservative evangelical ministries and (b) taken time to see how comparatively little detail scripture actually provides about these things.  The Song of Solomon, a few references in the gospels and Paul and that's pretty much your lot.  The Bible seems on the whole not to have a major obsession with the matter and does not trivialise it by telling you to "put the ping back in your pong" or offering helpful advice on how "to reach for some creative and original ways to connect physically."

In fact, the current evangelical obsession with sex seems more like an intrusion of the culture than a priority of scripture.   You think the world has great sex?  Become a Christian and you will have it even better and far more frequently.  It is strangely analogous to patristic apologetic: there the world had its ascetics and men like Athanasius therefore presented the asceticism of a monk like Anthony as superior to that of pagans.  Now we have sex.  It is the same principle but much more fun.

OK, I know that we now all agree that there are no such things as celebrity pastors and that anyone who claims the contrary is probably motivated by envy and base motives; but if, for the sake of argument, we were to allow that there might occasionally, just occasionally, be a vague and distant analogy between Hollywood and the church, I wonder if middle-aged pastors writing and speaking about sex is not becoming the evangelical equivalent of forty-something actresses doing nude scenes.   Look: your career is in decline, the only cover shoot you have had in months was for Professional Librarian Monthly, younger stars are rising, or maybe you just want to keep yourself way out in front.  What do you do?  You tell the cameraman to switch to soft focus, you put the airbrush team on standby and you take your kit off.  Never fails.

And no, I'm not writing this because I am envious of Ed's teeth.  I am -- but that is not why I am writing.
Posted December 16, 2011 @ 8:25 AM by Carl Trueman
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