Self-Promoting Pastors?

Many (of us) church-types like to write, speak and lead.  Some may even be pretty good at it (just because you do it every week, doesn’t mean you’re good at it!).  A few even make a business of it with full- or part-time writing, speaking and consulting gigs.  And some are even bold to say, "If you’re looking for a dynamic and insightful preacher, speaker, or writer, look no further" (an actual quote from the personal/marketing website of one such enterprising, Lutheran pastor).

There are a few ways to respond to such enterprising pastors.

  1. Good for you.  You’ve found a way to get paid for something you love to do.
  2. It’s a bit much.  I don’t mean to get bogged down in a faux Lake Wobegon modesty, but does self-promotion really become a pastor?  C’mon, let your reputation – not your stinkin’ website – speak for you. 
  3. Are you really a pastor?  This is my biggest question.  If pastoral ministry is about the ministry of Word and Sacrament in a particular parish, then what does it mean for someone who is not engaged in parish, Word & Sacrament ministry to use the title of Pastor/Reverend to promote their for-profit enterprise?
  4. What about your day job?  For those parish pastors who write/speak/consult for hire on the side, I wonder – what about your day job?  Shouldn’t your entire professional energies be devoted to your church and its ministries?  Do the financial interests of your part-time gig interfere with your full-time commitment and vocation as a parish pastor?  (This is distinct from the service of a parish pastor on a synod council or community board – these are natural extensions of the parish ministry and are intimately connected to the ministry of the parish.  Oh, and such positions are unpaid.)

I like to write, I like to speak, I like to lead.  And sometimes I am pretty good at it (please excuse the self-promotion).  So am I just jealous that these pastors are more enterprising than I am, or do I have a legitimate gripe?  I admit to having a pretty narrow understanding of the office of ordained ministry (it’s about Word and Sacrament) and to having concerns when the title Pastor/Reverend is used by people who are not actively engaged in such ministry.  Perhaps my reading of the Lutheran Confessions’ understanding of ministry is overly narrow and problematic.  Perhaps I’m just jealous.  Or perhaps it is a little of all of the above.

"If you’re looking for a dynamic and insightful preacher, speaker, or writer, look no further."  No, on second thought, keep looking.  That dynamic and insightful preacher, speaker, or writer doesn’t live here.  Not yet, anyway.  Check back later, when my marketing website complete with secure server and encrypted checkout is up and running.  Thanx.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Faith & the Church, Lutheran, Vocation. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Self-Promoting Pastors?

  1. Pink Shoes says:

    Is your issue with this one particular slick? (Or at least his type?) Because I’m not sure that many denominational publishing houses, your own included, would have much to sell if pastors didn’t write a little something extra….! 🙂

  2. Pink,
    Very good point. We need pastors who are in the parish to also do some writing for curriculum, Bible studies, leadership materials, etc.. I way misstated my point in this aspect. In hindsight, I would include occasional work for denominational agencies, publishers, etc. – even if such work is paid/stipended – as an extension of the call to serve the local parish. Thanks for the correction.
    But I do worry about the balance between a formal call to serve a local congregation and a call/desire to serve beyond the local congregation by writing, speaking, consulting, etc., especially when financial interests might conflict with or comprimise the call to the local parish.
    I’ll write more about these things in a future post regarding the office of ministry . . .

  3. Pink Shoes says:

    Thanks for the clarification!

  4. LP says:

    There is a certain slickness to the particular website you read that on, as if you were bringing in a self-help guru rather than one called to ministry of Word and Sacrament.

  5. Ron Ballew says:

    Interesting. My understanding of ordained ministry is quite different. As a pastor I don’t like the term “pastor” or “ordination” I see them as function and not office. It’s taken 2 years for most of my congregation to drop the title of pastor.
    Another good blog for you to read is:
    http://www.redbluechristian.com I am a contributor by believe it is worth the read (sorry for the promotion!)

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