'We no longer seem to expect our ministers to spend hours (literally hours) every week, thinking, reading, praying: so that when the hungry sheep look up they may be fed.... '
So said Davis McCaughey, the first president of Australia's Uniting Church, in 1979.
It's quoted in blog piece lamenting the decline of the denomination over the past thirty years. I don't know enough about church life in Australia to comment on the main argument of the piece (here), but it caught my eye because it seemed to have something important to say about the issue I was thinking about earlier in the week.
Perhaps people in our churches would be better equipped to live and share their faith, if they were better taught by ministers who took greater care and time over preparation for Sunday.
I find myself somewhat conflicted about this. Having been challenged on Sunday evening about how fragile some people feel in the face of attacks on their faith in the wider world, McCaughey's comments suggest a way that ministers can be the key to encouraging muscle growth among members of our congregations.
McCaughey is not a lone voice, of course. Eugene Peterson has always aregued that the primary calling of the minister is to listen and speak, to pray, study scripture and offer spiritual direction through Sunday teaching and one-to-ones.
I'm not sure the sermon can carry such baggage, however, in our media and information saturated world. But I do think churches - and ministers especially - need to think about what they teach and how they teach it (I've said this before), so that individual Christians feel better able to face the challenges of the world they live in.
The question is how will this best happen? Answers on a post card, please.