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Alienation or Reconciliation


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Alienation or Reconciliation

Early in 2004 the Australian Federal Treasurer, Mr Costello, told Australians that it would be good for the nation if people continued to work well beyond the retirement age of 65.

His comments attracted a great deal of attention, including statements from businessmen and business councils, newspaper articles and editorials, and floods of ’letters to the editor’.

Hard realities were soon raised in a wide variety of circles.

With job shortages, and increasing unemployment for retrenched over-40s, many regarded the Federal Treasurer’s comments as political ’pie-in-the-sky’ rhetoric.

Writing in a secular workplace setting and from a secular perspective, Kevin Murrell, in a newspaper letter to the editor, stated strongly:

’…Business and the professions are overrun with jumped-up little creeps posing as new management. Sometimes they clutch shiny new MBAs but they have little experience of the organisations they invade. They have no respect for older workers, reviling us as dinosaurs, past our use-by date etc.

When we resist their wild innovations we are told we are afraid of change and ignored. Our reasoning and experience are dismissed out of hand as being merely rearguard actions to protect our entrenched privileges and easy lifestyle.

The new generation of managers has no respect for age, seniority, experience or past loyalty. They also have no commitment to the organisations they nuke. Their sole point of reference is their own careers [sic].

Who cares if older workers are humiliated, ridiculed and driven out of their employment? Long before the organisation starts to pay the price for the wholesale destruction of jobs, skills and working relationships, these fellows are out, on their way to greater things up the corporate greasy pole.

That’s only about those of us who still have jobs in our 50s. At least we keep our salaries. But if you’re pushed out or dumped and you have the unlikely good fortune to find another job you get the honour of doing the most menial tasks for wages which you haven’t earned since a teenager. If you don’t want to, you’re a job snob…’

(quoted by permission)

This letter raises issues of hurt and concern at the treatment of those over 40 in the work force — hurts and concerns that have been confirmed by others formerly in management and other positions in industry and commerce. That such attitudes should continue to demean and disfranchise many who have made significant contributions to business and society in our general communities is a sad reflection of the times — and offers little encouragement for the future of society (as strange is it may now seem to the very young, one day, they too will be over forty and older).

Even worse than this tragedy of warped people values and attitudes in the general community, is the sad reality that the Church, the Christian community, has not escaped contamination with the same distorted values.

If people, who have experienced such hurts in the world of business and commerce, come to the church to seek solace, they could be extremely disappointed, discouraged and disenchanted. Too many churches are no different to what is reflected in Kevin Murrell’s letter.

In our January/February 2004 TACL we stated:

In recent years, at CCG Ministries, we have been receiving more and more expressions of concern and hurt about leader/pastor control and manipulation within mainstream churches, and not just in cults or extreme Christian fringe groups.

Since the Protestant Reformation there has been an emphasis, in major parts of the Christian Church, on the Priesthood of all believers and a rejection of a special, elitist ’clergy class’. That seems to be changing — even in churches that held such a mutual ministry view as a major denominational distinctive.

The growing emphasis has been on a CEO model of leadership in congregations — with the Pastor or Senior Pastor having almost ’supreme’ power and authority. Some have demanded submission and acceptance of all their ideas, suggestions and decisions — including those made with little or no consultation with others. Their concept of leadership seems to be that they are there to lead and everyone else must follow and obey — or get out.

Many ministers seem more familiar with, and have more understanding of, secular-related business management principles, including (now already commercially outdated) notions of business CEOs, than with a sound Biblical understanding and worldview.

George Barna, US Christian polster and researcher, reported in 2003 that only 9% of American Christians who could be described as ’born again’ actually held a Biblical worldview. Only 7% those who were generally described as Protestant held a Biblical worldview.

Subsequent follow-up research of American senior pastors revealed a disturbing correlation. Only 51% of Protestant ministers, in general, held a Biblical worldview — a view in which the Bible is regarded as authoritative for today’s Christian; Jesus is regarded as sinless and divine; God is believed to be all-knowing and all-powerful and salvation is believed to be by grace alone.

Significant differences showed up in various categories or statistical divisions.

America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, ranked highest with some 71% of their ministers having a Biblical worldview, while 44% of charismatic and Pentecostal denominational pastors held Biblical worldviews, and mainstream denominations, e.g. Episcopalian (Anglican) and Methodist ranked much lower. Only 27% of Methodist ministers held to a Biblical worldview, according to the Barna group.

While some 6% of all Senior Protestant Pastors in the USA are women, only 15% of female pastors hold a Biblical worldview, as compared to 53% male pastors. Racially, 30% of Black American Senior Pastors, compared to 55% of White Senior Pastors. Having had a theological college or seminary training, interestingly (disturbingly?), was no help in developing a consistent Biblical worldview — only 45% of seminary graduates held a Biblical worldview, compared to 59% of pastors who had not been to seminary.

Barna believed that what church leadership does not have, it cannot pass on — either through teaching or example and modeling. His comments give some disturbing insights into church trends at present and for the future. While his research is focused on the USA, Australia (and several other countries) usually follow similar trends and conditions some years later.

Perhaps this lack of a Biblical worldview is one of the significant reasons for so many churches having divisive and destructive leadership struggles. Perhaps it is also a major contributor to the increased problems of marginalisation occurring in far too many churches.

In our January/February 2004 TACL we also stated:

Along with expressions of concern about leader/pastor authoritarianism and control, CCG Ministries has been receiving an increasing volume of expressions of concern from middle-aged and older Christians who feel ignored, marginalised and rejected in congregations where they have faithfully served for years, and where they still would like to be actively involved.

Why are so many good and godly Christians feeling disenchanted, disfranchised and marginalised in so many churches — and often by the young adults for whom they worked and made sacrifices in the past?

Why are so many ministers telling older Christians that they need to move out of their comfort zones and give up aspects of church life and worship, which are meaningful to them, for the sake of the young people and their potential growth and commitment? Why is this rarely balanced with an emphasis to the young to give up some of their comforts and likes for the sake of the older Christians who have helped the church to be there for them today? Why are there so few visible/noticeable efforts to encourage some mutual compromise and sharing on both sides, and teaching and programmes to help both young and old to learn from each other and grow together?

Churches that focus mainly on youth, without teaching youth to respect, and build relationships with, older members of their fellowships, do a disservice to both young and old. The youth will miss out on, and not learn to appreciate, a rich heritage of history and experience (including lots of interesting stories), and the older members will feel unwanted in the church, as well as in society generally — which is in contradiction to the claims of Christ’s gospel.

Paul tells Timothy that no one should despise his youth — but at the same time strongly states that older people should be treated with respect (read 1 Timothy). Peter, advising elders, whom he addresses as a ’fellow elder’ — even though he was one of the Twelve Apostles — calls for mutual respect and humility, and includes a call for young men to be submissive to those who are older (1 Peter 5).

Christians have been given a ministry of reconciliation — not alienation! It is no good talking about reconciliation of those outside the Church if we have increasing alienation inside the Church. (See 2 Corinthians 5:1-20.)

In the 1960s there was a great deal of discussion regarding the ’Generation Gap’. Government departments, community groups, churches and others, conducted programmes and seminars; published books and other materials; provided counselling for families and young people; and generally worked to lessen the gap and emphasise the importance of whole family units, rather than separate family segments. It sought to counteract the American commercial emphasis on youth as a separate and more significant section of society.

How quickly such lessons from the past are forgotten.

The Bible clearly reveals that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is equally available and relevant for all, regardless of race, culture, gender or age. To emphasise one section of society (in the community at large, or in the faith community — the Church) is to distort the Gospel, warp the Biblical worldview and value of all people, and leads to increased alienation instead of reconciliation.

ALL this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

(Article publication June 2004)