Owatonna United Methodist Church
Sunday, September 22, 2019
Connecting Caring Learning Serving


 From Pastor Loren Olson

     A recent study found that only 36% of Americans express high regard for the honesty and ethical standards of pastors.  This should not surprise us in the context of the decline of religious involvement in our society.  Persons who do not personally know pastors only have media images and publicized scandals to form their opinion.  It is quite common for the media to report about clergy sexual misconduct, televangelists bragging about their private jets, and religious leaders cozying up to political leaders, trading spiritual authority for political influence.  Everyday Christian faithfulness simply isn’t news.

     It concerns me that the public view of pastors and churches has significantly shifted in the time that I have been serving as a pastor.  But rather than getting angry because the society around us doesn’t understand, I take it as a challenge to pastors and churches to up our game.  We are the ones who can change perceptions when we live with honesty and ethical integrity.  We are the ones who can combat accusations of hypocrisy by living out a biblical faith.  We are the ones who can show that compassion, justice, and decency mean more than party loyalty.

     If we are ready to accept these challenges, we will need to spend less time focused on our buildings and institutions and more on sharing good words and good deeds with people.  We will have to spend more time being the church instead of waiting for people to come to church.  We will need to be apostolic like the stories in the Book of Acts, meeting people on the road, at river sides, and in places where philosophers gather for conversation.  We will need to be bold proclaiming our faith instead of being apologetic that we have one.

     One of the attractions of my new role in ministry is that I expect to work with a number of people who live outside the church, and I hope that I can offer spiritual counsel that will help people in their dying and grief.  Chaplaincy ministry is one of serving outside of the church on behalf of the church.  I hope that many of us can find a way to bring our faith outside of the church, and bring people into the fold of the family of God.

     Mary and I plan to continue to be active participants in the Christian community in Owatonna.  But part of honesty and ethical standards as a pastor is to make oneself scarce for a season or two to create space for one’s successor to establish his or her own pastoral presence and identity.  I applaud the wisdom of this standard.  So I guess, instead of signing off with “See you in church…” I’ll have to say, “See you around town.” and “Keep the faith.”  It’s been fun!