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Total Institution

Total Eclipse

Often a pastor begins his ministry oblivious to the dynamics of the pastor-church relationship……  In trying to please others he fails to see the various unhealthy ways in which the congregation functions. He allow congregants to invade his personal boundaries, he ignores his own legitimate needs, and he accepts the unreasonable demands of neurotic individuals in the fellowship. In so doing, he settles for enmeshed relationships that are unproductive for everyone. In this manner, a dysfunctional church comes to be led by an increasingly dysfunctional pastor, who is emotionally depleted and therefore vulnerable……

A “total institution” is one which so completely absorbs its participant that they have little or no life outside it. Because institutional life is so all-absorbing, little space remains for freedom of consent. Institutional people simply obey or live out the goals and programs of the institution……

A local church becomes a total institution when it encourages the pastor in his own tendency toward workaholism, nourishes his propensity to allow the “ministry” to take over his whole life, and ignores the fact that in being a “good” pastor to them he is neglecting his marriage and family.

Betrayal of Trust by Stanley Grenz & Roy Bell, p. 152-4.

If this is the reality, what would your suggested solution be then?

Posted in Church, Pastoral, Posts in English, Psychology.

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3 Responses

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  1. Tim says

    I know a lot of Chinese Christians who think highly of workaholic pastors and missionaries and call it (with a beautiful term) “為主燃燒”… I tried to tell them otherwise but to no avail.

    • Anson says

      Hey Tim, thanks for your comment. I think the whole concept of 「為主燃燒」is exactly the problem I described in my new post “For God“.

      From what you said, it seems the problem is largely coming from the laity. Now where did this kind of theology come from? From their pastor’s preaching? From the surrounding culture? Or from the literature they choose to read?

      I think we can’t underestimate the influence of the latter. In this age of self-help culture, a lot of Christians receive their nurturing from reading popular books or newspapers. I grew up in faith that way too! I remember my very first readings when I became a Christian were 吳主光’s little booklets. Unfortunately, they all tend to be rather dualistic and works-oriented (by that I mean emphasizing much on what humans ought to do for God instead of what God has done for us.)

      For those who has the gift of writing, I think it’s time to crank out more good theology for the masses. For me, I’m just contributing my very little by posting bite-size pieces everyday on my blog, hoping to influence one person at a time.

  2. L says

    The root problem, though, is not what people choose to read, but rather, their lack of Bible-based discernment. It’s so much easier to read contemporary literatures than the book with the final say. I myself often falls into this kinda trap also. All the books and movies and other medias in the world put together are not as dangerous as our own ignorant of the truth. As the old saying goes, books are dead, humans are alive. If we all base our judgement (a poor choice of word due to my limited vocabulary) of ideas on God’s word alone, then at least we won’t swing too far away from the truth. (That is only true, of course, if we don’t try to twist His words into our own convenience.)