Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Nature of Happiness and Congregational Discontent

Dr. Richard Beck has been writing a series on what he is calling the the impossibility of happiness.  I find the discussion fascinating.  His second post in the series has to do with the fact that we often times want the wrong thing.  At the end of that post he linked to the video that I have copied here.  The gist of this video is that the more choices we have, the less happy we are because we're unwilling to commit to what we have and are therefore discontent with it.

The application of what Dr. Gilbert says is pretty wide, but as a minister, I think it is especially enlightening to the issue of why congregations are so often discontent with their ministers.  Especially in my religious tribe, where congregations have the final say over who is or is not their minister, if a congregation does not like their minister, it simply fires him.  The assumption when hiring a new minister is, "Well, if this one doesn't work out, we'll find another."  The problem is that without commitment to sticking with a minister, a congregation guarantees a negative outcome.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This also creates an environment of perpetual adolescence.  Maturity requires disorientation.  Another way of saying this is we, as humans, tend not to grow up unless we have to.  This happens with individuals and communities.  If a congregation simply removes tension from its midst, it never has to learn how to deal with it, and therefore it never grows up.

We live in a country that thinks more is always better, and not just in the area of having more stuff.  We want more choices in regards to what stuff we even want.  Ironically, that very mentality has backed us into a corner of unhappiness and discontent.  This has effected the Church as much as anything else, and I fear that it will only get worse before it gets better.  In the mean time there are going to be more and more ministers leaving the ministry, and more and more congregations that shut their doors.  I find the whole cycle deeply depressing.

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