Why Clergy Are Alienated from Their Calling, Congregation, and Career . . . and What to Do About It
By Todd W. Ferguson & Josh Packard
Fortress Press, 2022
New research from Todd W. Ferguson and Josh Packard shows how capitalism, secularism, and social Darwinism can lead pastors to feel that their role is “getting in the way” of being a true spiritual leader.
These pastors, the authors write in their new book Stuck: Why Clergy Are Alienated from Their Calling, Congregation, and Career . . . and What to Do About It (Fortress Press, 2022), “are not alone, and this is not an isolated, individual problem. Being stuck is not the result of personal defects but comes from society-wide issues.”
Forty-two mainline Protestant and Evangelical pastors from the U.S. and Canada talk frankly about feelings of inauthenticity, rigidity within their congregations (what the authors term “the iron cage”), financial pressures, stifling bureaucracies, and a range of other spiritual and cultural issues that hold them back.
This book is not about pastors who have lost their faith or struggle with burnout. Additionally, the authors acknowledge that many pastors don’t feel stuck. But their findings demonstrate how for some in North American religion, ranging from tiny congregations to massive megachurches, there is “a potential dark side to our current understanding of the pastoral role and the function of the congregation.”
Chapters include reflection and discussion questions for pastors as well as for churches, seminaries, and denominations. While Stuck may be most personally relevant to pastors several years out of seminary, students and leaders in theological education alike would be wise to read it to safeguard against the threats Ferguson and Packer identify.
Race for Revival
How Cold War South Korea Shaped the American Evangelical Empire
By Helen Jin Kim
Oxford University Press, 2022
Helen Jin Kim begins her book Race for Revival: How Cold War South Korea Shaped the American Evangelical Empire (Oxford University Press, 2022) with a photo of a Billy Graham event in 1973. The photographer captures the backs of two men at a large pulpit overlooking a vast sea of people. One man is Graham, and the other, the author tells us, is also named Billy: Billy Jang Hwan Kim, the South Korean minister who translated Graham’s sermon that day.
Over 1.1 million people gathered for that event in Seoul — the largest of Graham’s revival missions. It’s a perfect illustration of how Christianity took hold in South Korea between 1950 and 1980.
Kim, an American religious history scholar at Candler School of Theology, considers how the Cold War and the Korean War opened routes of connection for U.S. evangelists and parachurch organizations. That highway moved in both directions; Christians in Korea and the Korean diaspora influenced the U.S. Evangelical movement in particular. She shows how leaders like Billy Kim, who went on to become president of the Baptist World Alliance in 2000, and Joon Gon Kim, who founded Korea Campus Crusade for Christ, experienced racial inequalities from U.S. Evangelical structures even as they rose to prominence.
This is a complex story about how U.S. Evangelicalism is situated in a geopolitical context in which Asia in general, and South Korea in particular, have played an important, if often overlooked role.
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
1 hour 30 minutes
Forced to leave Afghanistan as a child with his mother and siblings in the 1980s, Amin reveals the harrowing, circuitous story of how he made it to Denmark as a teenager. “Most people can’t even begin to imagine how fleeing like that affects you — what it means for your relationships with other people, how much it destroys you,” he says to his interviewer, Rasmussen, a friend from high school who uses animation and historic footage to document Amin’s story. “The fear of getting caught and sent back was so strong that I couldn’t tell the truth. I couldn’t be myself. It was really painful.”
Flee is a must-see for the simple reason that in the first half of the year it was released, 2021, more than 84 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations, according to the United Nations. That number misses the thousands who fled Afghanistan in August 2021, and the estimated 14 million who fled Ukraine in 2022. Flee’s focus on a single story is a way to understand a piece of the mind-boggling crisis. Visit fleemovie.com for streaming options.
Finding Happiness in Troubled Times
Directed by Louie Psihoyos & Peggy Callahan
1 hour 28 minutes
If the state of the world has you feeling down, look no further than this documentary for a potent pick-me-up. Based on the 2016 bestseller The Book of Joy, the film centers on the friendship between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and their wisdom about cultivating joy even in the face of struggle, tragedy, and loss.
Doug Abrams interviews the two Nobel Peace Prize winners, and their conversation touches on forgiveness, regret, hope, humor, and death. Footage of Tutu during the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa and the Dalai Lama before and during his exile in India give viewers a sense of the adversity they confronted earlier in their lives.
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