The Practical Problem of Place

We have been having an interesting discussion about place. However, it has been very idealistic. There has been no discussion of exactly how different our world would be if we attached a high value to place. I am going to try and attempt at least some part of that. This should show that however highly we value place, altering our attachment instantly is impossible. More significantly, the question of how to alter our attachment (as a society) to place is even more difficult than finding out that we ought to value place more.

Consider the church first. If we are to truly value place, then a pastor should stay at one church for the entire time that he is the pastor. Consider what sort of difficulties this would cause. It is unlikely that a pastor will be hired if he lacks experience or training. The likely way to get experience is to intern as a pastor at a larger church. Perhaps one would become an assistant pastor for a few years. The likely way to get training is to attend a seminary or university. Both of these will conflict with the earlier requirement for most people. The only way that these would not is if someone intended to get their education in their own city and work in a large church in that same city as an assistant pastor. Furthermore, some churches (such as small churches with a single pastor) require more experience than others. I haven’t even mentioned that some denominations move pastors every few years, that some churches “have a falling out” with their pastor and some pastors leave the ministry.

One could assume that these problems could be fixed easily. But how will they be fixed? Suppose that the pastor’s training is provided by the church. Now two questions remain: how does the church that one intends to work in know that one’s training is good enough, and how will one gain experience without becoming an intern or pastor? The best way to ensure the quality of training is to either have a standardized curriculum of some sort that is of good quality or to have a good reputation. Since most churches will lack the good reputation simply because they are small, the majority option will be a standardized curriculum. Since these same small churches cannot afford the expense of paying for a copyrighted curriculum, it would have to be free. This free curriculum would have to be written by professors (doctorate or masters level). Since they would be receiving no money from this, their salary would have to be paid for by the church at large. As for the experience, they would have to obtain at least some of it in their home church. Once there, this same church would have to network with other churches to find a place for this person to be a pastor. This destination church would have to provide any remaining training and experience.

The preceding narrative gives some scope to the changes that would be required. Any church that wanted to value place would need to 1) network with other such churches 2) fund the development and use of curriculum to train pastors 3) provide pastoral experience for prospective pastors 4) provide the remaining training and experience to any new pastor. These requirements assume that all prospective pastors are already inside a church that knows them and would support them in their aspirations. Since this frequently fails to happen, there are additional conditions. Every church that wishes to value place must also 5) create an environment in which every member’s vocation is known to the church 6) support everyone who has the vocation of pastor in that vocation. So in order to fulfill one condition of valuing place among the church, six further conditions must be met. The fifth and sixth conditions are not easy to meet either.

I have used the example of churches, but what I have said applies to any valuing of place. It should be evident that one cannot simply implement all of the conditions at once in a church. One cannot train pastors without first knowing their vocation. Neither can one train pastors without first having a curriculum. I hope that this also shows that there are practical problems involved that demand analysis. I have only begun to analyze the problems for the vocation of pastoring. There are many other vocations and society as a whole to discuss as well.