Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pastors as modern day storytellers

I recently came across a Facebook post that said "The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds."

The saying seems like good secular wisdom to me and got me thinking about the negative rap that pastors and preachers of the 21st century are getting (for instance, the conversation around "Preachers of LA" and the mega pastors and televangelists that are said to be living as billionaires or rockstars). Even in my homeland of Jamaica, I have often heard negative remarks that the church is a 'money-making business' and that pastors are in it for the money.

So strong are these negative sentiments towards churches and pastors that there are people of these days that are of the opinion that we do not need churches or pastors. Pastors are viewed as dishonest men that tell fictional stories in exchange for people's money. While there are many pastors that have done wrong and abused the trust of the public, there is still a place in our contemporary society for storytellers that heal the souls of people with their stories.

It is evident that in every society and culture in ancient times, that humanity has had shamans, priests, bush doctors, oral historians and other storytellers who have told stories, preserved social history and healed people. This class of people have been with human beings since human society began, preserving the stories of human survival in a world of difficulty, crisis and danger. It is my view, that this human need has not changed even in an era of "scientific progress". Despite scientific and technological advances with the rise of professionals in medicine and psychology (our present day 'healers') that only treat us when our symptoms suggest that we are broken, human beings still need storytellers and healers that nurture our souls and spirit with wholesome stories. We need social history stories that tell us of human beings in the past who used their values and beliefs to get through terrible or difficult situations and circumstances.

I personally get the sense that at least once per week, human beings need to hear stories and narratives that help us make meaning about our present, while connecting it to our past as well as to a hopeful future. We need to hear what our ancestors went through and how they toughed out difficult times to build the foundations of what we have today. We need to hear what kept them going and how they overcame the obstacles to leave behind the legacy that we now enjoy.  We also need to know what future must we prepare for. What is the dream? What legacy are we to build on and leave for the next generation? Why are we even doing what we do and for whom?

These are the questions that I believe all people need answers. For without these answers, our current existence in meaningless and the future an uncertain and fearful one. We know not for certainty what lies ahead of us, but if we have storytellers and stories we can have hope, strength and courage to face the uncertainties of the future.

In this regard, I appreciate pastors. Pastors today (at least in the Western Christian world) are the last remnants of such storytellers. These storytellers have evolved and changed with human society and economy. Unfortunately, some have been corrupted by greed and exchange stories and healing for wealth and luxury rather than provide these for free. Yet, pastors, who are versed in historical texts and able to connect the present to both history and a prophetic future (especially the future as seen by the ancients and even the ancient storytellers and healers of the past) should be held in high esteem. To such pastors, give them their wages and let them help heal humanity and prepare us with the stories we need to get through our present challenges and prepare for future obstacles.