I’ve been meaning to share this post by Carol Howard Merritt, but life has been busy and so I never did get around to it. But hearing about some fellow Disciples of Christ clergy who feel that they have no place in the church reminded me of it again. She uses the term “Scrappers” to describe a generation (or two) of folks who have worked to piece together a ministry, in this time of diminishing resources. Here’s a snippet of what she’s talking about:
A Scrapper is pragmatic. We are people who have learned to work outside of institutional structures in order to get stuff done. It doesn’t always mean that we’re anti-institutional. It just means that after facing years of rejected articles and diminishing job opportunities, we’ve learned to build our own unsteady platforms and live out our creative callings.
When we can’t get published, we start blogs. When we don’t get invited to speak for large audiences, we fire up a Twitter feed. When we’re not allowed to use amplification, we call on the people’s mic. When we we’re not invited on radio shows, we start podcasts. When we cannot find pastorates, we plant churches. When we get tired of the same people at conferences, we stake out our own venues. When the media does not cover our concerns, we find ways to get the word out. We are usually under the age of fifty (aka, Gen X and Millennials), but not exclusively.
We’re Scrappers. We’ve learned to survive this way. The question is… how will we thrive?
It’s hard to be a Scrapper sometimes, because we don’t usually make a lot of money for the work we do and (as I said earlier) we’ve often been rejected by the established structures. We didn’t cry or whine over that fact (at least not too much). Instead, we DIYed it. We worked really, really hard and created something else.
While I don’t agree with her politically, she is right on about how young persons in the church have to live in this age. We won’t be handed things on a platter. We have to learn how to basically DIY our callings. I look at my current call. It was totally constructed. Same with Community of Grace. Mainline Protestants are learning something that evangelicals have known for a long time: that when the resources are sparse, you have to learn how to create your own ministries. Denominations and congregations are no longer rolling in cash to just provide us with a nice job or a great salary.
To those frustrated Disciples clergy, I can only say: I know of what you speak because I was in your shoes. And the thing is: I very well could be there again in a few years. I know that you can get frustrated at the denomination and think that it’s filled with idiots who are letting the ship sink, but I can tell you that the leaders in most mainline Protestant denominations are feeling the same way- trying to figure out what’s going on and feeling scared to death. Yeah, the institution is failing you and me, but it is also trying to figure out how to be church in an age that it wasn’t prepared for.
Remember that we are called by God to preach the good news. Remember that people like Abraham and Moses didn’t have the easiest time trying to follow God. Suffice to say, life didn’t turn out the way they expected. Remember that all of these folk walked on faith, starting new journeys and challenges only on the shear hope in God’s word.
The years ahead aren’t going to be pretty: more and more churches won’t be able to afford full-time pastors. But the Gospel still needs to be preached. We are going to have to learn to be scrappers, to find ways to be church in the world. We are going to have to learn to be bivocational and be creative in sharing the good news. No doors will be opened for us, so we need to start knocking some walls.