Clergy and faith leaders gather outside Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Penn. Photo courtesy of Mike DuBose/United Methodist News Service.

Lent’s message for pastors

By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

A recent study by Barna Group on behalf of Pepperdine University found that Americans don’t think very highly of pastors. The public isn’t very impressed with pastors’ influence, credibility or the importance of their message.

The clear implication is that pastors have a lot of work to do if they want to influence the communities where they live. Suggestion: Listen first rather than preach. Suggestion: Confess your church’s mistakes. Suggestion: Save your verbal message for the right time. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “By all means preach the Gospel. But only use words when absolutely necessary.”

You can sum up those suggestions as one final suggestion: Those who preach the Word should step back and ask themselves during this Lent if it’s time to do what they preach – repent, which is defined as a serious change of thinking that leads to a deep, permanent change of conduct. And a permanent change of conduct appears to be justified with regard to reaching, influencing and valuing their non-Christian potential audience.

All God’s blessings – Mark

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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