North American parishes are in a bad neighborhood for care-giving. Most of our people (at least those we are willing to include in mainline churches) solve biblically legitimate need (food, clothing, housing) with their check books. Now, in the little free time they have for religion, they seek a purpose-driven life, deeper spirituality, reason to get out of bed in the morning, or inner well-being – matters of unconcern to Jesus. In this narcissistic environment, the gospel is presented as a technique, a vaguely spiritual response to free-floating, ill-defined omnivorous human desire.
A consumptive society perverts the church’s ministry into another commodity which the clergy dole out to self-centered consumers who enlist us in their attempt to cure their emptiness. Exclusively therapeutic ministry is the result. I saw fatigue and depression among many clergy whom I served as bishop. Debilitation is predictable for a cleros with no higher purpose for ministry than servitude to the voracious personal needs of the laos.
The 12 million dollar Duke Clergy Health study implies that our biggest challenge is to drop a few pounds and take a day off. If you can’t be faithful, be healthy and happy. I believe that our toughest task is to love the Truth who is Jesus Christ more than we love our people who are so skillful in conning us into their idolatries.