A recent News.com article discussed the 'no go' areas for journalists when interviewing celebrities and this raised my antenna as to what might be some of the no-go areas when interviewing ministers and missionaries and in mutual conversation.
For celebrities according to the articles cited above are relationships (and all that entails), their celebrity nemesis and photographs.
We can certainly relate the relationships issue to sports stars such as when Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios and his horrific on court side sexual slur about his opposition player's girl friend. The world furiously came down upon him.
Moreover we can recount other sporting examples of top athletes vying for on-field-court positions. Include the WAGS into the mix and we have here a hot and not-so-nice words concerning various nemesis'.
Just check out Prince William and Kate the Princess of Cambridge sending a very clear message to photographers to stay clear of their little prince George.
These three areas are well established areas of caution with celebrities whatever the generic sphere – entertainment, politics, sport, business .....
We can think of Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the drama associated with leaving his wife and children and then marrying the daughter of the former Governor General. It is not raised in the Parliament.
Watching a documentary on Franlkin D Roosevelt with his polio, in the 1936 US Presidential Election - all photographers – professional or private cameras – were not permitted to take photographs of Roosevelt in a wheel chair, getting out of or into a motor vehicle or any other situation illustrating his disability in a negative light.
What of Ministry
Ministers and missionaries too have areas that have been traditionally sacrosanct that are mutually agreed should not be discussed in either media interview or at clergy – mission fraternity meetings.
This is a cursory list
The sex life of the minister or missionary
Certainly this is one area where conquest discussions are not even part of the agenda – enough of the dad joke – but consider there are so many women clergy today. This is simply not on the radar whether the said clergy are what the secular media might consider 'media agreeable'. But I acknowledge there are exceptions. This pastor's wife says it is sex that attracted each other – now they have 5 children and still big on sex.
I might add here that traditionally many ministers – missionaries have large families – 5 and 6 children are not uncommon. The secular media have noted such large families but in many cases it becomes the PK syndrome (Pastor's Kid).
As a Baptist minister and the Australian cricket team chaplain (17 years) while my four children were growing up, my eldest daughter when at university was surveyed by the Baptist Research Unit on being a PK.
This is an area of particular sensitivity. Ministers and missionaries find themselves in appointments which are referred to as graveyard situations where many have come and gone before them without the Acts 2 experiences of 3,000 souls being added to their number. On one day.
Many of these pastorates (church, mission) have a history of hard nosed lay leadership. I saw a cartoon years ago where the elders / deacons / wardens were meeting discussing the call of a new minister. They wanted a dynamic fresh minister, a young family, an evangelist, great with the elderly, supremely effective with youth, remarkable pastoral visitor and who lead them to stay as they are!
The Pentecostal methodology is to set up your own shingle and off you go. Increasingly research shows that church hopping among the Pentecostals is paramount. I confess I laughed at a cartoon on one of those church cartoon things where seven Pentecostal pastors were meeting and one exclaimed that he increased his Sunday numbers by 230. The other six totalled their numerical losses by 230. The new kid on the block syndrome.
The idea that God gives the increase along with some half decent research on the local reflects Jesus words in Matthew 5 that the sun shines on the just and the unjust and the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. In other words do you want a pilot with 5,000 flying hours fly your plane or call out at the airport console for any Christian to fly your plane.
A whole range of considerations need to taken into account for church growth – not least timing, good judgement calls, smart and street wise leadership, preaching skills, thorough research, willing hearts, confidence, keen followers .... and a whole lot more.
In Australia, the recent late Rev Dr Gordon Moyes AM was one of a handful to exhibit this multi-layered projected competence, and in the Pentecostal scene we can name Brian Houston and Phil Pringle among others. In associated mission we could add the Pastor's Pastor the Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher (John Mark Ministries). In 2005 Australia's weekly Christian newspaper New Life took a survey of such people which included Rev Dr Ross Clifford Principal of Morling and even me.
Leadership within church life and the mission scene is as rife with jealousy and nemesis' are in any other sphere of working relationships. The damage done to church leaders in such scenarios reads like a who's who. The Pastor's Pastor the Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher speaks of this as a major plenary topic in his ministry to denominational clergy / mission conferences.
Playing dirty tricks and the political game better than your target is part and parcel of life in the churches and missions. I became a target and the late Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AM advised me, after the successful ATO Audit in 1998 to 'watch my back'. I didn't watch it close enough. Every accusation that fell upon Delma and me was given a clean bill of health by Heads of Churches. We were released from the Sports Ministry to establish Well-Being Australia. My story is repeated over and over again where false accusations are made and those who make them simply walk away without accountability.
As founder and the chief editor of Press Service International (a ministry of Well-Being Australia) with 85 young writers published monthly in the daily Christian Today (London) the third largest Christian news provider in the world there would be no one as acutely aware of the photograph issue than me.
Getting a satisfactory head and shoulder photograph of each and every young writer is a drama filled with pit holes several tractors could roll into. At every young writer conference we have had set 'head and shoulder' photo sessions. In August the former editor David Chang set up a professional photo shoot for this purpose. And still complaints came in.
This is such a personal and touchy issue that to get a photograph that satisfies everyone – young writer, our PSI web site, Christian Today – a three way act – is met with rejoicing in the heavenlies. I've had young writers have 6 or 7 photo rejections and in one case sent in a photograph that was a look-alike to Marilyn Munroe. It was rejected and that young writer left the team. I know about the touchiness of photographs.
Another no go area is to enquire about confidentialities. A minister, chaplain, padre, priest, missionary are entrusted with many confidentialities and this too is a no go area for media or friend enquiry. There is a dad joke about this, where the minister said he can keep confidences, the problem is that those he tells, can't.
These five are no-go areas – so just as there are no-go areas for others, so too for those in Christian ministry.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html