043 | The Impact of COVID on Pastors’ Spiritual Lives and How People Don’t Think Theologically with Rich Villodas
January 14, 2021
In the age of the 24-7 news cycle, American attention is in constant demand—with notifications coming every hour, time of quiet and solitude is rare. But pastor and author Rich Villodas believes that this high-attention state may be dangerous for church leaders and their congregants.
In recent ChurchPulseWeekly episodes, Villodas and podcast host Carey Nieuwhof discuss an alternative way to live: the hope that churches and leaders can model lives of contemplation.
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Learning to Think Theologically
As American politics continue to be polarized, Villodas encourages churches to cultivate God-centered—not politically-centered—thinking. Scripture does not fall neatly along partisan lines. “The Bible is not a systematic textbook that gives people all the answers that they want,” notes Villodas. Thus, it can be a crucial antidote to polarized thinking.
He warns of the dangers of blind spots in church traditions, which can remove important nuance from the conversation. Thinking theologically is challenging, Villodas shares. “It takes time and lots of questions and patience and conversation. And in a swiping, scrolling, superficial world, those things are hard to come by.”
To combat this tendency, Villodas urges leaders to be engaged intellectually. “I absolutely think that our intellectual formation is tied to our spiritual formation. And it’s just another way in which that we are loving God with our minds.” By reading and wrestling regularly with ideas, pastors can be loving God more fully.
Learning to Live a Contemplative Life
However, that level of time and patience is challenging for American pastors to find. Recent Barna data show that only 21 percent of pastors say they’re satisfied with the time that they spend developing themselves, and only half (55%) read Scripture daily outside of sermon prep.
But while finding the time to read the Word may be difficult, Villodas says it’s crucial to the Christian tradition of spiritual formation. He shares the advice he received early on from Pete Scazzero: a pastor’s job description should read “contemplative” and “someone who beholds the beauty of God through scripture, in silence, in creation and for the sake of just beholding God, not getting anything out of it.”
To stay grounded in faith this year, Villodas encourages pastors to view time spent in prayer and contemplation as a “keystone habit” for daily life. “There’s just so much chaos in the world right now that if we’re not leading ourselves well and monitoring our own souls, we’re going to have a hard time leading faithfully.”
About the Research
The research presented from Barna’s 2020 journal Six Questions About the Future of the Hybrid Church Experience was conducted online from September 1 to 15, 2020. In total, Barna surveyed 1,302 U.S. adults. The sample error for this study is ±2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The research presented from Barna’s upcoming journal Five Questions Every Church Leader Should Ask About Digital Prayer consisted of one online study conducted September 1–15, 2020 with 1,302 U.S. adults ages 8–75. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 2.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Researchers set quotas to obtain a minimum read-able sample by a variety of demographic factors and weighted the two samples (general population and churched adults) by gender, ethnicity, region, age, education, household income, faith and church attendance history to reflect their natural presence in the population (using U.S. Census Bureau data and historical Barna data for comparison). Partly by nature of using an online panel, these respondents are slightly more educated than the average American, but Barna researchers adjusted the representation of college-aged individuals in the weighting scheme accordingly.
U.S. adults are U.S. residents 18 and older.
Practicing Christians identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.
Churched adults / churchgoers have been to church in the last six months.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021