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5 lessons pastors can take from Tammy Faye Bakker Messner’s passing

Televangelist Tammy Faye Messner died last night, just about the same time many pastoral sermons met a similar fate. Only whereas the former perished as a result of inoperable lung cancer, the latter expired due to a case of terminal irrelevance. While nothing could be medically done to save the former Tammy Faye Bakker, blogging could have saved the untimely demise of so many pastoral presentations.

All over the U.S. this morning, pastors and priests are pontificating to their parishes messages they carefully crafted while hidden away in their office and/or study – provided of course they’re not offering up re-hashes of past presentations and/or canned sermons purchased on cassette tape! Many such messages will be dead on arrival.

Here are five ways blogging can help pastors add new life to their messages and ministries:

Immediate infusion into the public debate

I realize Saturday night is a tough time for pastors to do anything but prep for Sunday morning. Still, I’m saddened that the majority of news stories and blog posts on the topic of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner’s death are coming from an almost solely secular point-of-view; as demonstrated by Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post who wrote:

“Her fans were people who grew up in a very fundamentalist tradition, not being able to wear makeup, or dance, or go out in public,” White told the Times. “So here comes Tammy, with her dyed hair and makeup, her ebullient spirit and outspoken ways with both men and women.

“She talked about sex, and flirted with Jimmy. She took on the caricature of an obedient wife, and blasted it…”

Sadly, without immediate input by local leaders in the Christian community, it appears the debate will continue to be framed along the lines that Christians are out of touch with the emerging role of women in today’s society. A point that is entirely incorrect, but uncontested.

Immediate opportunities to relevantly reach-out

The fact of the matter is that Tammy Faye’s life was, IMHO, basically a rebellious reaction to a well intended but misguided, social but not Scriptural, super hyper-fundie upbringing. A topic I would think has some resonance with many of those who’ve opted to study the brunch menu at Chili’s instead of the Bible at church this morning.

A short pastoral posting discussing Tammy Faye’s dysfunctional response to her upbringing could have provided some relevant and timely guidance to those similarly afflicted – both within and without said shepherd’s flock.

Immediate interface and feedback

Provided a pastor is brave enough to open up the comments capabilities of their blogging software – a short post on the topic of Tammy Faye Messner and co-dependent behavior could have inspired a lively discussion that could:

  • provide the pastor with valuable notes for a latter sermon or Bible study;
  • allowed the congregation to feel connected with their pastor;
  • demonstrated the ability to discuss relevant issues;
  • demonstrated to members a way to discuss relevant issues;
  • help the pastor identify individuals similarly hurting.

Immediate search engine optimization

I’m continually asked by pastors and church webmasters how they can improve the search engine visibility of their congregations web presence.

I continually point out that having a pastor blog their sermons, weekly messages and perhaps even pictures of their cats will provide the compelling content that will not only index along current keyword searches, but inspire other sites to link back to the church’s website.

Coupled with good titles and lead paragraphs, pastors could have all the incoming traffic they never wanted simply by writing short analytical opinions about current issues.

For example, I would suspect something as simple as “Tammy Faye Bakker Messner versus the Proverbs 31 Woman” followed by a lead paragraph that discusses the failed ministry of her and former husband Televangelist Jimmy Bakker would drive in more traffic and public input than a pastor never wanted.

Permanent position statement

When people are shopping online for churches, they rarely seek out pastors and parishes that sit on the fence. They can get that from politicians.

What such individuals want is to know where a particular church body stands – even the seeker doesn’t 100% agree with the position – they at least know that said church stands for something. Such reassurances are important in such socially confused times.
For example, as a pastor, I might point out:

  • the legacy of failures Ms.Messner leaves behind;
  • there are better ways to deal with a legalistic upbringing;
  • look & learn, Tammy Faye died trying to serve two masters;
  • how Tammy Faye Bakker’s rebellion set back the successes of women;
  • while she put the fun in dysFunction, she also left the rest of us a big messy legacy;
  • how social concerns delivered as Biblical dogma created co-dependent canines like Tammy Faye

Meaning, like or dislike Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, she is a topic worth discussing. Especially worth discussing as our population continues – including and especially the Church going Christian population – to suffer from:

  • divorce;
  • drug addiction;
  • the ravages of sexual promiscuity ;and
  • the enslavement that comes with the lust for fame and fortune.

Bottom line

If today’s sermons were so in tuned with where we’re at, then why are so many within the U.S. Church continue to feel disconnected while struggle with said issues enumerated in the last section?

If more pastors would break out of the myopic solitude of their studies, or at least augment their study with outward interaction such as blogging, I’d think we’d see some better content on news.google.com this Sunday morning.

And like the woman at the well and/or Mary Magdalene, perhaps a timely pastoral blog post might help relieve someone the baggage that so weighed down Tammy Faye Bakker Messner all her life.

5 Comments

  1. Great post Dean!!!!

    As parents, we might have called this a ‘teachable moment’. One that pastors are letting slip by.

    I don’t get Tammy, never did. Your post explained much about why she is important. Having the ability to discuss that ‘over the water cooler’ is important friendship evangelism, if we faithful are being prepared for it. Which, you are right, we aren’t. We’d rather hide from the fact that she represents our faith.

  2. perhaps a timely pastoral blog post might help relieve someone the baggage

    And perhaps it’ll free the pastor to preach about the bible without having to waste time on such cultural trivia.

  3. Hmmm….postoral blogs might help relieve someone the baggage?

    Dean, we ALL have baggage and a blog isn’t going to relieve it.

    However, I will agree that pastors can take lessons from Mrs. Messner’s passing. She was never a hypocrite. She was always sincere, in her faith and herself. She believed in Jim Bakker, whom she married at 19. She believed in Jerry Falwell when he came to save the PTL. When both of them failed her, she still stayed strong to GOD. She believed that the cancer that was killing her was a way to open a door. It gave her an opportunity to talk about Jesus. To tell people that GOD is able, no matter what the situation you find yourself in. Don’t let fear rule your life. Live one day at a time. Never be afraid.

    She believed GOD made and loved all His people, so she loved them, too, even those who scorned her, and especially those society scorned. “We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt and GOD didn’t make any junk”.

    What I think is remarkable is not just Tammy’s immoveable sense of peace and serenity, but the fact she never judged anyone. All she ever wanted to do was talk about her faith and spread it around the best way she could. Because of that many secular point-of-views embraced her.

    Tammy Faye Messner’s life took many strange twists. But she was always a woman of grace. A timely pastoral blog post will not relieve someones baggage. What is greatly needed are pastors who voice compassion in an increasingly cruel world.

  4. Nathaniel, there are alot of sincere persons out there – I suppose of that group whom also consider appearances on trip like ‘the surreal’ life excersizes in grace.

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