In his Chicago Sun-Times column, John Fountain excerpts a provocative letter from an anonymous pastor he received years ago in response to a critical essay Fountain wrote on the black church that was published across the nation. The letter laments the plight of black pastors, saying that they are struggling under the weight of the demands and needs of their members. The pastor asks if he and his colleagues have to do it all.

Dear Sir, I am a prominent minister who reads your letter and feels your pain. I shared it with many other pastors in the hopes that we can hear the soul of it  … We needed to hear from you.

First, I am so glad that not only does your sharp rebuke of the church come through loud and clear, but also your wincing pain and love for it. Thanks for both the blistering critique and the glaring opulent love that provoked it. I am sorry for the pain you have experienced. I truly am.

Though much of what you have shared does not surprise me at all, it is a perspective that we need to hear. But that perspective is just one side of the elephant.

I am also a black man in America who also searches for relevance, though I pastor and lead one of the most influential congregations in the nation today. My search isn't just the search in church and its blatant “bling bling” approach (though many would include me in that category of a "bling blinger"). I wanted to tell you about the weighted back — bent from the heavy lifting of broken people, bent from years of being expected to fill in the deficit, which has us suffering from poor leadership from other areas.


Our pastors have had to fill in for no black leadership, insensitive presidents … We are called to be spiritual leaders but required to be everything else.

We are lost in a fog of too many demands, unfair job descriptions, endless hours, countless funerals, graveside services, ripped off by builders, forsaken by wives, hated by media, afraid of our own peers … [The church] expects us to be its civil rights, social service, psychologist, community builders, event planners, land developers …

Read John Fountain's entire column at the Chicago Sun-Times.