But there’s another intelligence.
When I read the Jesuit interview with Pope Francis a few months ago, I knew I was witnessing it. So clearly, in fact, that I finally had a name for it.
Pastoral intelligence. The “pastoral quotient.” PQ. Is that a thing? Yes, I think it really it is.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. It’s tricky to define, but I know it when I see it. So do millions of others, it seems. Even TIME sees it. Whatever it is, Pope Francis has it. A keen, shrewd, effective pastoral intelligence... poised for strategically maximizing Kingdom influence. “Be as cunning as serpents, and simple as doves,” Jesus said. Whatever that means, Pope Francis is doing it.
One commentator summarized it nicely when he wrote, “Pope Francis has surprised the world because he embraces the Christian calling to destabilize and to challenge.”
Can today’s church benefit from some destabilizing and challenging?
My friend David is a devout Christian. Even though he is not Catholic, he loves Fr. Barron, Pope Francis, Thomas Merton, the Catholic mystics. I asked if he ever might consider becoming Catholic. He said no. Why? “I’m not cut out for Catholic parish life. It seems a little too... dusty.” Dusty. What an interesting description.
This church I love, the church I have given my life to serve...this prayerful, spiritually aware Christian man is not interested. We’re too dusty. Maybe I’m secretly thankful that’s all he said. Our fruit is paltry, our influence is small, our voice is weak, our house is divided. I’m not talking politics or culture wars... I’m talking, where’s the Kingdom? When’s the last time you walked into a Catholic environment and felt like you were in Acts of the Apostles?
I’ve taught in a Catholic high school, pastored a parish, and done campus ministry. Everywhere, there are great people. But...
But something is missing. Maybe it’s no one’s fault, per se. But I keep running into this invisible wall. Everywhere is this same, stifling status quo. I sometimes feel like I am carrying around this heavy institutional weight, like David in his ill-fitting armor preparing to fight Goliath.
Rather than advancing a movement, it often feels like we are protecting an institution. Playing defense. What about offense? What does winning even look like, as church? Do we know?
Can we do better? Francis seems to think so. He’s calling us out, asking much of us...because he thinks much of us. I could cite a bunch of pitiful statistics about steady church decline. But no need. If you’ve read this far, you get it.
Are we forming disciples? Are we strategically leading? Are we communicating effectively? Are we taking back the cities? Are we impacting the culture? Are we seeking out the lost, warming hearts? Are we freeing the prisoners, opening the eyes of the blind, disrupting strongholds of darkness? We have the greatest “product” in the history of the world, one which adds infinite value. Are we shipping Kingdom victory to the existential peripheries, where the poor and the lost are? Does it ever seem to you that the church has lost the wonder, the passion, the beauty, the attraction, the “wow?”
Read the beautiful things Pope Francis is asking for the church, then compare it to your church... do you notice a difference?
Maybe it’s not a matter of will, or work ethic. Maybe it’s intelligence. Not IQ...we have plenty of smart theologians out there. Too many, perhaps. And not even EQ... though we could all use more of that.
No, it seems that what we need is more PQ. Strategic, intentional, high-standard Christian leadership. “The world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking,” said Pope Benedict in “Charity in Truth,” quoting Pope Paul VI; “there is a need for the deep thought and reflection of wise people in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew.”
Pope Francis is one of these wise people. The guy has a 200 PQ. I’m following him.
I take for granted the Holy Spirit, and that, “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” Only God can breathe new life into the church. But... we are entrusted with advancing God’s Kingdom, that’s how he designed it. We need to be pastorally smarter. The mind can be enlightened, wisdom can grow. Trajectories of history can change.
Perhaps the ambition of this blog can be summed up in a simple equation:
PQ > SQ
SQ stands for status quo. Enough already.
PQ is an aspiration, not a declaration. I don’t claim to have it. But I want it. God has it. He wants to give it. Pope Francis is leading with it. I’d like to follow, and keep up. A new era is coming, and the destination is beautiful. “PQ” represents my desire to make a contribution.