Originally created 11/08/97

Book uses pithy sayings to poke fun at church life



"Let sleeping dogmas lie."

"If you can't walk on water, don't rock the boat."

You have heard of Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will."

These are St. Murphy's Commandments, observations about church life collected in a new paperback book by the Rev. Ron Birk, consulting editor of the Joyful Noiseletter in Portage, Mich.

The Rev. Birk, a professional speaker and goat rancher who served for 20 years as Lutheran campus pastor at Texas A&M and Southwest Texas State University, has been around long enough to know things are not always what they seem in church life. And sometimes it is easier to laugh than be frustrated by the foibles of religious folk.

"It's not the way it ought to be. It's the way it is," the Rev. Birk said. "We talk about the communion of saints, but it's also the communion of sinners. And you've got to accept that fact."

Illustrations by David Espurvoa accompany the Rev. Birk's humorous advice to remind pastors and laymen that everyone falls short of perfection.

For example, there is "The First Myth of Organized Religion: Religion is organized."

And St. Murphy's Commandment: "Anything a preacher says that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood."

For those pastors still under the illusion they are the leaders of the church, the Rev. Birk offers the following observations:

  • "The Law of Longevity: Pastors leave, congregations stay."
  • "The Don't-Push Postulate: The more obvious it is what a pastor wants a congregation to do, the less likely they are to do it."
  • The Rev. Birk said he hopes readers laugh and have a good time, but also use the humor to reflect on how to avoid or correct the problems the book satirizes.

    "This is a `ha-ha' book, but it's also an `ah-hah' book," the Rev. Birk said. "It's my own personal hope people will not only enjoy it, but people will stop and think why that situation happens in the church."

    St. Murphy's Commandments is published by LangMarc Publishing of San Antonio.