The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Missing the gorilla

with 14 comments


In pastoral ministry it’s easy to miss the gorilla. We get so focused on our weekly sermons and our weekly pastoral visitation schedule that large chest-thumping gorillas become invisible to us – until they devour us!

Finish it here; apply it widely.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 9 November 2010 at 10:10

Posted in Pastoral theology

14 Responses

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  1. ooh! ooh! ooh!

    Jonathan Hunt

    Tuesday 9 November 2010 at 11:59

    • Surely that’s the funky gibbon, rather than the missing gorilla? I think you may have some significant ape issues in your neck of the woods.

      Jeremy Walker

      Tuesday 9 November 2010 at 12:35

  2. Eh, except for the dodgy stats!
    “If 50% of people miss the gorilla, we greatly enhance our chances of seeing if we double the number of watching eyes.” ?!


    Wednesday 10 November 2010 at 21:47

    • Ha! Would you like to do the maths for us, Cath? If 50% of people miss the gorilla, how many more people need to be watching in order to make seeing the gorilla almost certain?

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 10 November 2010 at 23:44

      • Just 1, right, if they come from the right half of the population?


        Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:21

        • I *think*

          But if you + elders = group of 6, and the 6 of you are representative of the population as a whole, then your group’s performance at seeing the gorilla is still 50%, ie 3 will see it and 3 will miss it. Double your team to 12, and still the group’s performance will be 50%, 6 will see and 6 won’t. For success in spotting the gorilla, you need to have a team of good gorilla-spotters, not a big group.


          Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:24

          • Précisément! (I think). But am I right in saying that you only need one person to see the gorilla, at which point he can alert the others? Does that mean, therefore, that a larger group has an increased chance of at least one person seeing the gorilla, even if none of them is a trained and alert spotter of gorillas?

            I may be totally wrong here, of course. It would, naturally, not be the first time, and may even become a habit.

            Jeremy Walker

            Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:33

          • Actually, if 50% of all viewers miss the gorilla, then 50% of all viewers see the gorilla. Do you then only need two viewers? One of them will always see the gorilla, and can alert the other to its presence.

            Of course, you might be drawing both viewers from the highly-concentrating non-gorilla spotting half of the population, in which case you are still stymied.

            This is getting tricky. How do you make sure you see the gorilla?

            Jeremy Walker

            Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:38

          • By the way, if you look at the original post, there is a definite suggestion that elders’ wives have some kind of innate gorilla-spotting capacity. Do you skew the statistics by introducing a well-disguised wife into your group of elders?

            (I know some elders who do this anyway, without much of a disguise.)

            Jeremy Walker

            Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:41

            • Would you care to elaborate on that sentence in parentheses? :-)


              Monday 15 November 2010 at 17:24

              • Certainly, guv’nor. I am referring to the fact that, too often, a pastor’s wife becomes a de facto elder. So, the sentence in parentheses is a snide aside to the practice of men in pastoral office treating their wives as if they too were elders, contrary to revelation and sense. Of course, I acknowledge that the wife of an elder (as with a deacon) must be of a certain character, evidenced significantly in her relationship with her husband. She may be privy to certain information that others do not know, and so must be a model of verbal self-control. Depending on her own graces and gifts (this qualification because some women might prefer not to know things that would compromise certain relationships or activities) , an overseer might bounce things off his wife (metaphorically, of course, or in some kind of soft play environment, otherwise he would almost certainly be disqualified from office), seek comfort from her in difficult times; confide in her, ask her opinion, take her counsel, and so on. In fact, he would be a fool if he failed not only to nurture his wife but to enjoy the benefits of her God-given wisdom and insight. Such a wife will need to support her husband in his distinctive calling (for example, and very obviously, he can hardly be given to hospitality without her), with all that means, and face peculiar pressures and challenges in so doing.

                However, here it may be worth pointing out that I can find nothing in Scripture that requires or obliges a pastor’s wife to pastor or counsel women, to go on pastoral visits with her husband (although there may be occasions on which that would help), to play the piano, to coordinate all catering at the church, to lead women’s Bible studies, and so on and so forth. In keeping with Proverbs 31, her priorities are her husband, her children, and her home, together with whatever other appropriate and legitimate avenues of service her capacities open up for her (and the scope from Proverbs 31 is pretty wide). If she cannot do more than pursue those fundamental priorities (and, for example, a mother with young children is likely to find her hands fairly full with those three things alone) then she should not feel guilty, nor be made to feel guilty. If she is not a gifted teacher or public speaker, she is by no means failing and should not be made to feel that she is. (Of course, one reason why she should not dominate a church in this way is that she might deprive other women of using their gifts and graces in appropriate and legitimate spheres.) A pastor’s wife may be many wonderful things, but all that is truly required of her is to be her husband’s wife.

                For all her gifts, she is not called to rule either in the home or in the church, and the man who expects or demands of her a responsibility to which she is not called and a burden for which she is not equipped is going contrary to God’s command, is showing a degree of cruelty to his wife, and is likely to harm Christ’s church.

                Sufficient elaboration?

                Jeremy Walker

                Tuesday 16 November 2010 at 18:12

          • OK, further reading suggests that a pastor, accompanied by a humble, alert, praying wife, is almost certain to spot the gorilla. Do we need elders? Is Mr Murray’s logic dragging us away from a Biblical ecclesiology? I think we should be told.

            Jeremy Walker

            Thursday 11 November 2010 at 11:42

  3. My eyes glided hastily over the bit about the gender differences, I must confess. I had the sinking feeling that if I looked too hard, it would turn out to be one of those depressing studies that seem to show women are categorically better than men at some thing, when in fact the distributions, statistically speaking, largely overlap, making the difference in group means rather unimportant.

    (Actually feeling slightly guilty about all this – posted that first comment without realising who the blogger was, and he is a jolly good egg when all is said and done.)

    If six hens lay two eggs twice a day and two gorillas fail to be spotted whenever they appear, what are the chances that the chicken came first?


    Friday 12 November 2010 at 01:36

    • Hello again, Cath. I took your original comment in the sense intended, as a statistical riff in a spirit of brotherly ribbing, with the assumption that we are good eggs all round. I posted the link because I thought David’s points were good ones, and – despite his evident statistical ineptitude (which, it would seem, may be his one area of academic weakness)! – I still think the warnings are necessary ones.

      Besides which, I imagine that the other three people who read this blog are all of the same mind, so I shouldn’t worry overmuch.

      The chicken anomaly, however, does present a further conundrum . . .

      Jeremy Walker

      Friday 12 November 2010 at 09:18

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