DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Ugly Evangelical American

Written by: on October 24, 2019

I’m not an official pastor. I’ve never been ordained or licensed, nor had “Pastor” in any aspect of any title I’ve held. I have worked for a church, and I was the children’s director, a long time ago. There are lots of places that I function in a pastoral role, however. I do it in my work place, a Protestant Evangelical Christian Higher Education institution. I “pastor” my students, and preach in chapel. I’m on the teaching team at Vineyard Glendora and preach 2-3 times a year for our congregation. We (our family) hosts a small group for college-aged and young adult folks in our home every Sunday night. In fact, I find myself “pastoring” in so many capacities, I decided last summer to pray through whether or not I should become ordained. I talked to our Lead Pastor, Abigail, about it over the summer and she and I meet regularly to explore my own pastoral calling. While I might not have the title, I find over and over again, I am doing the work of pastoring in many capacities. So I take it personally when another woman, “pastor” or not, is told to “Go Home.”


As I was reading Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership this week, I was struck by his essay on “The Ugly American.”[1] It hurts when men like John MacArthur continually portray not just the ugly American, but the ugly evangelical American. Kets de Vries alludes to this ugliness, “…Where threats from external enemies are ever present, simplistic binary slogans replace reflective debate, lies become alternative facts (or factoids), and where mind and reality control replace evidence and historical truth”[2] While the quote is referencing the American dystopia Trump has created, I could easily apply it to the arguments many, not just MacArthur, have made about keeping women out of the pastorate.


As MacArthur sat on that stage and belittled the work of Beth Moore (and other women by proxy), I couldn’t help but feel the most hurt from the people in the crowd. It’s one thing to say something shameful, it’s another to have a room full of people clap and cheer you on. Kets de Vries argues:


“Deep down inside, many people know that they are being suckered. But in spite of the overwhelming evidence that Trump [could you insert MacArthur here?] is pulling a fast one, they still find it hard to acknowledge that it is happening. Unfortunately, many people become willing victims of this sort of scam. The power of con artists is that they don’t force us to do anything. One the contrary, victims buy into the con game of their own free will. Some may even volunteer and propagate the cause. And after the damage is done, it is not easy to admit having been a victim of a scam.”[3]


That same Pastor who is currently mentoring me in my calling posted this week,

“Because when fear is not the motivation…when love is the motivation, bullying is not the response. There is no fear in love.”


I see over and over again the trappings of fear. Fear that leads us to believe that in order to gain, another must loose. Fear that says success is beating everyone else to the top first. Trump uses fear to bring out the worst in people. People laugh at MacArthur’s profane remarks out of fear. Everywhere we turn today, people are stuck in cycles of fear. I wonder if deep down, MacArthur is also afraid. Because it seems like he’s playing a zero-sum game that no other woman has time to play. Sorry JM, we’re too busy pastoring, even if we don’t have the title.


[1] Manfried F.R. Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life (Springer Nature, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Loc 716.

[2] Ibid., 716.

[3] Ibid., 736.

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

12 responses to “The Ugly Evangelical American”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you for your honest, vulnerable, daring post. Excellent analysis and application.

    Keep pastoring Rev. Karen!

  2. Karen, I hear you and others that were affected by the insensitive bullying remarks, it’s a confirmation that indeed we’re down in that rabbit hole. Fear is an emotion that we all have to be aware of and careful about not to be victims but rather to conquer it continually. Thank you for sharing, it helps me as a leader to be always sensitive and responsible about what I speak in public.

  3. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that fear is the root whenever opinions are expressed with ugliness and an intent to diminish another. So what might our best tactics of love be to drive fear out? Jesus invited us to, when we have our cloak stollen, to hand over our tunic as well. What might our tunic look like in this scenario? (I’ve always preached this section from the lens of you are a victim when you cloak is stolen, but empowered and challenging brokenness when you then give your tunic.) Bless you Pastor Karen.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Jenn – I totally understand your thought process here. It’s hard to process what more would I be willing to give up to someone who has already stolen so much. I do often wonder if sometimes, it’s easier to turn to the more “passive” sides of Jesus in situations like these. But what about the Jesus who flipped tables in the temple for calling out things as they shouldn’t have been? Sometimes, I wish people would remind us that Jesus had anger too – and that emotion is just as valid. (Also, this is not directed at you at all! I think your question is right and valid!)

  4. mm Mary Mims says:

    Thank you Karen for your excellent post! I am so proud of you young women for taking on JM and his hateful comments. It is interesting that these are the same men that felt women could only teach children and other women. Now that God has elevated her ministry to the point that men listen to her, he has a problem. I just wish these men would read the Apostle Paul’s writings a little closer and ask themselves, what were all the women Paul wrote about doing? Keep on serving as you have been; God has much more for you and other women!

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Agreed Mary! My question usually becomes to those folks, “At what point to children then become men who age out of my ministry sphere?” I think it’s too easy to say we can teach children – because children end up becoming thoughtful adults who are often most shaped by the teachings of women! So at what point do they stop listening?!

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and personal reflections. Yes, the ministry is comprised of gifts and living out of those gifts. You are wise to serve in your multiple local contexts but also continue to discern with a wise mentor what God may be up to next in your life. I love Jesus, I love the Church, I love those who pastor others regardless of title. I am sorry for the pain to you and others caused by fearful influential people. While I know the words and actions of others hurt, your wise pastor reminds all of us that only Jesus’ love can drive out our fear. May the Spirit continue to lead and guide you as you live out your call.

  6. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Even in little old New Zealand there was a corporate gasp – not so much at MacArthur, but rather at the crowd. MacArthur is an easy read. He’s not driven by fear, but rather a misplaced commitment to American utopian dream surrounding the sanctity of the scriptural documents and the 19th century interpretation of them them. He has no fear because he sees himself as being at war. He’s a soldier. His followers however are fearful. That’s why they pay attention. That’s why they buy his books. That’s why they trump-et his validity. He is the defender of their limited understanding. He is the bulwark against all who oppose their worldview. You need to understand what that fear is, because it will differ from place to place? What security is at stake? Ignoring it will not help. The task of women in leadership is to move toward those who disagree with their position – they won’t move toward you. In doing so two things will happen. 1. You will become a human being and not a faceless issue – it’s hard to hate the face in front of you (empathy – see Seans post). 2. They get to experience the agape you may write about. That’s a tougher pill to reject (see Jesus). MacArthur has a crowd of followers, and Beth Moore will have a crowd of followers too. I wonder what the third way is? I suspect it won’t be emotionally satisfying – it might feel like a cross. Privileged to help you carry it.

  7. mm John Muhanji says:

    Thank you, Karen, for your untitled pastoral ministry that keeps on emerging in your daily responsibility in ministry. I believe that a pastor is not one ordained but one who discharges the duties of a pastor. with or without a pastor, you are discharging the duties of a pastor. therefore, in my view, you are already a pastor in active ministry. God already affirmed you, Karen.

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