WORDS FROM W.W. March 28, 2010
Quite often I feel privileged (okay, I’ll use the spiritual terminology here–I feel blessed!) to be a pastor. Pastors are different people. We are driven, but try to look peaceful. We are multi-tasked, but rarely multi-taskers. We’re goal-oriented, but “people persons.” We’re expected to be fluent in our understanding of Scripture, but are always behind in our reading. We’re administrators, who are expected to be out and about. Or perhaps we’re out-and-about people, who are expected to be administrators.
Those last parts of our job description are why we are often confused. When we’re working on the Sunday message we feel guilty that we’re not with a person in need of some counseling, but when we’re sitting having a cup of coffee with someone in need . . . and we use that excuse for not having a sermon ready the next Sunday . . . the sanctuary will be punctuated with raised eyebrows.
Here’s what a lot of pastors feel . . . deep, deep down. People look to how we’re living and relating to God to give some credence to their weekly commitment to us as their pastors. We’re like spiritual college football coaches who have the support of the boosters’ club until a few losing seasons get strung together. The difference with pastors is that the “wins” are a combination of how people are feeling spiritually, and whether or not the people are perceiving the relationship between their pastor and the Lord as being close to another Mount Sinai experience.
A little cynical, I know! But pastors are half-cynical, half-trusting. We’re faith-filled followers who too often resemble the disciples in Matthew 28:17. “When they saw him (Jesus), they worshipped him, but some doubted.” That’s us! Robert Schuller on Sunday, and Ricky Schroder on Monday.
People look to their pastors to model Christian maturity, while still expecting to see growth in their spiritual walk with God. But there’s a tricky catch.
In our church we have someone who has just left the military after 13 years to follow God’s call into the ministry. He’s a thirty-something first-semester seminarian. And we also have a mid-thirties couple who left financially secure positions to join different branches of the armed forces. We applaud the growth and new directions that God calls people into. God called another couple to leave us a few years ago to become full-time missionaries in British Columbia. We’re taken back by their faithfulness and obedience. It’s a radical shift that echoes of their commitment to the Lord.
The catch for pastors is that we’re expected to be changed, to be grown, in our walk, but the climate of the church is expected to not change. That is, people want the Lord to touch a pastor’s heart to the point that it doesn’t mess up things at church. It’s like getting a new flat screen TV at home. We’re delighted with the upgrade, but the furniture is going to stay in the same place.
Changed sameness. It’s an uncomfortable quandary. If you don’t think your church has that “changed sameness” attitude think of your reaction if one or more of the following happened:
• The seating in the sanctuary got rearranged to help the pastor communicate the theme for a worship service.
• Donuts got replaced with fruit on Sunday morning.
• There was not a Sunday bulletin the week of Earth Day.
• One Sunday the communion bread is hush puppies.
• Someone spills coffee on the sanctuary carpet.
• God blesses a congregation with a drummer.
• A visitor sits in your spot.
• Too many strangers show up on a Sunday.
Perhaps in your mind none of those would be any big deal. I have to admit the appearance of grapes and the disappearance of glazed donuts would be hard for me to swallow. We’re all dieting . . . tomorrow . . . or after the pastries are all eaten . . . or the ice cream carton has been finished off . . . or . . . .
Changed sameness. Our prayer may sometimes be about changing us on the inside, because change around me is hard to handle.
With that being said I’d better close. I try to keep the word count of my columns pretty much the same, and this one is getting totally out of control.