Posted tagged ‘clergy’

Old Friends in A New Day

January 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   January 3, 2019

                              

“Friendship knows no barriers that it will not make its way through, knows no distance it will not travel, knows no time that will bring its end except the end of life itself.”

                                                                                                        -Me

A friend of mine once said that he had many acquaintances, but few friends. He was profoundly wise in his view of friendship. Many of us have an inconceivable number of Facebook “friends”. I just checked my FB page and found out that I’m at 1,043! That doesn’t mean I’m popular, it just means that there’s a lot of people I know. Sure, some of those are immediate family and relatives near and far. My cousin Suzanne lives in Park City, Utah. I haven’t seen her in a few decades, but it’s good to see what’s going on in her life.

I digress from my point, however! 

Carol and I spent New Year’s Eve in Charlotte, North Carolina with our friends Tom and Diane Bayes. Their son, Brandon and his wife Mary, and their two young kids came over for dinner. Brandon is reading this blog so I’ll detour for a moment just to say this to him- ”Hee, hee, hee!” It’s an inside joke that brings a memory back to him of the Holy Land tour he, his dad, and I were on years ago.

Back to Tom! Both Tom and I are now retired American Baptist pastors. For about 15 years of our ministries we served as pastors at two churches in the Lansing, Michigan area. The two of us, plus another American Baptist pastor, Chuck Moore, met for lunch at Finley’s restaurant on the southside of Lansing every other Wednesday for about 7 years. We formed friendships that have carried through. We called our threesome “The BMW Group” (Bayes, Moore, Wolfe). We figured it was as close to a BMW that any of us would get. 

We differed theologically, and yet we respected each other’s views and beliefs in an uncommon way- we listened and didn’t belittle!

Carol and I arrived at the Bayes house about 2:00 in the afternoon and for the next eleven and a half hours we talked, laughed, ate, toasted the new year, and finally went to bed at 1:30 in the morning. It was as if we had never been apart.

Friendship is like that. It doesn’t struggle to chat, and yet is comfortable with the moments of quiet. It doesn’t need to impress, yet it willing to wade through the waters of discouragement that one or the other is trudging through. It congratulates and consoles. 

Both Tom and I…and Chuck have traveled through tsunamis of church ministry. Each of us has been at one time or another the solid post that the friend in the midst of the storm has grabbed onto in the dangerous ministry times of being swept away. Each of us has also been the one who has grasped for that post. It’s what friends do for one another! 

Brandon pressed the issue with us during dinner. “You two are both retired. Why don’t you meet up with Chuck in Chicago sometime?” (Chuck pastors in Champaign, Illinois now.) 

So we will! I texted Chuck about the idea and meeting and going to a Cubs game, but we really don’t even need a baseball game. We just need each other! Location is secondary! That’s what friends do. We don’t need an event to meet around. I’ll say it again…we just need each other!

Villain Pastors and Victim Clergy

May 8, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 8, 2014

 

 

I’m not paranoid…no matter what the voices behind me are saying!

Call me a “reflective observer!” Yes…I like that term. It sounds like a quiet parent at a child’s athletic contest…somewhat an anomaly, I know, but still possible.

My reflective observation, however, is in the bleachers watching our culture’s annihilation of pastors and clergy. Different arenas have different strategies for making this happen.

Last night I was watching one of my favorite shows on TV after I got home from a nice thirteen hour day of ministry. The day was a typical assortment of appointments, meetings, visits, planning, leading a study group, and getting details taken care of. As I watched the TV show (on DVR, mind you!) a “preacher” entered the picture of the episode. He was even referred to as “Preacher”, not pastor, but I don’t think our culture differentiates between those who names…and very rarely is preaching seen in a positive light any more.

The preacher in this episode put a bad taste in the midst of my popcorn-chewing mouth as soon as he entered the picture. He was loud, condescending, and superficially pious.

As the show went on the preacher’s ulterior motives came out. He was really a drug-pushing pimp using his church as a front to line his pockets with cash. It reinforced stereotypes. That is, pastors always have dark secrets in their past, or selfish motives for what they are doing in the present.

Rarely does TV convey pastors as either intelligent or faithful. Such ingredients don’t make for exciting TV. Who wants to watch someone who actually walks his talk?

Self-disclosure here: Some pastors DO annoy me and act like jerks, but those things don’t necessarily come with the territory.

But that’s not the only way clergy are getting pancaked!

In recent times a number of pastors of mega-churches are walking away from their flocks because the demands are killing them. A phrase that one pastor used was “mouse on a spinning wheel”. He was always moving ahead, but stuck in the same spot. His church was growing by leaps and bounds…as were the demands on his time. His success made him an in-demand speaker at conferences. He was being sought to write a book.

He gave it up! Spent! Used up! The red light was indicating “Empty”!

So just as the media casts a picture of the devious preacher fooling the flock, the church so often crushes pastors with their flood of issues and needs.

For many people that are involved in churches it isn’t intentional! Most people in congregations love their pastor to death. But every congregation has a section, small or large, that doesn’t care as long as they are cared for. The toll that clergy face for some church attenders is like filling the environment with styrofoam cups. Everyone knows it isn’t good ecology, but I need my coffee!

Clergy self-care is becoming a much bigger issue in pastor circles these days, mainly because a huge majority of pastors are self-less. Needs of their church attenders are held as a higher priority than the pastor’s own health…and pastors surrender. If a pastor was the only one in a lifeboat he might still jump out to safe…the boat!

Our culture, most of the time, doesn’t understand these things, and, sadly enough, very few of our congregations do either.