Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Pastor Appreciation Month (though probably an a-typical approach)

Just a short one today. I'm tired. Cut me some slack.

So, lots of bloggers are doing the whole "31 days" thing, where they write about one topic every day for the 31 days of October.  Well, kudos to them, but in the immortal words of Bob Dylan,

"It ain't me, babe."

I am jealous of this cat. It is sleeping and
looks supremely comfortable. Photo Credit.

One could say that I have a lot going on. One could say that I, perhaps at times, take on a bit too much. One could say that, but then one might get one of my infamous cold, blank stares.  Seriously though, I wish I could commit to something like that, but a full-time job, full-time school and all-the-time parenting of Things 1&2 make a commitment like that one...well, let's just say difficult.  I think that if I were to try to write every day for a month, the amount of sleep I would lose would probably shave a couple of years off of my life, and let's be honest, I like being alive, so it's really not worth it.


It is also pastor appreciation month.  Now, one post about a specific topic for the month?  That's something I can get behind. So this post, now that we're finally getting around to it, is about pastors. 

Now, pastor appreciation for a lot of people means sending cards, giving gifts, throwing parties, etc.  I'm not saying any of that is bad, but I wonder if we might aim higher...

  • What if we gave our pastors some grace, brought them down off of the high pedestals we've placed them on, and stopped expecting them to be perfect?  What if we acknowledged that they were human beings with actual needs and feelings and stopped expecting them to be some kind of "ministry" robot.  What if we stopped placing expectations so unrealistic on them that they become isolated from authentic relationship and community within the context of the local body and have to seek it out elsewhere?
  • What if we cut our pastors some slack, took some ownership in the local church communities that we are a part of, and stop expecting them to do everything?  What if we stepped up to become active participants in what God is doing instead of being spectators, watching our pastors try to beg, barter and cajole us into action.  What if we started doing everything instead of expecting the "church staff" to do everything for us?
Now I will admit that American pastor-dom has not done itself any favors in this arena with its creepy obsession with modern, business-oriented notions of "leadership." (Seriously folks, Jesus was pretty clear on this, what with the last-first servant of all stuff.)  I honestly can see where this comes from though.  If I was facing the masses of people sitting in churches who are both supremely critical and wholly uncommitted to the work of the Kingdom in the local body of believers, I'd probably get desperate enough to try something crazy too. But what's happened now is that this distorted view of "leadership" has only served to disempower and marginalize local bodies, further widening the gap between clergy and laity. 

I actually see in the evolution of church structures some similarities with Israel's demand for a king when Samuel's sons blew it as judges. Our attempts to make our pastors the kings of our little local church kingdoms seems to fundamentally miss the point.  God's words to Samuel then still ring true today, "They're forsaking me as their king. Give them what they want, but warn them what they're in for." (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing here, people, but read 1 Sam 8 for the story.)  When we create these hierarchies in our churches, and replace the ethic of love with the ethic of authority and coercion, we're settling for a lesser standard.  We've got a pretty black and white example of how that one turns out in the Old Testament post-judges, methinks.

OK, so now I'm getting a little rambly and weird. Look, your pastor, if he or she is a good one, (and I thank God regularly that mine is), is just a facilitator.  All they're trying to do is get you to find an understanding of the truth of the Gospel and live in the fullness of it.  If we really want to show our appreciation for our pastor, then maybe the best thing to do is to get off of our asses and step into the reality of that Kingdom in our day-to-day lives.  That's all I'm trying to say.

And your pastor, if she or he is a good one, would definitely appreciate that.


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