On pastors

Most churchgoers don’t know what to reasonably expect from their pastor. Who can blame them? The church doesn’t provide a consumer’s guide and - as yet - there’s no “Clergy for Dummies.” As a pastor who has served both in- and outside the local church for over twenty years, I offer these observations:

Your pastor is not perfect. If he acts that way, or expects it of you, refer him to the 12-step meeting in your church basement. (Ditto, if you expect your pastor to be perfect.)

Your pastor doesn’t have all the answers. If she did, she’d be God. She’s a human being, who - like you - is seeking to live faithfully in a world that’s broken.

Be suspicious of a pastor who smiles all the time. Pastors with a healthy emotional life will be present to pain and upset, as well as joy. Life is not a bowl of cherries.

Your pastor is not your mother, sister, father, cousin, or any other significant person from your past. This is important, since the feelings you have for others often get projected onto a pastor. If you’re upset your pastor has left on vacation, ask yourself, “Am I feeling abandoned? If so, what experience in the past does this remind me of?“ Pastors really do work more than one hour a week and – like everyone else - need time apart.

You, alone, are responsible for your relationship with God. Your pastor can help you discern the obstacles you’ve placed between yourself and God, as well as the steps you can take to re-connect (e.g., prayer, worship, reading scripture, acts of mercy, fellowship, service, meditation). Any intimate relationship requires trust, commitment, presence, and a willingness to both talk and listen.

Don’t be disappointed if “Onward Christian Soldiers” is not your pastor’s favorite hymn. If he’s honest, he’ll tell you he thinks the lyrics are militaristic and contrary to Jesus’ teachings. He may also be opposed to displaying the US flag in the sanctuary, reciting the pledge of allegiance during Vacation Bible School, and singing “God Bless America” in worship. This is a church, not an American Legion hall.

Also, don’t expect your pastor to demonize homosexuals or "illegal aliens". She’ll have to pray for help in forgiving you, and that only adds to her workload. It’s difficult to like people who think of and/or treat others like objects or things.

Great preachers are like great batters. They don’t always hit a homerun. It’s exciting when it happens, but the sport would be boring if there were no walks or strikes.

Finally, how do you treat your pastor? Do you ask too much? not enough? Are you merciful and honest? Ornry or condemnatory? Most likely, that’s how you treat yourself, your neighbor and your God.

PS: God works in some not-so-mysterious ways. Take your meds.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Amen Pastor! Love the PS!