A couple of months ago, I read some really interesting articles about the nature of being a pastor, and what many in the congregation would like to see or hear from their pastor. It had some really valid points, and I think that author Rachel Held Evans would legitimately like to hear those things from a pastor.
In an effort to see the other side–as she usually does–she posted some comments from pastors Eric Atcheson and Jeremy Serrano about what pastors would like to hear from the CONGREGATION.
Numerous times, I’ve re-read and considered the posts and the comments below them. This has led me to give some heavy thought to this: What is your pastor thinking and not telling you?
Pastors would love to be more genuine: What makes Evans’ perspective so refreshing, and at the same time naïve, is that she’s advocating what some people want. Evans advocates genuineness, honesty, transparency and “real” from the pastor.
But genuineness and openness are often scary and intimidating, and not everyone wants that. Some want the pastor to have on her or his “Preacher Costume” all the time. It’s tough to be genuine when you have to minister to Aunt Bessie, who isn’t used to seeing the pastor at the hospital without a coat and tie, as well as to those ever-elusive Millenials.
Speaking of Aunt Bessie…
You can’t “cherry-pick” your congregation: Here’s the thing: When you’re dealing with a congregation, you are called to deal with ALL of the congregation.
Hey, we GET it. Things need to change. We need to do it different. We need fresh ideas. But remember that you called us to minister to Aunt Bessie and Uncle Odell, not just Bessie and Odell’s grandchildren who left the church five years ago.
And let us never forget that Jesus loves Aunt Bessie and Uncle Odell; therefore, we are called to minister to them, not just work around them. Their faithfulness and perspective deserves as much consideration as anyone else.
We might be as smart as Rick Warren: Nothing is more frustrating to a pastor than someone coming up to say, “You know, I read this” or “I heard that” or “Pastor Y said this in his sermon last week”. ESPECIALLY when the pastor has been preaching the same thing since last April.
It may also help to keep in mind that “Pastor Y” is at a 15,000-member church in a huge city in Southern California, not a 100-member church in a small town or a rural area. Some general principles may apply, but it’s not exactly apples-to-apples.
Something else occurs to me about a lot of these voices from “outside the box”: They left. They may have had good reasons to leave, but they still left. They decided to consult or write or speak. We’re still here. Why is it that our voice is sometimes the last one to be heard?
Please don’t stop reading or listening, but hear your pastor as well as your favorite blogger.
Our families and livelihoood ARE at stake: Technically, we don’t work for you. But you do pay our salary. I’d love to be noble enough to say that doesn’t matter, but the stack of bills on our counter says otherwise. Pardon me if I think before I speak when some of these things are on the line.
Most of us do our dead-level best to speak the truth as the Holy Spirit leads, but we also don’t have the resources to just “run over” people without regard to their spiritual health or our personal well-being.
We lose sleep over you: We don’t always get all the tasks accomplished, but believe me when I tell you that we toss and turn thinking about you. We agonize over what’s happening at church, what needs to happen, and how the Spirit is leading us to facilitate it. There is rarely a moment when you and/or the church are not on our mind.
We need friends: Being a pastor is extremely lonely. No matter how nice and loving the congregation is, pastors often feel alone. And hanging out with other pastors—who have the same problems, gripes and complaints as me—is not the only solution.
While I’ve served in many churches, I’ve only pastored two. Both were extremely friendly & loving (can’t imagine what it’s like for pastors who don’t have that).
But the best things they ever did for me? One taught me to hunt, the other invited me to play fantasy football. I’m terrible at both (I almost shot a guy’s four-wheeler once), but both made me feel like I was truly a part of the community. That’s something ALL of us need.
We want YOU to be real, too: I serve at Augusta Heights, a wonderful place with a group of people that I never thought I’d find (and one of the few that is willing to put up with me as pastor).
To say that there is a lack of pretense at our church is an understatement; in fact, sometimes I worry that we’re a little too laid-back! I would also say that this is the exception rather than the rule, and I still sense that we have more work to do to be a truly open community.
Maybe all pastors don’t feel this way, but I think most of us don’t want you to hide your beer in the “Baptist Drawer” when we come by the house. (If you don’t know, that’s where you can cover it up with the fruits and vegetables at the bottom of the fridge—thanks to Kim McMillin for sharing that term with me!).
Just as some of you want us to be real and honest and admit what we don’t know, we want you to do the same. We don’t want you to be afraid to ask questions or disagree with us on a sermon. We’d MUCH prefer that you come to the office and talk to us rather than talking to everyone else about us. If you feel led to walk the aisle and pray, we want to create an environment where you do that without fear of judgment.
Is that kind of genuine humanity and Christianity between a pastor and congregation more difficult? No doubt! As we move forward in this crazy, postmodern world, we may find that such communities are both valuable and necessary. And the Millenials are not the only ones who need it.