Thursday, August 25, 2022

I am nobody's idea of a pastor. . .

I must confess that I am always disappointing people.  I am hardly ever the pastor they want and nearly always the pastor that disappoints them.  God is far easier to please than most folks.  That is because at least I can count on God's forgiveness.  I am not sure that people either want to or will forgive as He has forgiven them -- at least when it comes to pastors.  So my calling is not simply to fulfill the Biblical criteria or satisfy the Good Shepherd under whom I serve -- it is also to satisfy any and every expectation.

When the world looks at me, it sees a peculiar fellow dressed equally peculiarly (at least for those who wear a clerical).  I am an anachronism -- I believe things science must have disproved by now and do not believe things everyone else around me does.  I hold a morality hopelessly out of step with the modern world and I expect the supernatural of word and mercy over the practical of getting what I want.  I am the man in black (sorry Johnny Cash) who preaches a Gospel that has not changed in two thousand years and who still expects the people to be accountable to their higher power.  People in the world are sometimes threatened by me, sometimes attracted to me, and always disappointed in some way or another.  On top of that, society is sure I am a pedophile waiting for the opportunity to abuse the innocent.  

To the liberal Christian, I cannot possibly be so naive as to believe the what the Bible says and must be a thoughtful, erudite, skeptic in order to be authentic.  I am kind of a Santa dressed in black who fulfills everyone's imagination, dreams, and identities -- in the nicest way possible, to be sure.I must never say an unkind word. I am a boy scout in pursuit of that which is tolerant, indulgent, generous, and kind (which really means I defer everything to everyone else). 

On the other hand, however, the conservative sees me as must be a paragon of virtue, right doctrine (as they define it), and total moral purity in word and deed. I must never have a lustful or dirty though (unless it is a really funny joke)  I must be constantly in prayer and also be a spiritual warrior–always on the lookout for the devil and always ready to fight the good with every denier, blasphemer, and lover of evil.  If I screw up, I exasperate God and must live with the constant fear of disappointing Him and them.

The call of God is not to please either but to faithfully proclaim His Word, speaking the truth in love but neither shying away from calling evil what it is.  When, at the end of the day, I am left with the long list of my failures to do what is right and to do what is wrong, God is there with the cleansing power of Christ's blood to wash me clean and the righteousness of Christ to clothe me again.  The problem is that we no longer think this is enough and have come to think of pastors as therapists, social workers, life coaches, program directors, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, and a whole lot of other things not in the Biblical job description.  Whether liberal or conservative, we are likely to blame the pastor for the failings of the church to grow or change the world or convert more people than we are to trust that the Word of the Lord will accomplish God's purpose in sending it forth through that pastor.  Maybe it is the destiny of pastors to disappoint the world in their calling to do God's bidding.  And maybe that means also disappointing the Church and those in her from time to time.


Pastor Bob Hoem said...

Pastor Peters,
Thanks for your wonderful posting on being a "failure", when trying to please everyone in a congregation or the world in general. I'm retired from full time pastoring now (45 years of being in congregations). It seems to me your comments are "right on" in terms of attempting to live as a "people pleaser", at all costs. One image comes to mind: imagine yourself sitting on a chair on a theater stage...there's only one person in the audience...the curtain opens and you're now going to offer your presentation to that one person who happens to be Jesus Christ. Your question and mine is the same: "So, who are going to play your life to?"

Pastor Bob Hoem

Barbara Thomas said...

Awesome & totally true... Wouldn't it be nice if not only the pastor lived that way!! And if all of us did then those that are officially social workers & therapists would hopefully be almost out of work. Then Pastors could concentrate on the Lords work,
and we could all work together.
What a beautiful world that would be.

Unknown said...

Thank you Larry:

Yes Jim Redmann Traverse City, MI.