This week in Baltimore has been transformational. We wrapped up the cohort intensive today after a week of vigorous study, prayer, fellowship, visioning, and work. I am sitting in the basement of dear friends’ home, and I realize that I am a very pivotal point in my life. And my career.
I never liked it when people put pastors on a pedestal. I think it far too often leads to cults of personality, and authoritarian models that enable vast array of abuses, and far too often such churches are hosts to theologies that divide persons into us and them. I am not a saint. I have sin. I have brokenness. I have uncertainties.
But my colleague Shannon and I were talking today and she asked, “I wonder if we’ve gone too far in the other direction, and people don’t seem to realize that our whole lives are wrapped up in this?”
Here’s the deal. What we do is really different than just about any other job. We are required to be highly educated, like many professions. But our job requires that we nurture and develop our spiritual selves. We are to be in relationship with people at very difficult, painful times of their lives. That takes spiritual strength and control. Congregational care involves worship. We are responsible for crafting service each week, which requires training in prayer, scripture, liturgical music, history, rhetoric, and engages a host of other skills. We are to be leaders, but are subject to the rules and decisions of people who do not have our training. We need to pastor to people with a wide variety of personalities and needs, but to lead worship services that appeal to the masses. We need to be aware of financial strains, but never to allow money to impact the care we give others or receive for ourselves. And we need to care for the overall congregation and building, such that 50 years from now both will still exist.
What we do is different.
Every pastor I know believes. Deeply. And we may believe in different ways, but we have dedicated our lives to Jesus. And while I am not making this a spiritual competition, I will say that most people I know and pastor don’t understand what it is to be religious like I am religious. And that’s fine. I don’t think I am closer to God or somehow better than everyone else. But I will say that religion and faith are everything to me. So this job is not just a job. My way of worshiping, of following Jesus, of being a Christian, is to be a minister. My spiritual health depends on my being able to pastor and lead in the way that I feel God is calling me to lead.
And sometimes I feel like people don’t understand this. I believe that congregations are important and should have a strong voice. That is why I am in the denominations I am in: because much power is vested in the people. When it comes to the running of the church, the spending of the money, and the management of the assets, that should be with the laity. I don’t know how much anyone gives to the church; I don’t even know who actually contributes or tithes. I shouldn’t. The pastoring I offer should never be tied to money.
But the ministry? That’s the pastor’s domain. That is what results from the training and the prayer and the deep dedication to a tradition. So I return home, on fire for Jesus and with a developing plan for the future growth and sustainability of this church. I am excited, but also tired. Tired of the resistance, tired of the second guessing. Tired of not being spiritually sustained through ministry that is significant for me.
I’m really looking forward to kissing my wife, though. So I’m gonna think about that and put a smile on my face. Happy weekend, y’all.