Thursday, December 17, 2009
It wasn't until I began the process to become a pastor that I realized how judgmental I had been towards the pastors I had known in my life. It didn't take long for me to realize that I had it all wrong. I had been so harsh in my criticism against how they acted (even the small stuff), how they raised their children, how they preached, even what they preached about. I had been treating them as if they should be perfect. I had forgotten or rather never thought about the fact that preachers and pastors are people too.
I believe that pastors should be held to a higher standard, because, well, they know better. I believe that pastors have been called by God to be spiritual leaders, to direct their 'flock', to love and care for them, to preach regular services, weddings and funerals. I believe pastors should become a part of the community they are serving and to be a leader within the community. They should exude integrity, honesty, faith, compassion, be ethical and moral. We often see our pastors as pillars of the community, strong, sometimes stoic. They are there for us in our joys, to celebrate baptisms and weddings and confirmations, to cheer at high school football games, comfort our youth and tend to the elderly. They are there for us in our deepest sorrows, to bury our loved ones, to help us face our addictions, to comfort us through job losses, spouse losses, and when we loose our faith. They teach us, guide us and pray for us. They work endless hours (trust me when I say you do not want to see a pastors "time card", it would shock you), their spouses sacrifice, their children sacrifice...all for the church they've been asked and called to serve and most do it happily because they know passionately that God has called them to this.
We have all these expectations of our pastors. We expect that every Sunday we will hear a life changing and miraculous sermon. We expect our pews will be filled around us, just not too close because that makes us uncomfortable. We expect there will be children's programs, Sunday schools available, mission work being done, nursery attendants at all church events, pretty new bulletins every Sunday, appropriate songs (which differs based on who you talk to), hot donuts and fresh coffee in the foyer...we EXPECT perfection from our pastors. But I wonder when it was we began to see pastors as machinery. We want them to be loving and comforting and tend to our needs, but we also want the business of the church to be carried out flawlessly. We EXPECT perfection.
When was the last time you expected yourself to ask the pastor, genuinely, how they are doing? When was the last time you recognized the abundance of God's work available for any given pastor within your church and volunteered your time to help out? When was the last time you thanked your pastor and their family for their sacrifices? When was the last time you truly looked at your pastor and recognized that individual as not perfect or flawless, but as a human too?
Pastors are people too. We feel, we hurt, we rejoice, we get tired, we get frustrated, we wrestle with God, we question, we doubt, we pray, we eat, we put our pants on one leg at a time. Do you understand where I'm coming with this? Pastors have received a calling to spend each day learning more about God, loving God deeper, serving God better. This is the same calling that I believe God has on all of us. What is different is that pastors take that calling in another direction. We believe God is also calling us to lead others in lives that grow closer to God. Preaching and being a pastor is hard work, but it's very rewarding. It's an honor to be embraced and welcomed into people's lives. We come to love the ones we're with, to pray for and with them, to laugh and cry with them. But what happens when something is happening in the preacher's life? You do know that pastor's being people too does mean that things do happen to them? Right?
As a pastor, generally speaking, you enjoy serving your community. But you also feel a great pull. It's a pull between your personal life and the lives of others. A pastor could indefinitely serve his/her community from sun up to sun down, there is that much to do. Yet at some point, the pastor must also stop to tend to some of his/her own needs. Pastors must eat and drink and spend quality time with their family. Pastors need to have solid spiritual lives, they must tend to spiritual practices like fasting, prayer, meditation, scripture reading and so on. Pastors need to take care of their physical health. If you want your pastor to be there for you when you need him/her, you must realize that they need to take care of themselves too.
I could ramble on about this for some time and I won't. It's just been heavy on my heart. I'm trying to come into my identity as a pastor, to figure out who I really am for me and who I am for those I serve and how I can best accommodate the two existing together. I have had to struggle in discovering for myself that being called to be a pastor doesn't mean I'm called to perfection. It's comforting that though many will watch my every move and I will no doubt disappoint some, that God has never asked me to be perfect. In fact, I believe that God knows I can't be perfect, not in this life. But, there is the call to strive for perfection. To be better tomorrow than I was today. I also recognize that sometimes I'm going to be weak and I'm going to need God just like everyone else. You see, pastors don't have all the answers. No one does. There are those mysteries that we as humans cannot define. That is where our faith kicks in. But as for me, one preacher girl, I've asked forgiveness for the unfair judgment I've placed on preachers before me and I ask that in the future as I pick up my cross and follow Christ, there grace exists for me. Sure, I hope every sermon I preach is a home run, but in the case it falls flat, I pray for smiles and grace from those I'm preaching to, and forgiveness for my imperfection. I pray that people can understand that I'm human, flawed and that I don't have all the answers. I pray that I learn that I don't always have to be strong. I pray that my eyes are always on God and the love of Christ so that I may never be a stumbling block before those I lead.
Pray for your pastor or pastors, your priest, your religious and spiritual leaders. And pastors, show your authenticity to your congregation. Reveal your humanness.
Posted by Freddae' at 10:42 AM