Earlier this week, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s book Under the Unpredictable Plant. In it he shares that someone once asked him his favorite part of being a pastor, and he answered, “The mess.” Yes, being a pastor is messy, which contributes to the creative side of allowing God to be God in situations that don’t always fall under the category, “Stuff I Learned in Seminary.”
As I thought about this same question, my quick answer was, “I get to love people on my own terms.”
I’ve worked with more than one pastor who felt the need to micro-manage his staff so they’d behave in ways that he was comfortable with. Regardless of their gifts, talents, backgrounds and personalities, these pastors made sure their staff understood what was and was not acceptable in the ways they spoke to and related with people. I had a sense they were trying to make me into a mini version of themselves, and something in me always rebelled. They wanted to control my sense of humor, what passages of Scripture I could teach on, how I could speak to people and what stories about my life I could tell. In spite of my unique gifts, talents and skills, they seemed determined to make me in their image. Needless to say, I didn’t last under their leadership.
This manipulation went beyond the basic and necessary training a good leader engages in when teaching the staff the vision, mission and culture of this particular local church. They seemed to think if the church members saw a staff person as more loving and forgiving, more personable and likeable, more capable of handling God’s Word and feeding the spiritual appetites of the congregants, then there would be competition on the team. Instead of working together as companions in the Kingdom, these pastors often viewed others with a wary eye, watching for any sign their staff might be better pastors than they were. I walked many a year in different churches not with the hopeful challenge of, “What would Jesus do?” but with the fearful question, “Would the pastor approve of this?”
Now I’m the pastor, and I get to love people on my own terms, not on the terms of a leader who is more afraid of his reputation than in promoting the Kingdom. Continue Reading