“Don't let them get too close.”
That was the advice I received from an experienced pastor early in my ministry experience.
I knew it to be rubbish then—even more so now.
What he meant to do, of course, was guide me on a path of sustainable ministry; aiding me to see how relationships in ministry can bruise and batter. And to a certain degree he was right. Relationships in ministry can, and have, taken their toll.
But while his motivation may have been good, he was flat out wrong!
I'm tired of the ministerial veneer. Like a rotting kitchen with a shiny faux-stone laminate, we as pastors have paraded our perfections far too long. There is more at stake here than your “platform”.
This is about the gospel. It always has been and always will.
I have been involved in a variety of ministry contexts for more than 20 years, and the problem of pastoral veneer has tainted every one of them. Of course, I have over the years been quick to notice it in others, peering out from beneath my own veneer to point out the inconsistencies. But I too must seek to peel back the well-polished layers and expose myself to the redeeming power of the gospel.
Paul: A Life on Show
Paul reminds the Thessalonian church about how he came to them “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
Paul's ministerial confidence (1 Thessalonians 1:4) was grounded in the fact that:
a) God was present in their ministry, and
b) Paul was truly known as a man.
Paul's relational authenticity formed part of his confidence in ministry effectiveness. Astounding!
Pastors are filled with all sorts of insecurities. But guess what? So is everyone else!
We are not special people who have risen through the Christian ranks to be finally noticed by God and rewarded with the “Pastorate”. We are sinners, saved by grace, through faith—just like the rest of God's redeemed people.
So may I humbly request that you stop pretending? You don't need to.
Your people don't want you at arms-length. They are tired of trying to climb up out of the trenches to visit you in your ivory tower. Climb down into the mud with them. Carry the gospel to them, admitting your desperate need of it to carry you through each and every day.
If you do this, if you will come out from beneath the veneer, it will be for your people's good, your joy, and above all, Christ's glory.
Photo: John Keogh; flickr