“Pastors over-function for their people.”
A seminary professor of mine spoke those words almost a year ago and I have not stopped thinking about them since. That day in class not only served as a pivotal moment in my education, but also my life. He verbalized the words that had been on the tip of my tongue for so long, but I never knew it.
In the West, we want pastors who:
- Know the Bible backwards and forwards, able to quote verses from memory at will complete with numbers for book, chapter, and verse. (Nevermind the fact that numbering system for our bibles weren’t introduced until the 16th century!)
- Rush to the side of any member of the church, for any reason, at any time of the day (or night). And they better be there within 30 minutes or less (or the offering check may not be so big next time ’round!).
- Preach sermons that enable us to understand the bible in its entirety without any extra “work” (i.e. reading) of our own.
- Sacrifice their family life for the life of their church.
- Sacrifice every weekend, holiday (major or minor), and at least three weeknights per week without question.
- Have the exact right thing to say in all places, in all situations, for all people, everywhere.
- Won’t hurt our feelings.
- Have perfect families, perfect marriages, and perfect lawns (even though we’ve asked them to sacrifice their family for their church).
In short, we want perfection. We want someone who will tell us exactly what we want to hear and do everything that needs to be done while we sit and watch and complain. I’m as guilty of this as the next guy (or gal) and it’s simply not fair.
The Pastor of the 21st Century will not over-function for her or his people. They simply will not allow it. If not for the sake of the congregation they serve, then certainly for their own sanity.
Why? Because it is “not good”. Need an example? Read Jethro’s dialogue with Moses in Exodus 18. Western pastors are Moses in this passage and I believe Jethro represents the Spirit of God saying to these pastors, “What you’re doing is not good! You are creating a culture of burn-out and depression … Stop!”
- Pastors allowed their congregation to dream wildly and execute the visions that God had put on their hearts while having little say in how it happens? Is it messy? Yes. Does that mean there is less positional “authority” for the pastor? Yes. Is it healthier? 100 times, yes.
- We believed in the “priesthood of all believers”, not just the ordained ones? What if when bad news struck, the first call you made wasn’t to your pastor, but to your small group? Your neighbors?Ã‚Â This seems to me to be the much more biblically faithful model.
- We did not exalt our pastors to the place of “Superstar” and saw them as a fellow brother or sister in Christ with a different “Kingdom job description”Ã¢â‚¬â€œnot better (or worse), just different.
Most pastors I know are exhausted on some level or another. That’s not good. Could it be it’s because most of us are over-functioning for our people?