Last week, Chris briefly explored some issues regarding the authenticity of pastors, and how much vulnerability and transparency should a pastor, preacher, teacher employ….not only in the proclamation of the Word, but pastorally in the ministry.
This is a really good topic and I have been thinking about this issue a lot over the weekend. And one of the aspects that I think makes not only pastors, but Christians more authentic, and puts them in a place of vulnerability with one another, is in the area of service.
What do I mean by that? When we serve one another, and how we serve one another puts us in the ultimate place of authenticity, vulnerabilty and humility. We don’t all serve with the right motives, but when we do serve we are deciding to put someone else’s interests…the ministry, the community, the person…ahead of us. In the Christ hymn of Philippians 2:5-11, we are given a beautiful portrait of Christ, who serves us, by humbling Himself, not only in taking the form of a man, but of also suffering with us, and ultimately dying the death of crucifixion. That is authenticity….that is vulnerabillity…that is transparency….and those things come in the act of service…of humbling and submitting ourselves to one another and to Jesus Christ.
A minister does not, cease to be a layman when he is ordained
I have been thinking about that statement. And it seems to me that pastors become aloof and inauthentic, most often when they remove themselves from serving others…whether it be individuals, congregations, etc. Sometimes I am given reasons for ordination that have nothing to do with serving Christ or others, but rather are about the perks of ordination, whether it be the healthcare, the salary increase, etc, etc. And I see in all of this a temptation for pastors to move beyond serving one another, and to serving over others, so that others will do the serving. Now understand me here. I’m not saying pastors don’t oversee others, or help empower others to serve. But if pastors eventually remove themselves from serving alongside with laypeople, and doing the tasks of laypeople, then I think we become inauthentic. No longer vulnerable..no longer transparent. We separate ourselves from the congregation and those within it, putting up one wall after another they have to navigate around to have access to us. Or we put one layer after layer of communication in front of us, so that them to actually talk to me via phone, email, or face to face, is quite the task.
I picture it this way: When I was young, growing up in a small church we would have church potlucks. Someone had to put the tables and chairs out. Someone had to prepare the food. Someone had to clean up. And most often, I remember in this small church, and in other small churches seeing the pastors and leaders doing the work, or helping out with the work, alongside the laypeople. There was no distinction…clergy and lay, serving alongside one another. But somewhere along the way as we get more and more prestige or power or responsibility we pass “those tasks” on to lay people. This is not about handing over responsibilties to others who want to serve. But this about the unwillingess of pastors and clergy to pitch in and do the work that needs to be done, alongside those you preach to. Those you preach to, you should not only serve with your words, but with your actions.
If we see ourselves as pastors, directors, etc., unwilling to pitch in and do the work that others do, and to serve them. Metaphorically speaking and literally speaking….when we no longer help set up chairs and take them down, or stop and help fold a bulletin if needed…or run some copies for ourselves….then I think we lose our authenticity…our realness….our vulnerability…our transparency…our humility……pick a word.
If you want to be a pastor or director that is authentically real with those you speak to, then you don’t need to manufacture that. That comes with serving those you preach to. Serving in and amongst them, rather than serving over them.