Every once and a while a comment I overhear gets my attention. I was out in my community about a month ago when I heard someone say something like – “yeah, he is ‘that’ pastor.” Looking around and seeing no one in the room that was a fellow minister, there could be no doubt the comment referred to me but given the number of people where I was, I could not tell who said it or why they did so. I had no context of the conversation either so I can’t say if this comment was good or bad. The only thing I have been able to really do about it is think on it and wonder why the word ‘that’ was so emphasized.
One of the troubling things for me these days is defining my vision for myself. What exactly I am called to do has been a little troubling as nothing has worked well for me over the last couple years so I am going to do the first thing every good leader should do which is eliminate myself as much as possible as the problem. Once that’s done, you can clearly see what needs to be addressed. So what makes me ‘that’ pastor?
1) I hate the status quo. Especially in Christianity. I have had this attitude for as long as I can remember. When growing up I found that I loved Jesus but absolutely hated how my church always wanted to control my behavior through rules that I could find no Biblical justification for. This has lead me to being a pastor who likes change but finds himself in a Christian world that hates it. I have learned to be patient about this but it is frustrating when I find my self alone meditating on it.
2) There is little or no fate to my theology – in my opinion determinism is nothing more than an excuse to justify bad behavior or be slippery about the problem of evil. I am very big on personal responsibility and believe God has left many things to our responsibility to handle. Sometimes the expression ‘it was God’s will’ is nothing more than a justification of laziness or wanting to push the blame for a problem on God. In my opinion, God is much more relaxed in his role as Alpha and Omega and wants US to handle much more of the letters of life that are in between him giving us life and taking it away. That’s why when people want to shovel off their responsibility to God, I have a real problem with that.
3) I have no desire to use religion to control others – this makes me a true oddity in ministry. I spend much more of my time in preaching and teaching trying to get people to see and embrace for themselves what God says in his word. I mean if I force faith in them through control is it really faith that they possess or just fear? Are they being obedient to the Word because they respect God or fear me? Going along with this is my belief that God’s desire through Christ is to make people free, so why then would I want to use faith to enslave them once again? This gets funny when people tell me one of my congregation has a ‘problem’. I don’t get this much anymore, because my response the first few times pretty much silences people: “Why are you pointing this out to me, why are you not going to them and expressing your concern to them? That would be the Biblical thing to do.”
4) I don’t think some behaviors are inherently sinful. They might be fraught with temptation and problems but not sinful in and of themselves. I mean I have written three whole series addressing the topic of nudity as well as running series on sex and marriage in this light so I don’t think I would do that if I was just one of those people that labeled whatever other people label as sin. My concern is not to define specific behaviors that need to be avoided but get people to think about what affects their walk with God positively and negatively. This is more work to be sure than setting up a list of dos and don’ts but it is more in line with being an actual teacher and pastor. For me living up to the Bible should be enough for each Christian to worry about.
Am I blowing my own horn? Not really, I don’t think this means I am a better pastor for it, just ‘that’ pastor for it. I have many flaws that are far more numerous that the ‘assets’ above. I just am being as honest about what your going to get when you come to me and ask me what I believe or think. My philosophy of ministry and the role of church in society is very different. Be advised, I am ‘that’ pastor.