Wednesday, November 16, 2022

I Know a Pastor Who Lost Himself

(My back yard)

In another place and long ago I knew a pastor who, when he mowed his lawn, wore a suit. He wore a suit just in case one of his church members would drive by and see him. After all, he was a "pastor," and did not want to appear otherwise. There he was, sweating in the hot sun, his gray hair flopping in the wind, his tie ratcheted tight to the stiff collar of his starched white shirt.

I know a pastor who was so devoted to his flock that he was always busy. Even when he was not busy he chose to appear busy, just in case one of his church members would drop by to see him and think he's lazy.

I know a pastor who was so concerned about his appearance that he lost himself. I know a pastor who was so busy that the fire in his heart burned out. 

In The Contemplative Pastor Eugene Peterson writes:

"I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble. I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself - and to all who will notice - that I am important. If I go into a doctor's office and find there's no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he's any good." (Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Kindle Locations 155-158)

I know a pastor who bought a new suit every year (though he could not afford one) and got very busy (though he could not afford to) and sacrificed his life and his wife and his children and his church and his own spirit on the twin altars of Appearance and Busyness.

""The poor man," we say. "He's so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly" But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront." (Ib., K 151-154)

I know a pastor whose goal was never to disappoint people. I know a pastor who had "a blasphemous anxiety to do God's work for him." (Ib.)