The sermon today at our church on shepherds and the myriad of ways they can screw up got me thinking. In a way, I have always held pastors up to a standard that is, well, impossible to keep. I want them to be perfect. I mean duh. They should be always strong and bold and courageous for the Gospel. They should always have the right answer for me and should inspire me to do the right thing. They should always let me have a good cry out but then tell me exactly what I need to hear in that moment – and God forbid they actually burst into tears with me and admit they have no idea what to say.
I think I always had this notion that pastors were supposed to be supermen of some kind. I had general ideas that if they were called to be a leader, they were going to be blessed in a supernatural way to be immune to all evils in the world. But I knew I was in trouble in college when a pastor I admired and trusted tried to get me to have sex. Obviously that doesn’t add up to anyone’s standards. And of course we all remember too well the Jim Bakker scandal followed by the Jimmy Swaggart scandal followed by whoever the next guy was and so on.
My point, of course, is that pastors are fallible ridiculous people just like any other fallible ridiculous person on this planet. They are weak and tried and often failing. And they will fail us a hundred times between now and kingdom come.
And the guest preacher this morning took this very seriously. Maybe more seriously than any other pastor I’ve heard before. And this is a good thing.
My church is looking for a senior pastor. We have all been in good sorts so far since a year ago when our last pastor told us he was taking another calling. But you can sense a general antsiness growing, just this ever so slight angst about moving on. It’s starting to show – like how the paint starts to chip and the windows don’t quite close the way they used to, and you start seeing hairline cracks in the wall. Nothing to be alarmed about surely, but you know that some time has passed in this old house. Settling or unsettling. Sometimes they look a bit the same.
And don’t get me wrong. Our church is not in a holding pattern. Things are going along swimmingly. And we aren’t having little civil wars or rumors of wars. We are, for all intents and purposes, stronger and healthier than we have ever been in a lot of ways. Maybe it’s because we don’t have a leader per se that we are all pitching in more, working at communicating more efficiently, building each other up, and streamlining. Or maybe it’s because we have such a great team in place as is, the session of ruling elders, Camper our Associate Pastor and Kathy the Admin. And so everything moves along more or less like clockwork.
But when you put it all out on the table, we are missing something. And that’s what the guest preacher laid out today, in a way that maybe we have been avoiding for the past year. And all the things I think about what a pastor does and doesn’t do start to cloud up my brain – all my hopes and fears of what this man is supposed to do for us add up to this mountainous region. And I realize that maybe my pedestal is too high, and this whole time is supposed to be breaking down those expectations.
In my next life, I will be a shepherdess…