It always surprises me to hear what people assume about me because I’m a pastor.
Hanging out with some guys from the church recently, one told me that for a long time he thought of me as being on a different plane than most, like I must spend most of my time praying, that I never watch TV, and constantly quote Bible verses in King James English to my wife. That’s not true. I quote them in Greek. Sometimes Hebrew.
Another guy said he thinks people get ideas like that because they only see pastors for an hour on Sunday preaching, and of course they’re talking about God and spiritual topics. “But I share my sins and foibles to show I’m just like everybody else,” I said. “Heck, last week I even shared how I wanted God to let fire and brimstone fall on the hood of the car behind me when they laid on their horn when I cut in front of them. Not enough fire and brimstone to hurt them of course, just enough to burn up their engine. See, I’m just a normal guy like everybody else.”
Obviously, I can’t be cool and hip like Mark Driscoll – I’m too old and I began to lose my coolness around 1983 – or 1973. When you hit my age (60) you can’t possibly be cool, even though I was cool and using the term “cool” back in 1964 when most of the world hadn’t been born yet. I can’t wear checkered tennis shoes and stretch jeans. I can’t spike up my hair. Wispy, thinning hair spiked up is not a good look. Especially spiked up around my bald spot. And I have a slight dread even as I write, that spiked hair is totally out of it while I still think it’s “in”. I can’t be a hip cool young preacher, but I can fight pastoral stereotyping.
I do my best to not seem “pastoral.” First of all, I don’t let anyone call me “Pastor,” or “Reverend,” or “Monsignor,” though I do accept the title “Your Majesty” from my wife. I tell people that “pastor” is my job description. I say, “If you’re going to call me ‘Pastor Mark,’ I will call you ‘Carpenter Bob,’” which is odd when the person I’m talking to is a female physical therapist.
At our church we try to avoid “pastoral” lingo, like calling the communion bread and juice “the elements.” The elements? What? Are we having chromium and manganese for communion? We avoid saying things like, “Please join the brethren today after the liturgy to partake in a pot faith lunch.”
I don’t put pastoral bumper stickers on my car – even though if I stuck a “clergy” sticker on my car I could get special parking at the hospital. (No offense to all you who have clergy stickers on your bumpers). To me, putting a clergy sticker on my car would be like putting a “Scrabble Champion” sticker on my car. Or a “Proud parent of a computer nerd” sticker.
Pastors, here is a simple test to see if you have become “pastoral.”
- You say “released,” a lot – for example, “Those of you serving in children’s ministry may now be released to go to your classes.” Or “Be sure to thank your wife for releasing you to come and serve us this weekend.” What? Were you in a cage and your wife let you run free? Be released from that language.
- You say, “Mmmmmmm” and nod your head with a deep meditative look on your face, when someone shares a Scripture or an encouragement.
- You call everybody “brother” or “sister.” “Brother Ted, Brother Bob, could you come forth with the offering baskets now?” “Sister Jane, this tofu is absolutely divine.” You feel really hip when you call someone “Bro.”
- All your TV illustrations are from Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show. Eddie Haskell is your supreme example of a sinner, and Beaver’s Mom the supreme example of a godly wife. And you talk kind of like Wally.
- You say, “Us Christian folk.” For example, “After the meeting we’ll be having coffee and donuts in the fellowship hall, because us Christian folk love to eat.”
- You think it’s funny to say, “Please turn to Hezekiah 8:88.”
- You think you’re really relating to the teens when you tell them about the Carmen concert you attended once.
If you find yourself doing any of these things, you are probably a stereotypical pastor. Bro, be released from these things.
Help us out here dear reader. What other “pastoral” habits do us clergy fall into? How can we become more hip and relatable to all you common folk who live down there in the valley?
photo by lizadanger
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