Earlier this season I attended the local Town Hall gathering for The Meeting House. Included with the expected information was the introduction and subsequent conversation about Jesus Collective for which the initial launch and development path is pastor/leader focused.
One of the attendees voiced a concern that for them, an initial launch of pastor/leader focused resources and networking created an “us and them” environment s/he couldn’t support.
Being a “9” (see “The Sacred Enneagram and/or The Enneagram Institue“) it took some time for me to assess why this reaction bothered me ultimately determining the hackle raising aspect being how much the comment echoed today’s self-centred, consumerist mentality. It unfortunately reflects the culture we currently live in. A “what’s in it for me”, “we should all have access to everything”, “I want that”, “I deserve to have what they’re getting” culture that expects everything from everyone without obligation to give back.
In considering whether this cry for equal access is valid, these questions come to mind: Are we truly loving our pastors? Are we loving them well? Do we give them all the supports, encouragement and resources they need?
Given the number of churches folding, of pastors burning out or leaving their ministry in either disarray or disgrace, is there any answer other than “No”?
From the outside, the life of a pastor looks tough, exhausting really – who would pick it voluntarily? The standards to which they are held is higher than the average person or Jesus follower, and if they’re a teaching pastor, scripturally so (see James 3:1). Plus there is an expectation of always present, always perfect, always giving, always loving, always listening, always agreeing and not ever showing weakness, doubt or fatigue. Simply listen to the grumblings after a service or of someone thinking to leave a church or community. Their words are likely to be unfair but represent the pressures, spoken or otherwise,
Not every community should be painted with the same brush – there are many pastors with strong healthy connections and relationships within their communities and some with amazing supportive relationships with friends/fr-amily beyond their congregation that make their work energizing and fulfilling.
But what about those who don’t? What about those who stand alone, serve alone, struggle alone? In isolated regions or environments? Those for whom the current social pressures could divide their congregation beyond repair? Where reaching out locally isn’t an option because there isn’t a “locally” to reach out too? Or language is a barrier? Or ethnicity? Persecution? Where going against cultural norms is a life threatening choice? Where the parent denomination enforces practices that are counter to the teaching of Jesus?
At its heart, this goes beyond a single online resource. It’s about overcoming the “I want that too” sense of entitlement that pervades and choosing to dig in, to lift up the people Jesus has commissioned to be on the front lines. To stand alongside them – financially, prayerfully, emotionally. It is about choosing to sacrifice our indulgent need to have everything and give of ourselves. Just like they do.