Here is my latest article for the Orange County Record.
It’s a common question. It’s is a question that comes up in the most general and basic of conversations. You could be at a party for a friend, meeting someone for the first or in the chair getting your haircut. The question arises: “What do you do for a living?” For most people when they answer question the response is one that is met with probing or clarifying questions, not when I answer.
You see when I tell people what I do it strikes fear in their heart, I tell them: “I am a minister.” All at once a wave comes over their face as if they are shocked that a minister would come out from behind the pulpit and Bible commentaries to venture out into the world of sinners and commoners. Eye contact lessens as if people don’t want me to peer into their soul and see them for who they truly are.
Generally people immediately begin to tell me about their religious preferences and experiences. If the person I am speaking had not interjected what I call “God talk” yet, they promptly add it to the conversation. They will tell me about their minister’s sermons from the previous Sunday to prove to me that they were listening and that his/her teaching was effective. Someone actually turned on the Bible on CD while I was receiving a haircut.
Once someone inquired about my job and told them that I was a minister. They told me about their lack luster church attendance. This person in particular had stopped going to church because the service in the church she was attending was not connecting with her on a deep, spiritual level. If she had just told me that part of the story I would have been fine and we might have continued our conversation about her religious experiences or maybe abandoned that track and began a completely new conversation. Rather she began her conversation by informing me “I really don’t go to church that much, I mean I am not a devil worshiper or anything like that but I just don’t care for the service at my church right now.” Since when did not going to church for Christians become devil worshipping in a minister’s mind? Is that the dichotomy that exist– Worship God or you are a devil worshiper? Is this is perception that people have of ministers? Do people really think that I am a perfect, pious, self-righteous, judgmental person who goes from place to place condemning people for their lack of faith and church attendance?
Sadly that is an accurate description of about one percent of the ministerial population, but not me.
Ministers are human beings; we are people just like you. We go to the store, we shop online, and we try to make ends meet month to month. Ministers have taken on as their call or duty to ensure that the message of Jesus Christ is promoted and propagated in the world. Yes many ministers are educated in theology, divinity and pastoral care, but knowledge of the Bible and having good skills in the pulpit does not make one perfect. Yes ministers are seen as the spiritual leaders of their congregations but to place the label of perfection places a great weight on minister’s shoulders.
Ministers don’t walk around singing “The Old Rugged Cross” and quoting scripture, rather ministers have to find a way to get the kids to soccer practice, homework completed, dinner on the table and make that two hour evangelism committee meeting on top of writing a sermon, making visits and calls.
Am I perfect? No, far from it and I don’t claim to be.
I listen to music other than gospel (gasp!)
I make mistakes just like everyone else. (double gasp!)
I sometimes don’t pray as often as I should. (heretical gasp!)
Does this make me a less effective minister? I don’t think so, but it does make me human. Christ came to the Earth to restore people to wholeness and mend people in their brokenness. Nowhere in the Bibles does Christ command his followers to be perfect, rather he understands that humans are flawed individuals seeking completeness.
So the next time you see a minister tell him/her that you hope they are well and not too stressed, especially during the holy times (Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter). Don’t try to impress them with your knowledge of Bible verses or church history. Don’t treat them any differently than you would treat anyone else.
So as you can see, you and I aren’t that different after all.