Not the stuff that pushes me to full-blown depression, but definitely enough to keep my mind and heart pre-occupied most days.
I’ve grown weary…deeply weary…of reading about abusive church leaders. About pastors who live opulent lifestyles. About theological wars between Bible teachers and the churches they lead. About affairs and divorces and toxic relationships of those who claim a calling to shepherd.
I’m sick and tired of how ministers are portrayed in the media, because much of it is deserved. My frustration with celebrity preachers and pastor-worship is at an all-time high. Stories of power and politics and judgment and immorality seems to be everywhere in my leadership corner of the ecclesiastical world. Sometimes, I’m just plain embarrassed to be part of the fraternity.
It’s a shame. I feel with all the posturing and flexing and middle school locker room antics that goes on among the spiritual power brokers in the church, the point is simply being missed. We are here to serve and love. We can do that in a lot of ways. Teaching. Shepherding. Leading. But always as a servant.
Over the years as the lead sheepherder of my church family, I’ve come to see my job is more like good parenting than being the boss, the chief authority figure, or even the lead dog. I’m not abdicating responsibility…I’m just choosing to redefine it.
A goal of good parenting is to raise children that are strong and independent. Sometimes I think pastors are deliberately raising people who are dependent on their teaching…dependent on their priestly postition…dependent on their approval…dependent on their blessing. Teaching, approval and blessing are generally good things, but not when it breeds co-dependance.
Another goal of good parenting is to create an atmosphere of exploration and questioning. Yeah, we spoon feed five-year-olds the “right” answers. But we can’t do that when they’re teenagers. That’s what produces rebellion. I’m afraid much of the rebellion we see in the church is related to the lack of space for questioning and the affirmation of doubt as a positive part of the faith process.
Good parents are not frightened by their children becoming different than they are. I think deep inside, most parents want their kids to grow up with similar goals and tastes…but most of the time, it doesn’t happen. Just like parents need to let their kids grow up and march to their own drum, good shepherding in the church is much the same. We are not in the business of cloning people.
We all are reading the same book, but we don’t all understand it the same way. (Witness the thousands of different denominations.) I’m pretty sure we ought to tolerate a little variance in our own church families, don’t you think? Isn’t that what love does?
And speaking of love, the church must learn to welcome and love all kinds. We need to point them to Jesus and let his words and counsel (Holy Spirit) take up residence in their hearts and minds…on his timetable, not ours. We need to learn patience. We need to practice grace. We need to give people room to grow and learn and develop at their own speed…and enjoy the ride. And, oh yeah…make mistakes and still get hugged anyway.
We need to leave the heavy-handed approach to behavior modification to Gitmo. We don’t need it in our families.
Either of them.