There was a time in our culture when a pastor was seen as a truly respected and valued part of the community. A pastor could walk into a room and his work and reputation would be recognized as good and worthwhile, even though his beliefs might not necessarily be shared.
When I was young man, people who weren’t church goers or who lived lives of marginal or even non-existent faith in God, would still view the job of the pastor as something important and needed, especially in times of tragedy or emotional distress.
Although many church people still place pastors on pedestals…though often in really unhealthy ways…the same cannot be said for the current unchurched world we live in. Whoa. How things have changed. And in many ways, the fraternity did it to itself:
- Living lavish lifestyles on the church’s dime.
- Expressing the “man o’ gawd” sense of entitlement.
- Growing the bossman of the church attitude.
- Talking weird. Really weird.
- Being known more for what we are against, than what we are for.
- Projecting the image we don’t struggle with the same junk as everyone else.
- Acting like we know it all.
- Massive moral failures. Horrible, well-publicized moral failures.
- Being quick to talk and slow to listen.
- The endless pursuit of bigger and better churches.
Sad to say, but this list could go on and on…
Young Jedi, here’s some ugly truth: Your life will be spent dodging guilt by association. Get used to it, but don’t give up. Or give in. Among the world of spiritual seekers and religious runners, you will probably end up being Pastor Buzzkill or Judgey McJudgey most of the time. But you don’t have to let that define you.
Here’s the best advice I can give you: Let the unpretentious and loving life of Jesus be your guide and example.
- Live with simplicity and humility.
- Flee from the love of money and the lure of the next hot item.
- Don’t act weird. Please. Don’t.
- Check your “church language” at the door.
- Curb your need to always be right.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh at the church. We do some pretty crazy stuff.
- Stop being shocked and offended by the things people do.
- Be kind. All the time. To everybody.
- Be a peacemaker and call others to join you.
- Be open and transparent with your doubts and fears. You’re human.
- Quit thinking bigger is better. The modern American culture has grown weary of the church’s obsession with spending money on itself.
These things probably won’t stem the tide much. I’m afraid the USS Good Reputation has sailed. Your neighbors may still build a “wall of shallow” whenever you come around. The other parents may develop that creepy nervous twitch and not know what to say to you in casual conversations. Your own family may consistently change the subject if it gets too close to a genuine “spiritual conversation”. They won’t understand what you do, much less understand why you do it. It will be a private pain you have to learn to live with.
But you can do this. You can live a genuine life. You can be approachable and friendly and unassuming and an honest-to-goodness normal person. You can. And if you really follow the example of Jesus, people might even enjoy being around you.