Motivation

Pastoral Ministry Tuesday 4.14.20 (On Tuesdays I try to post something that gives you a little glimpse behind the curtain of pastoral ministry. Hopefully it’s meaningful in some way and does more good than harm.)

There are a lot of reasons that people get into pastoral ministry.

I’m in a couple different Facebook groups for pastors and one meme that I see regularly is some variation on, “We didn’t get into ministry for the money…” and then something clever about our real motives.

Only, some people do get into ministry for the money.

And some people didn’t go into ministry for the money but as their faith diminished over their years as a pastor, they kept the job because it was the only thing they knew how to do to make a living.

I was attending a youth leader’s conference when I heard a professional psychologist break down some of the reasons people go into pastoral ministry:

To become popular.
To be the boss.
To become someone’s personal Jesus.
To prove their importance to someone who isn’t even in the room.

Having done this for a while, there are a few I can add from experience.

They pursued pastoral ministry because their daddy was a pastor and, well, it’s like taking over the family business.

They pursued pastoral ministry because they so admired their pastor/youth pastor they wanted to be like them by going into pastoral ministry.

They were entrepreneurial and saw a potentially lucrative career with very little accountability and very flexible hours.

They loved Jesus and someone told them at a conference that if they loved Jesus that had to become a missionary or a minister. So here they are.
The list goes on and on.

This is one of the reasons why I think a high view of ordination is important for pastoral ministry.

And it’s why I believe the ordination process should be a rigorous one that doesn’t only explore theological convictions but mental health, family systems, emotional quotient and spiritual formation.

And somewhere in there needs to be a straightforward “are you a dick?” examen. Too many people, for various reasons, are dicks (people-users, abusers, jerks, self-centered, self-protective, self-focused) and unfortunately, pastoral ministry can actually reward that behavior when it shouldn’t. Dicks can get things done, and as Americans, we admire, appreciate and highly value the “get-er-doners.” And we’ll ignore the pile of bodies behind them or under the bus, as long as their getting’ it done.

Dear brothers and sisters in ministry – don’t be a dick. It’s not a spiritual gift. It’s not a calling. It’s malpractice.

For my non-pastoral ministry readers, I promise you, all my pastor friends and colleagues who are reading this all know at least one colleague in ministry who is a dick.

At least.

Because motivation matters.

I was a camp director of a senior high week of camp many years ago. Near the end of the week, one of the young women at our camp came to me and my wife to tell us she was uncomfortable about something that was going on. We stepped aside with her and she explained that one of my adult, male, small group leaders was offering his insights to the girls at camp about who was hot or not at our week.

So he and I had a quick meeting. This senior pastor from a local church and little youth pastor Brian had a side bar.
People find themselves in pastoral ministry for all kinds of reasons.

Paul warned the elders at Ephesus, in a very sobering going away speech, that they should be on guard against the wolves who would raise up FROM AMONG THEMSELVES to attack and devour the flock of God of which they were a part. And if you’ve been in church for very long, you’ve met a Wil.E.Coyote or two. Sadly, there are some very predatory characters who have found the church to be a place where they can hide, thrive, even be protected. That’s not all of us, but it’s a lot more of us than any of us are comfortable with.

But to our shame, we often protect the wolves and shame the abused.

The survivors.

And that’s just evil. And we need to repent. All of us. We’re complicit when we are silent.

Eugene Peterson, truly the pastor’s pastor, wrote, “I don’t know of any other profession in which it is quite as easy to fake it as in ours.” (Working the Angles) It’s not always wolves. Often – mostly – it’s just good hearted men and women who had a desire to be a pastor even though they may have been vocationally suited for law, theater, teaching, landscaping, insurance sales, forestry, the culinary arts, or plumbing. And then we fake it til we make it.

Or not.

That’s where a robust ordination process can help us as we sort out or motivation with a safe group of discerning friends and pastors, right from the start. It can save us pain, and it can save us hurting the church – the flock of God of which we’re a part.

Let’s go back to what the Christian psychologist was telling the youth pastor’s at the conference I attended. Many people go into pastoral ministry…

To become popular.
This is the Michael Scott from season 3 of the Office and onward. They are looking for love and acceptance and if they have their own church, people will love them. They’ll listen to them. They will admire them. They will finally have a group of people who HAS to like them.

To be the boss.
This is Dwight Schrute from the Office, seasons 1-3. It’s about power, control, having subordinates, being large and in charge. It finally gives them a feeling of purpose and control they have lacked growing up.

To become someone’s personal Jesus.
This is Pam Beesly from the Office, seasons 1-4 and sometimes later. Walk over her, neglect her, she is her to serve and save. It’s about the need to be needed. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty great feeling. And some of us are addicted to it.
I know.

To prove their importance to someone who isn’t even in the room.
This is Andy Bernard from the Office, Seasons 3 to pretty much the last episode. A dad or mom for whom they could never measure up so they are finding their identity in accomplishment and recognition. Look at the pastor on the stage! Look at the pastor baptizing people! Look at the people waiting to talk to the pastor after the service! Look at all the people going to THAT pastor’s church… And none of this gets measured by the only one that matters, but a lot of us are using these metrics
Every
Single
Day.

I know it sounds like I’m being down on pastors and people in pastoral ministry and I’m truly sorry for that. My purpose in writing all this is simply to say that we – and by ‘we’ I mean the Vineyard church but it’s applicable to any church – need a robust system of ordination, a sacramental approach, a meaningful liminal approach to someone becoming a pastor of the church and not just sending our “hottest up and comers” to a church planters conference. God have mercy on a Holy Spirit movement that uses “best and brightest” criteria on candidates for pastoral ministry.

I’m really writing this to say, especially in this season of pandemic, go easy on us pastors. We’re all dealing with our own baggage – even if – or especially if – we don’t know it. Pray for us. Speak up when we’ve messed up. Cheers us on when we get it right. Don’t be co-dependent. We’ll get through this together.

Published by APastor'sStory

Trying to squeeze this life for all the juice I can get out of it.

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