He was one of the leading pastors in the city. But this pastor was getting the kitchen sink thrown at him. It was not something he had not heard before. It started like any other regular interview.
It went into the usual stuff – a personal story, family life, and his professional career. He was one of those likely to succeed as an investment banker before the detour to become a man of the cloth.
The interviewer asked him what the ministry he was running was doing to address social justice in society.
And that was where she came with all guns blazing.
According to her, the pastor was not doing enough. He needed to be setting up entrepreneurial loans. This would help the financially-disenfranchised access credit to set up businesses.
The school the ministry was running was not cheap enough until it could be near free. There was nothing the pastor could say about what they were doing that could change the interviewer’s mind.
The pastor was a big fat cat not doing his fair share of the work to make life better for the rest of the people on the bad end of Lady Luck’s deal card.
So, what do we do to make the pastors do their fair share?
An Ever-Present Situation
Unless you missed the news bulletin, most people outside the church (and a couple in the church) put pastors in the same boat with politicians. In the simple lingo, they promise so much but deliver so little.
Come to think of it, church event promotional materials could even be mistaken for campaign materials. “You are in a bad hole, I promise to take you out and deliver you “Eureka!”, so they promise.
So, what’s the problem with that? Almost every product or service advert gives you the same promise. It’s very simple – you are in hell, use me and you’ll be heaven.
If you consider our sense of perceived value
, we are all trying to get out of hell and into heaven. See examples.
– Luxury car: you are in “obscurity” hell, drive me, and you’ll be in “pride” heaven
– Hair Cream: you are in “bad hair” hell, use me, and you’ll be in “beautiful hair” heaven
– Club Membership: you are in “crowd” hell, join me, and you’ll be in “exclusive group” heaven
Nothing wrong about taking us out hell as long as we get the heaven promised.
But what is the “heaven” that pastors promise us?
And We Take A Blast From The Past
I’d like to take a small detour that would be great for our story.
It is the year 1046 BC. The nation of Israel came with a plan for world domination. It was simple. “Let’s get ourselves a king”, they all said.
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
1 Samuel 8:19-20
One of the reasons why they wanted a king was so he could do everything for them – “…and fight our battles“
Most of the Israelites wanted to sit back under their coconut trees drinking goat milk, knowing their king was doing all the heavy lifting. Nothing sounds better.
So, what does this story have to do with pastors and fat cats?
The Day Pastors Became Kings
The story is the story that most of us have written up for our pastors.
We want our pastors to do all the heavy lifting.
Pastors must feed the hungry, give to the needy, build a school, set up a bank and remember to visit us while they are at it.
We are looking for our “king” who will do all the work us. We have a good list of the things a pastor should do. We need the poor hapless soul that we will tag the list on.
But is it a bad idea to have these expectations for what a pastor should do?
And The Pastor-King Strikes Back
It’s just before 36 AD. The early church was in full swing and as expected, problems popped up.
The problem of the day had to do with the distribution of provisions. For reasons unknown, Christian Jews who spoke a particular language complained that their widows were not getting their fair share.
They didn’t know why…and they didn’t say it was discrimination. It was just a problem that needed to be fixed.
So, they took the matter to the pastors-in-charge. It was going to be their job to fix the problem – right?
This was when the Apostles aka pastors-in-charge decided to strike back.
In simple lingo, they said, “We will not solve the problem, you will have to do that”.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Let The Pastors Say “Yeah”
But what are pastors meant to be doing?
In the midst of most of us looking for kings to do all we want to do for ourselves, we have forgotten what pastors are meant to be doing.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”
The biggest job a pastor has is to prepare us for the jobs we need to do. And the job we need to do happens in the everyday grind of life.
Unfortunately, most of us have put so big a weight of expectations on pastors that a lot of them have developed a “Messiah Complex
“. The pastors want to “save” everyone.
The pastor must set up a school, university, hospital, micro-finance bank, a humanitarian aid organization, run a training school, run a feed-the-poor program, set-up a cable station, build a homeless shelter – and the list goes on.
A lot of these are responsibilities we need to take up.
Why You Don’t Like Pastors
Most of us don’t like pastors because the good ones upturn our inner notions of pastor-kings. I am not referring to the slim shady personalities that have no business being men of the cloth.
If we really like pastors, we will love it when they refuse to fix the problems of the world for us. But they challenge us to go out and do it.
Everyone can see a problem but true pastors will inspire us with the courage to go and address the problem. They will not jump up to do our work for us.
We don’t like pastors when they make us do our work. They don’t give us false notions of security that they will save the day.
They will stir up confidence in us to go out there and change the things we don’t like.
I have changed my expectations of what pastors are meant to do.
This is why I don’t join in arguments that expect pastors to do all the acts of social justice that the church is meant to be doing.
We should be the ones setting up schools, feed-the-poor programs, rehabilitation shelters, and the likes.
We should not be waiting for a pastor-king to step in. We should take responsibility for serving our community.
We are called to be light.
“We will shine like stars in the universe
Holding out Your truth in the darkest place
We’ll be living for Your glory
Jesus, we’ll be living for Your glory
We will burn so bright with Your praise O God
And declare Your light to this broken world
We’ll be living for Your glory
Jesus, we’ll be living for Your glory
Like the sun so radiantly, sending light for all to see
Let Your holy church arise
Exploding into life like a Supernova’s light
Set Your holy church on fire”
And finally, let me leave you with this:
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
in realizing that. This enables us to do something
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
Written by Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit as a homily for Oscar Romero (1917 – 1980), archbishop of San Salvador.