Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Congregation Is Not Your Enemy

I don't remember which teacher told me that the congregation is not my enemy. I needed to hear it.

Maybe I get confused about my role sometimes. I end up acting like I'm God or something like that (there's some biblical precedence for this) It's not unusual for pastors to self-identify with Jesus. Mark Allen Powell used to teach a lesson about how hearers/readers of the Bible identify with biblical characters. Pastors tend to place themselves in Jesus' shoes, more so than other readers/hearers.

My theory is that people (pastors included) invest their time in congregational life with some high expectations, and when someone or something doesn't meet those expectations, it's easy for the congregation to become viewed as the enemy--the people who would dare take down my grand plans. I think the expectations are elevated even higher for pastors, because the time and money invested is particularly high. Early in my years of ministry, I found myself easily derailed by Luddites, cranky people, gossips, and nostalgia champions. I missed out on opportunities to listen and learn. Rather than identify with Jesus, I should have looked for Jesus in my neighbor.

I wore that frustration on my sleeve, and in my warped thinking somehow the integrity of Jesus was compromised because things weren't going my way. I'm glad that a good teacher taught me that the congregation is not my enemy. Rather than be derailed by what appears to be a barrier, on my better days I have an opportunity to learn and connect.

If the congregation is not my enemy, that does not mean that I seek agreement at all costs. I am forced to get clear about my priorities, and be clear about the end result. Maybe the result can be reached if I am flexible about the means to reach that desired end.

No comments:

Post a Comment