The "Real World" Pastor
Imagine, if you will, that your pastor was once on "The Real World" cobbled together by MTV Productions. What would you think of that pastor? Would you ever give her a chance to develop as a pastor, or would she forever be facing the trials of trying to overcome whatever storyline the producers pieced together from her time living with 8 other people, who were placed in a single house to create turmoil and discord so that a TV show could be made, and hyped, and sold, and make other people millions of dollars? Would you allow her to make changes in her life, or to have made changes from what you saw and *know* to be true?
Being a pastor today isn't a whole lot different. There are stories and such that circulate. The people are certain they *know* who you are, from the various production moments they see in the pulpit, in the meetings, in your office, and maybe how you have treated *their* parsonage. No cameras to save it for posterity like on MTV's "The Real World", but lots of people making their own opinions and shaping the opinions of others.
And like the kids on "The Real World" it is just as easy to get caught in playing the part, failing to "get out" and see the other real world...you know...the one that has people in pain and sorrow, children being born, sports being played in the corner park, going to work at the liquor store, and corporate IBM, not as a manager, but your everyday-run-of-the-mill grunt. Life is blue collar. So what is a pastor to do to keep from falling into this trap?
I have wondered at Paul's idea of working as a tentmaker-another job. I have seen pastors who work in the Honda plant 100 miles away during the week, only to come and pastor the church on Sundays, doing calls in the evening and keeping pace with the community. I have known pastors who have sidelights, like raising animals, and being columnists for the local paper. Are they doing it to have an escape from the church? Is that what they *really* want to be doing and just giving the church short-shrift? For some, that might be the case, but for most I would venture to say it helps keep that pastor connected to everyone else.
Pastors are real people. There is an old cartoon I remember seeing that had three doors on the side of the church. The first said "Entrance" and had steps leading to it. The second was a little bit higher up, and over the door it said "Associate Minister" and there were *no* steps. The third was even higher, almost mid-way up the building, and it said "Senior Minister", again with no steps. While the notion circulates that maybe the clergy can walk on air, like we might envision Jesus doing, there is no evidence that either the clergy or Jesus ever did such things...we all have to come in the same door. The challenges lie in going out the door.
The church is a safe place and many a pastor has holed up inside waiting for the congregation and the world to come to them. Introverts are very good at that, and ministry tends to attract introverts. But, even the introvert has to get out. Find the time each week to schedule time out with the congregation. Go visit them not just in their homes, but at their work places. Have some *special* places for yourself as a pastor (yes, even you who aren't clergy...you are pastors too and can find the same pitfalls) where you can go and interact with predominantly non-church goers...our nation is riddled with such places. Make friends outside of the church circles, not just outside of your congregation. One of my favorites is to get lost in town at least once a week, just to see what I may be missing, what I might need to have a heart for, and especially to check out what foods may be out there that I have missed (okay so you walked right into that one...sorry)
Find the places where the cameras are off, where you can feel free and check your *church self* against your *free self*. If they come together as the same then great. If not, start trying to take off the mask and finding the spaces where you can be real, and consistent.