Monday, February 06, 2012

Challenging the Pastor

For most pastors, the role is understood in many ways, but some of them include poking, prodding, coaxing and challenging the congregation to the "Next Step" of faith.

I know every pastor has their own idea of what that "Next Step" looks like. Some come into every congregation with the same "Next Step" and they spend their entire career getting the congregation to live out that next step.

We wheedle, cajole and bargain with the members of the congregation.

All the while, the congregation holds out expectations of the pastor. The pastor should look this way, believe this, do these things. And no small amount of backhanded compliments, wheedling, challenging and goals are laid out for the pastor to develop into the pastor the congregation wants.

But, the very real question comes out about who is responsible to challenge the pastor, and help with that accountability, as well as help the pastor grow in faith.

After all, the goal of the church is to help people grow in faith, by developing deeper understanding of the scriptures, in word and deed.

The pastor too is part of the church, and is called to lead the church, but that doesn't mean the pastor shouldn't be questioned or challenged. There are a number of ways to do that, but I have to admit I am the greatest fan of the person who takes the time to check out the claims of the pastoral leadership of any church, in the law, doctrine, and scripture.

Take the time to talk with the pastor. Be willing to engage, but be aware there are more than a few pastors (myself included at times) whose greatest desire is to be in charge, and taken at "my word", because I have done the work to get the answers - don't you believe me? And I tell you, that when your pastor answers that way, you can answer "of course I believe you", and because I believe you I went to find out more about it for myself. When I did so, I came back with these questions, or ways of understanding."

And when your pastor is mentally healthy that pastor can have a conversation with you. When unhealthy, questions are cut out and you might be too. When that happens, allow your pastor a chance to cool down, try again, but find another "pastor" in your life, who may not be clergy at all. Because, pastors and congregation members are not the only ones who can check each other. Pastors have to check pastors, and congregation members need to check congregation members, as well as the pastor-congregation dynamic.



At February 15, 2012, Anonymous Ron Goetz said...

I wasn't long in my present congregation before I realized that the best contribution I could make to our struggling little congregation was to be the pastor's friend. That was about nine years ago, and next to my wife he's my best friend.

He's a real traditionalist (not meaning fundamentalist), and I am a burn-it-to-the-ground-and-start-over kind of guy. I'm quite forthright with him, and over the years I hear and see the effects of our friendship.

It's too bad that friendships with parishoners are so dangerous. Unfortunately, the structures and traditions of the church all reinforce the clergy-laity split, usually isolating pastors from their people.


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