The Perfect Pastor

Last week, I read a blog post from a pastor on the east coast whom I respect very much, albeit from a distance. We don’t know each other but we follow each other on Twitter and he posted a most excellent post on introvert pastors and how they are often misunderstood. He considers himself an introvert, which does not mean that he hates people, but that he gets his energy renewed more from being alone than with people.  An extrovert gets their energy from people, rather than from being alone. It cannot be said that either loves or hates people more.

Still, this pastor brother felt the need to put up this well written post on introverted pastors because there is a tremendous amount of pressure on pastors (as well as practitioners of other “people work”-professions) to be perfect or, at the very least likable, which is often mistaken for perfect. The introverted pastor is already at a disadvantage because it’s not that he doesn’t love people. He just doesn’t get energy from them. He tends to lose it from them. Still, as far as pastors go, you can count on the introvert to have thought through every angle, every reason, for any decision or change in the Church. He’s also a great listener and bears many fantastic intangibles that many don’t consider when evaluating a pastor’s strengths.

I appreciated his article because I too am an introvert, although over the years I’ve grown quite comfortable in a crowd. Still, after the crowd dissipates, my exhaustion is the telling symptom of my continued introversion. My happy place? With a book and some music on in the background. No one else need be around. I love all the people I get to serve. It’s pure privilege to serve them. I just ask that they take my desire for alone time the right way. Just recharging. That’s all.

Last Sunday, it was my privilege to attend a call meeting at a nearby church that has had its challenges due to the previous pastor’s very serious illness and eventual death. Speaking on behalf of the District President, I opened the meeting with a devotion on Rom. 10 and I wasn’t one minute into the devotion and I mentioned that today we were not going to call “Pastor Perfect.” (It’s the language I use at all such meetings).

In short, there’s no such thing. There’s no such person. The narcissist in me would love to say that of myself when I stare in the mirror, but I don’t see him in the mirror either. Serving in District work now for 11 years hasn’t done anything to stroke my ego either. It has just given me more stages on which to fail and make mistakes. As a family man, I can be as inattentive to my dear wife and children as any father. At church, I can easily get to thinking in terms of “me” and “them” or “us” and “them.” In the District, it’s not hard to question the motives of this or that pastor, or the attitudes in any particular congregation. Pastor Perfect? Not me!

There is a lot of pressure on pastors in congregations to be perfect. Even more sad is how often brother pastors will take advantage of each other’s weaknesses. People often leave and join churches based on their notions of the respective pastors. The truth? They’re merely trading one imperfect pastor for another. Pastors come and go in congregations. Leaving/joining a church over the pastor can often mean lack of commitment to the congregation’s ministry in general. The same people also believe in perfect churches (and I’ve yet to meet one of them also).

Surely, the Scriptures show us why there is no such thing as a perfect pastor or a perfect congregation. But what we often miss is that they also teach a faith that is ultimately realistic about this truth. Where the Word takes root, there is little surprise when we see the sin and imperfection in others. It’s not cynicism. It’s realism. There are no perfect pastors. That’s real. There are no perfect congregations. That’s real. There are no perfect people. That’s real. But when we judge others for their lack of perfection, we ultimately cheat them and ourselves of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

So God loved this world and sent His one and only Son to be perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect. His perfect righteousness made His sacrifice on our behalf perfect. In the forgiveness of sins, He is working His perfection in us. He defines that perfection as forgiveness, not as the world does by all of its fickle standards. We often assess our commitment to someone or something based on how perfect it is for us. Thank heavens God doesn’t do that to us! If He did, heaven would be empty.

In my humble opinion, the healthy congregation disavows this thinking and works with its pastor and each other the way God has worked with us. Love sees the imperfections, the flaws, the faults, and works with the other person in a way that still brings out the best in them. Congregations often give up the minute they realize the pastor wasn’t the Perfect One they expected him to be. Pastors do the same to congregations more often than we probably want to admit. Like husbands and wives who are committed “for better or for worse,” the imperfect pastor and congregation can still work together.

And when they do, in mutual respect and love, great things happen. Pastors, don’t give up just because you just realized your congregation isn’t perfect. Congregations, ditto! Life’s too short to demand that sort of perfection. In Christ, God is doing amazing things every day through the same people who fail Him mightily every day. That’s love. That’s what it does.

Love always rejoices in the truth. It covers a multitude of sins. Love keeps no record of wrongs. This is what Christ has done for us. God grant us all the perfect perfection of the forgiveness of sins and love for one another.

 

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