Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 3)

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post you might want to start there so that you have a backdrop for some of the ideas I’m going to be tossing around today. The first big idea I want to discuss regarding ministry relationships with people that you pastor, is the fact that it’s not always about you. Many of the friends that had moved with me to Orlando, had to figure out how to walk the fine line between seeing me as their pastor and seeing me as their friend. This meant recognizing that, though we were a team, I was ultimately the primary leader. This would indicate that people in your church who are trying to build a relationship with you are also trying to figure out how to navigate that relationship in much the same way you are. Where are the lines drawn? What’s acceptable for me to say or do, and in what setting or context is it acceptable?

It is vital to understand the purpose of your calling as a pastor if you are to successfully embrace every aspect of the relationships that surround you. You are called to serve and not necessarily to be served. Jesus modeled that in the most amazing ways. We often claim that we want to reflect His character in our leadership styles yet we tend to scoff, or at the very least minimize the value of the idea that He washed His Disciples feet. He was a Servant Leader. That’s why people feel like they can routinely evaluate your performance as the lead pastor. That is what people do with servants. While you may be the visionary leader and the one who has “paid the heavy price” involved with planting or growing a church, you ultimately serve in that capacity only as long as people see you as their pastor and life coach. This means that there are one set of rules for you and another for the people. I have to admit that I struggled with this significantly. I felt like it wasn’t fair that people expected me to always “act” like the pastor, while they could take their “work” hats off at the end of their work day.

I quickly realized that the reason for this is the fact that as a pastor you live in a fishbowl, and your entire life is an open book for everyone to read and interpret whatever they choose. They will have opinions about everything you do or say. You are quotable! You must settle in your heart who you are, and make the determination to be that person all the time otherwise you’ll find yourself always trying to be who you think someone wants you to be in a particular circumstance. You will become everyone and consequently no one. You must regard somewhat lightly both the accolades and the criticisms of people. If authenticity is an essential part of effectively pastoring people (and it is), then you must be willing to remove the barriers that prevent people from seeing you as you really are.

In an attempt to be “real” I made myself vulnerable to my team and ended up paying a heavy price for my efforts (again you should read yesterday’s post if you haven’t already). At that point I had two options: I could remain hurt, angry and bitter and ultimately hurt the very purpose for which I was called (my ability to speak into other people’s lives), or I could walk through the process of learning what things I needed to let God change in me so that I could handle the relationships with people that I pastor, a lot better. I decided that remaining vulnerable and transparent were some of the qualities that I could not afford to give up if I was to build meaningful relationships with the people who serve at The Well with me. I borrowed an idea from a friend and named the room where we hold our staff meetings, The Bullpen. The idea is that this is the room where everyone’s ideas have free expression. This is where the gloves come off and we fight passionately (but fairly) for what we believe is the right direction for The Well and all its ministry arms. This means that you must be willing to check your ego at the door and take a punch to your prideful jaw every once in a while. Come back tomorrow for my concluding thoughts on this subject.

6 comments:

Ms Harkins said...

This is getting better and better :-)

Hope said...

Thanks for sharing your heart Joseph. I'm reading along the same lines from Swerve and Jason Boucher.com. You're right - pastors are often viewed from a fishbowl. What irritates me are those looking in rarely put themselves on display in a fishbowl. So very one-sided. As a member of the flock, I am constantly reminding myself that my pastors are being used by God to implement His vision. If I fail to submit to and respect them, I am failing to submit to and respect the Most High. I pay honour to all you pastors out there who have been subjected to disrespect, criticism and condemnation from those whom you serve so selflessly. Thank you - and God bless ALL pastors. :)

Thea said...

I think Hope summed it up perfectly...I've read and reread this and the last blog and felt very ...immature to have an opinion on the topic. I also thank you for sharing your heart so vulnerably. I think having watched pastors who were friends walk through similar things in the past is what makes me feel protective of those pastors & families I have been blessed to have a tight-knit relationship with because I cherish it and often hear the rest of the story where others have already cast judgement...it can be so hard not to. I'm really looking forward to the next blog to hear your heart on the matter. After all - you are the one who has walked this road.

Joey said...

How to be a Pastor 101, 201, 301...
Really, really good stuff. As I build SNU, this will be my survival guide.

Joseph said...

Alison, Hope, Thea and Joey, I want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for your candid and honest comments. I pray that this series will make a difference to the lives of many who are in ministry even though they may be silent readers.

Valerie said...

Thank you for always being so real and honest with us, we have always loved that about you! I believe that is God's true heart for the church. We can't be blended if we're not real with ourselves and people can't see God if we aren't real with them. I agree that pastors deserve prayer, respect and encouragement from the people. That does not mean idol worship. I find that people look the pastor as God in their life and it's their own fault when they get disappointed. We are all breezing through this life together and all are capable of sin. God Bless all the pastor's who truly take up their cross and follow Him.