What We Want in a Pastor

My husband has been a pastor for the 20 years we have been married.  Some denominations would not have considered him a pastor until he got his Masters of Divinity degree this year, however, I know his heart and he was a pastor.  One of our first dates was taking a group of middle schoolers to Night of Joy. All I can say is….I REALLY loved him to have stayed after that experience!

He has been a youth pastor, church planter, and now an associate pastor.  We have been in large denominational churches and small non-denominational churches.  They have all been in the same city surprisingly but the churches have all given our family a wide array of experiences in ministry.  As his wife, I have learned a lot and God has given me the grace at each stage to find my place.

I have really felt lately that I wanted to share my heart with pastors.  Why?  I have no idea. Am I reluctant?  Absolutely. But God is God and I am trying to be better about obeying that nudge of the Holy Spirit.  As I write, I cry with emotion…I guess this hits me at a heart level more than I thought it did. Not sure even what those emotions are at this point but God will show us as this unfolds.

As I was looking through some notes from a conference I attended, I saw this term- HERO SYNDROME.  As the church, we don’t need you to be our hero- blessing us with just the right Sunday morning attire and the perfect families and wives who are Mary and Martha all rolled into one perfect individual.  We have our hero- Jesus. And He was perfect but he was also humble. We need you to be humble too. Taking the low place. The role of a servant. Riding in on a donkey, not a throne of grandeur.

We, the church, also need you to be approachable. Not visible on Sunday mornings from a pulpit that you flee as soon as the message is finished but present at the coffee shop discipling others, at the auto repair shop picking up a member of the church who did not have a ride, and at the grocery store when you stop by on your way home to save your wife a trip.

We also crave your authenticity. If all your stories come from Chicken Soup for the Soul and none of them are from your real life, please re-read the previous paragraph because you are not approachable. We want a pastor who will share from the heart- brokenness and failures, as well as victories and growth. We want to know you are secure enough in yourself that you can tell us about who you really are. Not who you want us to think you are.

We deeply desire a pastor who understands that WE the PEOPLE matter more than committees, numbers, and denominational meetings. When we are in churches driven by campaigns and gimmicks, we notice and our hearts hurt.

We want your teaching to challenge us. Why do we want to come if we don’t leave knowing that God has used you to show us where we can grow?  Some of us have other people in our lives who will show us this too but some of us don’t because Sundays are the only time we make God a priority. We need you to not be scared of the fall out if you preach the TRUE Gospel and make us uncomfortable. We need to hear it and we need you to have the courage to bring it.

We need you to be real and every time you talk about your families as if they are borderline saintly, we feel a deep sense of failure. And deep down we know they are sinners too but it seems like so much of the time you try to convince us otherwise. It is not helpful to any of us.

We are already insecure about not knowing as much as you do about the Bible so when you talk down to us and quote all these different languages in an arrogant way we don’t even want to open our Bibles because it already seems too hard so we don’t want to try. We love when  you give us biblical background  and history but please remember most of us don’t know where Asia Minor is so keep it simple.

We don’t need you to inundate us with quotes from theologians because we want to know what God has shown YOU. And we certainly don’t need corny illustrations that you try to stretch to the ends of the earth to make a connection. Just say what you want to get across and God will handle the rest.

When it all comes down to it, it is all pretty simple. We need you to live your life in front of us being honest and genuine and showing humility and teachability.

We don’t need a businessman, a committee member, a CEO, an unapproachable preacher, a networker, or a Bible concordance.

We need a pastor.

When did we decide to JUST SURVIVE?

A Christian radio station has recently aired this sentiment:  “Three keys to surviving fall….” and then they add pumpkin bread or apple crisp as key #1, and then apple cider or pumpkin spice latte as key #2, and lastly the name of the radio station as key #3.  They have played it over and over again and each time the one word that stands out to me is SURVIVING. Why do I want to just survive fall? Why don’t I want to truly LIVE through this beautiful season? (And to think that the key to that journey is a piece of bread or a drink- both of which I like-but are undeserving of occupying the position of helping me through life.  But that is for another blog.)

One definition of the word “survive” is to endure or live through. Endurance is good in seasons that are difficult but what if are overall approach to life is one of just getting through it? We are missing out. On a lot. I have been through times when survive was all I could do. Post partum depression was one long waiting game, hoping I would pull out of it and survive. Literally. That I would still be alive when the anti-depressant started to work. I am thankful I did survive. Survival is understandable when circumstances stretch us to our limits for a time.
But what about when survival has become a way of life? When we check out from our own existence? We numb ourselves with shopping, volunteering, drinking, or traveling just to stay busy enough to not really think about truly living? When we are just going through the motions?
We were all created with PURPOSE. Not the kind the world tries to sell you- being beautiful, fit, and put together. I am talking about real purpose. The kind that calls us to action on someone else’s behalf. We were made to seek God and His best. But we settle for what the world sells us- BUSYNESS. Running in a million directions to meet all the standards of good parents and good spouses and somehow we lose our direction, our purpose. And we succumb to survival. Grin and bear it. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps for one more concert and one more baseball game and one more PTO meeting- none of which are bad things at all- but have we lost our way in the process?
How do we choose LIVING over surviving? I learned it from my friend, Kristen Milligan. She had terminal cancer for almost ten years and could have chosen many ways to spend it. But she understood the importance of being ALIVE even when she was dying. She reached out to everyone around her, loved the one in front of her, and started an amazing nonprofit organization, Inheritance of Hope. I used to tell her that she did more while she was dying than most people will ever do while they are living. 
To really live our lives, we have to stop numbing our pain. We have to get real with our past, our emotions, and our life circumstances and make true peace with them. Facing disappointments and hurts that we have carried like luggage with us everywhere we have gone. Not peace keeping but the kind of peace the Bible talks about- “peace that passes understanding.” And from there we move out into the world in strength.
And then we have to approach life with hope and expectancy. Maybe you feel like there is nothing to be hopeful about. I challenge you to find one thing. Even if it is super small. But please don’t make it a pumpkin spice latte or a piece of banana bread. Something like hope for a great conversation with a friend or a time of worship. God will come through for you.
And from there we need to get outside of our little lives and our little families and our little churches and BE LIGHT where there is darkness. Ask God to take you to the dark and He will. Guaranteed.
Why do we settle for surviving? Maybe because we are scared to step out and be different. Maybe we are too self absorbed. Maybe we just don’t want to. 
The world needs us to leave our comfort zone and stand for justice, goodness, and righteousness but we are too busy standing for status, money, and comfort.
Are you ready for a change?