…who did good work.
I was never the most demanding of pastoral supervisors. More than once, it cost me.
Most of the men and women with whom I served over the decades are still friends of mine. Kerry Wood and Todd Littleton contact me a lot more often than I deserve. They are friends for life.
There are other folks as well. I have had very few staffers who I came to feel just were not called and probably would not survive the tough life of ministers.
Naturally, I am thinking of all the people with whom I was privileged to serve vocationally over the years. And, just as naturally, I am thinking of one or two who seem to have special needs just now (no names).
I tried to emphasize family with my staff people. Churches are inhumane employers, at best. A church will take all you will give, belch loudly and look for more. When it suits a church, the church will tell you they are a business and when it suits a church, they will tell you they are a church. You are so supposed to guess which it is at a given moment (Hint; whatever you think the business/church is right now, it is the other just now). What the church really means is that it is an organized body striving for a goal and you are responsible to get it there. If you an produce you can stay, but not always.
I tried to push family on my staffers, as in, “What happens if you produce a good church and a bad family?” Answer, “You will end up with no church and a wrecked family.”
Churches can be wonderful, generous, loving, compassionate and gracious. Then, sometimes, they revert to being a church.
Pastors and staff can be daring, faithful, deeply spiritual and hard working. Then, sometimes, each person reverts to being human.
Churches in congregational systems (as opposed to connectional systems) can move rapidly, dream mightily and work with ruthless efficiency. Staff in congregational systems can go from a clear count to strike three on one pitch, just to use a baseball analogy. Staff/Pastors who strike out or get struck out may find they cannot even go back to the dugout, let alone stay in the game. Some disqualify themselves, while others get disqualified unfairly. Either way, you lose more than one at bat.
Please spare me the out of context proof texting. I laugh out loud when someone tries to tell me the rules of a basketball game. I have been an official for twenty years. I know the rules and how they get applied. Don’t tell me how to call the game while you sit on the fifth row stuffing nachos down your maw. I get just as tickled when someone lifts a verse out of place to condone their personal condemnation of someone else’s failure.
I am a hypocrite if I condemn in another what I condone in myself.
So are you.
Get that two by four out of your eye before you take on the sliver in that other fellow’s baby blues.
And, now, here is the caveat to end it all. If a person is called to be a minister to others, you will find you are also called to keep it clean all the time, not just when you step between the lines, to use another baseball catch-phrase. The day after yout get caught in a major mess-up is not the time to get religion. We have to search our lives right now, today, this moment, prior to noon-time, not after the sun goes down.
Most of us have something in our lives that, improperly channeled, would disqualify us for the public trust. I am not advising you do not get caught, preacher friend. I am advising we clean up our act right now. Never, ever take delight, solace or comfort in the fall of another person, no matter how you feel about the fallen person.
We all draw lines. We all judge and I mean we judge to the point of condemnation (kata-Krino, not just krino). I am condemning myself just now, as I hear about a friend with an issue. I wonder what I should have, could have, might have done to prevent his fall. This goldfish bowl we swim around in while living in a clerical collar (Preachers, you have one on right now. Yes, you do. It is narrowly tight and shaped like a noose.) is murky water at best. We are like the poor fish. Sometimes when we clean the bowl the fish dies anyway and it always dies when we feed it too much.
Love the sinner, hate the sin? Nope. I will believe in that one the first time I see someone fire the sin and keep the sinner.
Be careful when, how, whom you condemn. Search your own life. Take care you do not build your whole ego structure around an institution that was there before you arrived and will be there long after you give it all you have to give.
Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace.