Can I just take a moment and write about what I’m feeling?
What I’m experiencing internally.
This isn’t for any audience. How could it be, I don’t have one. And that’s not self-loathing or some over-the-top reverse humble brag in attempt to conjure up clicks interpreted as an audience.
Just need a platform to be.
I need a medium. So I where else would I go? Heh.
I feel an otherworldly tension that I can best be defined as my worldview. This is tantamount to my heart beating out of my chest. Like this organ in my torso is in an argument with itself as to whether or not it wants to implode or explode. That’s how I feel my worldview currently.
The beauty of this creation we know as life is overwhelming. The highs the lows. The good and bad. The glory of a cool spring breeze compounding its beauty with the tension of existing in the same realm as the painfully devastating hurricane gusts.
Love that inevitably leads to pain and pain that needs nothing more than true love. Connection so real and true. Hate so palpable and unsettling.
And humanity lives around and within it all. An invite amount of lived perspectives and experienced truths one can only describe an awakening to this reality as an explosion. A beautiful explosion.
And explosions either destroy… or they create. It’s our choice.
The Christianity I understood to be true through experience and education buckles under the pressure of unique perspectives and experienced truths. It implodes limiting the size of our worldview tricking us into believing it is the fullness of understanding with its absolute truth all the while fitting us for blinders so we don’t look away.
And when I take off the blinders… what I see is so small. Sucking life and creation back in on itself sacrificing the truth of love, forgiveness, a Savior on the alter of understanding.
Explosion and implosion.
Like inhaling and exhaling, but more violent.
How long can a heart beat with such ferocity before it ceases to beat any more? Will it implode or explode? Which disaster will win the day?
But see… that’s the rub… I’m not a bystander. Neither are you. We get to decide, whether the result destroys or creates.
Which means if we don’t decide. Well. That’s when the heart stops beating. That’s death.
And death, as my worldview understands, is something which not only can be, but has been, resurrected.
That’s hope. Hope in this gloriously gorgeous dichotomy of in and out, up and down, love and hate, pleasure and pain, explosion and implosion.
Meaning that hope is found when we set our anticipations, our conceptions, and our expectations aside. To live and learn.
Expectations. Now there’s a word steeped in contextual preconceptions. Every person has expectations of life and experience. Some good. Some bad. Accurate and inaccurate. It is equally true that every job, career, and vocation carries with it the baggage of expectation.
Mine? The pastorate.
Over the past few decades the western church has shifted expectation of its participants and inquirers. As a whole, acceptance for a person “as they are” is the new norm for mainline and evangelical congregations across the North America.
Worship in jeans or a flannel. Have coffee in the sanctuary. And head to our designated smoking area out front for your nicotine fix.
Come “as you are,” thanks for permission in no little part to David Crowder and CCM.
Yet the standards and expectations for the pastor is not as grace-filled. In fact, I dare petition that Jesus himself would not have lived up to every one of these standards placed upon vocational ministers in the days we exist within.
Let’s lay some of these standard out while we’re on the topic:
- Inability to be anything but fully redeemed.
The first thing I was told when I became a regular presence in the pulpit was that I cannot show too much of myself. Too much would show considerable brokenness, and even though we know everyone falls short people don’t want to follow a sinner, they want to follow a pastor. Don’t appear to be anything but fully redeemed. No one will believe it, but they need to see it.
- There’s no room to be wrong.
The church segregates based on personal theologies. Within those communities of belief, there is no room to be wrong. Challenging the theological status quo can quickly be deemed heresy and a pastor can be ejected from the theological system to find him/her/their self cast into the ministry void or even worse, that other denomination who is so clearly wrong and probably not even believers at all. Remember, there will be those who call out, “Jesus, Jesus!” but he never knew them… so, there’s that. “Rightness” is king, and the shame cast upon those who grow to differing beliefs is unchristian. This is how supremacy remains supreme. In a culture like that, how could a person grow? Pastor or congregant, there are systemic boundaries for development based in fear of being a false teacher and fear of being an outlier.
- Religious performance for the privileged.
This is your duty. Don’t irritate the power, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, don’t make waves by heaven forbid, challenging people to change perspectives.
- Ignore, even denying, the reality of whiteness.
It’s okay to own the original sin of humanity. It’s okay to own the guilt of the crucifixion. However, white people today didn’t own slaves so don’t talk to us about privilege or whiteness. I have a black friend! I’m not racist, get back to preaching Jesus and stop being so political.
- Condemn anything that chooses to highlight whiteness.
*see previous bullet point. How dare you.
- Live in the Biblical worldview facade.
Numerous people groups over numerous centuries in numerous locations with numerous leaders, that’s the context of “The Bible.” But yeah, there’s one biblical worldview.
- Present a gospel that isn’t offensive to culture.
Sure the Word of God cuts between joint and marrow, soil and spirit, but the Good News shouldn’t ever offend anyone. Jesus never offended anyone, right?
- Present a gospel that offends justice.
Of course no one would say this, but let’s just be peacekeepers… yeah? It’s just easier to focus on that white baby Jesus in the manger. Sweet baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace!
- Present a gospel that doesn’t offend the majority listening-ear.
*see religious goods and services.
- Grace is to be received but rarely activated within people.
Grace is for your brokenness but it isn’t for freedom if it means stepping out of the box we like to put God in. That’s not grace, that’s rebellion.
- Capitalism has covered the mouth of the prophets.
Sure this costs a lot of money, the LEDs and sound systems, let alone the concert halls we construct, but what’s money to God? Pssh, nothing. So activate the wealthy to steward the Lord’s financial blessing. Don’t stray with offensive words, instead create a comfortable space they want to, I mean God wants to, invest in.
Pastors are shepherds who have taken on the mantle of preacher. A preacher should communicate the Word of the Lord to the people with prophetic confidence. Yet, prophets may no longer exist in the institutional church. There are preachers, but few prophets. Why? Because the people choose who and what they want to hear. So to survive vocational ministry with longevity the prophet must deny themselves for the message people want to hear.
Sometimes I wonder if we would rather Jesus be the King of Israel instead of creation’s Savior. Two steps forward, 2000 years back. So be OUR pastor. We don’t want a PASTOR.
And this isn’t new. While it is as real today as it’s ever been, I contend it’s only because cancel culture started in the institutional church and infiltrated and influenced Western culture as a whole. Get in line, or you’re cancelled.
But there’s hope. Hope in the gloriously gorgeous dichotomy of in and out, up and down, love and hate, pleasure and pain, explosion and implosion.
There’s hope, but for many of us pastors, it’s hard to find right now. In some ways it’s not as bad as it seems, and other ways it’s worse. So be kind to your fellow humans. Live in grace and I dare you to trust grace enough to challenge and change you.