Today I got to be the guest speaker at a church in the big city. It’s not unusual for me to play “substitute teacher” at churches on Sunday mornings when the pastor is away. As an untrained, un-ordained guy, I treasure these opportunities.
But this time the lead pastor (or senior pastor, if you prefer) was there. For the first time ever that I can remember, I was a true Guest Speaker, complete with being taken out for lunch afterward. And it went well, other than being told that I ran too long. Mind you, I always do. He was rather blunt about it, though.
These opportunities to me are always ‘echoes’ of another path my life might have taken. Reverberations from another life in a not-so parallel universe. As I’ve written before here, I’ve been at the crossroads of vocational ministry many times. Including the reiteration of an earlier offer today. I’ve often wondered “What if?” Days like this answer this question.
But there’s a lot more to doing the pastor thing than just preparing messages for Sunday morning. For many pastors, the sermon preparation — while it does mean you have the equivalent of a term paper due every Friday — is the least of their weekly worries.
I was reminded of that this week when one of our regional pastors invited me out for a two hour coffee. Actually, he had coffee, I chose a cold drink after deciding to also try the french onion soup. Or at least, one very popular Canadian coffee shop’s version of french onion soup, which bears only a slight resemblance to the real thing.
For pastors, it’s not just the Sunday thing that matters. It’s their whole comportment; the way they can be judged on every little minor thing they say or do or places they go. The key to this was when we were getting in the van to drive back to where my car was parked.
“I hate winter;” my pastor friend said. But before the last word was barely out his lips he added, “But I can’t say that too publicly.”
Knowing this pastor, his denomination, some of the people in his church, and the way certain people can shoot back with, “But God made all the seasons;” or “This is the day the Lord has given us;” I understood exactly what he meant.
He prefers weather and seasons that are not winter. He prefers to not experience the frigid cold we get in the north. He does not rejoice to see the summer days coming to an end. He really doesn’t care for it. To “hate” here is to put it succinctly, and it gels with what a lot of other people — myself included — would think. But he can’t say it out loud without risking getting preached at by his congregation.
And that would drive me nuts.
What do you think: Are pastors that “set apart” that they don’t get to be real? Should a pastor be able to say exactly what he’s thinking, or does the job require that every idle comment be carefully weighed or filtered? Do you think you could do the job? Do you think 40 minutes was too long this morning?
Rackafracka image from http://www.fritzcartoons.com (click on cartoon)