This post is the second of a three-part series about three important people in my life (who also happen to be three of my favorite people 🙂 ). In the previous post, I explored how important it is to have a doctor who truly cares and that you can trust. This post focuses on my pastor, who is as much a spiritual leader and model as he is a friend.
The Pastor: This isn’t going to be a treatise on church-shopping and I’m not implying that you have to find a perfect pastor or a perfect church (neither exists, anyway). However, you don’t have to be satisfied with a church or a pastor that you try and try and simply can’t connect with, and it’s ok to want certain things in a pastor/church. Still, I can’t tell you at what point you need to make a change or what certain things are ok to want and which you just need to let go of. You have to figure that out for yourself. What I can tell you is that you do need a pastor and you do need a church. (As a side note, by church I don’t mean the building or a Sunday service, I mean the people… and by pastor I mean a person, too).
Having said all of that, let me tell you about my pastor. He’s just great. Here are some reasons why:
1. He’s real. Polished church services scare me. They make me feel like I’m in some kind of parallel universe where people don’t make mistakes and only practiced performers are worthy to communicate something about faith.
Honestly, the first thing I noticed and appreciated about my pastor was that he wasn’t perfect (or that practiced, for that matter, since our church was his first). He’d forget to make announcements or lose his place in the communion liturgy… or would wave to his toddler son from the pulpit. He was (and is) very much an imperfect person (as we all are), who readily admits that there are several theological topics or faith practices that members of his congregation know much more about that he does. These characteristics are beautifully woven into his ever-developing role as a pastor in which he demonstrates sacrificial commitment to his congregation, shares his own deepening understanding of Christ with a constant theme of grace and redemption, and simply enjoys the fun parts of life. In the one-on-one meetings with him, I know I’m talking to my pastor, but it mostly feels like talking to a good friend.
2. He talks about real life. I once brought a visiting relative to church with me, a relative who hadn’t attended church for years. I was surprised he even wanted to go. After the service, he said that he liked that my pastor talked about making mistakes, and that he hadn’t heard that in his previous church experiences. My pastor doesn’t pretend that life is easy and doesn’t act like we’ll get it right all the time (or even most of the time) or that we have all of the answers. If all of the answers to life’s questions were easy and obvious, wouldn’t we have established that by now?
3. He is who he is. I don’t think he will be offended if I say he’s a bit quirky (in the eccentric sense of the word). He likes to wear vintage clothing and throws seemingly random cultural references into his sermons. But that’s him, and he is so joyful in that (and not in an always-pretending-to-be-happy kind of way).
When he first came to our church, he started wearing a collar, signifying that he was clergy. This decision raised some eyebrows, to say the least. He explained it as a way of reminding himself of his role and automatically communicating his role in the church and in the community. I didn’t really have an opinion either way, and didn’t think much of it, until he came to visit my family the day after my father died. Wearing his collar, his purpose was clear: to minister to me and my family by simply being there with us in our grief. He was not just my “friend” paying respects. I will always treasure the image of him walking in the rain up the path to my childhood home–clad in his collar and vintage coat, holding an old-fashioned-looking umbrella, his Bible tucked under his arm. I’m so glad he’s my pastor.