The synthetic pales in comparison to the genuine. Fake people take on the value of costume jewelry. A danger exists for those living on the mountain of ministry. It is the error of acting like one is an actor on a stage . . . publicly playing a role. Some things to consider
In the book, Mastering Pastoral Care Doug Self observes (by the way – the entire “Mastering” series are a good read):
Confusing one’s personal identity with one’s professional role is a danger . . .. It is possible to “play” the pastoral role too thoroughly. If people in other professions did it, we’d laugh. Imagine the local fire chief shopping at the grocery store. He wears his heavy fireman’s coat and hat with visor, as he pushes his grocery cart around, he encounters neighbors, saying, “Hey George. Keeping that chimney clean?” or , “Hello, Mary, I thought I saw one of your boys playing with matches the other day. You need to keep a closer watch on them . . . don’t you think.”
We would all perceive that man as one-dimensional, always conscious of being the fire chief and focusing all his relationships accordingly. People would soon tire of him. I think they would soon start running when they say him coming.
Our conversations can be such that they never stray from the “churchy. Somehow my prophetic crescendo does not seem to impress my wife or the kids. You see, it is dangerous if I become convinced of the merit of what someone called, “my sanctified baloney.” Perceiving myself as somehow a cut above the rest of God’s humanity is a recipe for alienation.
The first rule of care giving is “take care of the care-giver.” Five things warrant consideration:
- Understand the nature of your role. Some people are beyond your help. Jesus had a Judas. Put ministry in perspective. You won’t keep them all. People will come . . . and some will go.
- Accept outside help for both your physical and emotional needs. Rest, relaxation, laughter and friends are key components to survival. Don’t destroy yourself with overload.
- Admit your feelings, including your frustrations. A mother told her crying daughter that God was near and she did not need to be afraid. To which the little girl whimpered out, “Right now, I need God with skin on.” There are times when all of us need “God with skin on.” Telling somebody about your disaster is not lack of faith. Go back and read the Psalms . . . expressing frustration was a major component in David’s writing. (Caveat: For obvious reasons, one needs to be careful about who they share their frustrations with.)
- Enjoy the good times and things that are part of what God has called you into. What fills your spirit? Rather than spending all of your time on aspects of ministry that drain . . . spend significant time on the parts of ministry you enjoy.
- Know your limits. There is a danger in constantly keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Jesus invited his disciples to “come apart and to rest.” Vance Havner said, “We either come apart to rest or we just come apart.”
Doing what shepherds do: feeding, leading, seeking the wandering and healing the hurting can be draining. Finally, it has been beneficial to me . . . as both a parent and pastor to call on a wise person outside of my circumstances. The late Robert Trapani was a blessing as we struggled with certain aspects of parenting. He helped us put things in perspective. On other occasions, when the care-giving component of ministry had stretched us to the breaking point . . . it was good to have an elder to unload on.
None of us can afford to be less than real. From time to time to take off the proverbial priests robes . . . and the collar turned backwards. Be real . . . in laughter and in sorrow. Emotion is not above us, nor is it beneath us. Our church and culture cannot afford for us to be a parson and not also be a person.