Mar 14, 2011

Reclaiming the Reverend-ness of the Office of Clergy

Been reading a book called, "Odd and Wondrous Calling" by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver. In one of the chapters, Martin Copenhaver talks about a time when he received a phone call from the police department when he was a young pastor.

The officer on the line explained that he was going to have to place the author under arrest because he ran off from the gas station without paying after he had filled up his car in the morning. The author explained to the officer that he was a pastor and that he did indeed put gas in but because of all the things going on in the life of the church, he forgot to pay before driving off.

When the police officer found out that he was a pastor the officer said, "If my wife finds out I arrested a pastor she's going to kill me." And the officer had the young pastor meet him at the gas station to pay the owner and to explain the situation.

My oh my how times have changed.

I don't think there would be many police officers who would have trouble arresting clergy today. There was a day when people respected the office of pastor. Pastors were respected members of society. Pastors were respected because pastors, for the most part, did their part to live into the office of pastor.

The days of people respecting the office of pastor are long gone.

This story made me reflect on my own ministry. I, like many other clergy of this generation, have overplayed our humanness while underplaying the call to the office of pastor.

Many, like myself, prefer to be called by our first names. When someone calls me "Reverend Kim," I look around looking for my dad who was also a pastor.

My dad, lived as a pastor 24/7. As soon as he got up in the morning, he would dress in his suit pants and his dress shirt even if he was going to just hang around the house. He never dressed more casually than that. He was always Reverend Kim.

During all my years of living with dad, he was always first and foremost, Pastor or Reverend Kim.

Growing up seeing that aspect of ministry, I kind of went the other way. I don't dress like a reverend, I ride my motorcycle to the office, my shaved head doesn't look like your typical revered hair cut.

But perhaps the underestimating the office of ministry and playing up our humanity has negatively impacted ministry both for the clergy and for everyone else around.

I think it has negatively impacted ministry for the clergy.

Yes, we are human. But we must not forget that we have also been called and set apart. And because we have been called and set apart, it is only right for people to expect more from pastors. Pastors ought to be leaders by our lifestyle first.

I can't help but wonder if it's because of our overplaying the humanity of the pastor that more pastors have in fact been all too human. We have become so human so that others cannot see any difference in how we live. And the thing is, we ought to be demonstrating Christ-likeness in our lives.

Perhaps it is precisely because people have come to see so much of our human frailty and not enough of Christ's holiness and joy in our lives that people no longer respect the office of ministry.

While I don't think I will ever go around wearing a clerical collar or a suit and tie 24/7, I am realizing that God has indeed called me to live a life that demonstrates his glory and joy in all of my life - even in my jeans and leather jacket.


Anonymous said...

this reminds me of clint eastwood western. and even the movie code-talkers. the missions of holy men, known to god, and reconized by believers, we be in the light.

Deborah Hollifield said...

Hi James, hope you are doing well...Looks like a good read...I'm reading Eugene Peterson's memoir, "Pastor" now - didn't know he was a "Presbycostal"...some interesting chapters on his formation as a pastor, church planting and growth...

Matt Johnson said...

James (or should I say, Reverend Kim), this is a challenging word. Makes me wonder how much I may have slacked simply by overplaying the card of "I'm a person just like everyone else." One considerations, however: have pastors given people more reasons not to trust them, or has society in general grown to distrust institutions and their authority figures? Clearly some of both, but it's a complex matter to sort out.

teacher_deb said...

So we then must think about Christ. He pretty much looked like everyone else in his time, dressed like everyone else...what made him so different to the people he was teaching,talking with, forgiving? What made it so apparent he was God's son to those people? These are the things that we must think about,that set us all apart and make
people know there is "someting different" about us. This would pertain to pastors as well as "lay"Christains.
Yes as pastors you are called but I also believe that the way you dress or modes of transportation you choose do not in and of themselves spell out your "calledness" There is more and it is probably not an easy find. I am intruiged by the title of the book..I may have to geta copy and read it..