Thursday, December 10, 2009

Small-town pride of a different sort

A little, pesky sin found me again this past week. Our small community puts on a top-notch Christmas cantata every year. Beginning at the end of October, people from churches all around the area come together on a weekly basis to practice. And because we’re all church people, the director (who does an AMAZING job, by the way!) will always ask one of the participating pastors to close us in prayer. There’s where that small, pesky sin begins to bite at me. That pesky sin is pride. Honestly, I like to be asked to stand and pray.

Ugh. There, I said it. I like to be noticed. I like to be honored.

Being in a small Midwestern town is probably one of the few places left on earth where a pastor receives some automatic honor and community status. The manager of our local grocery store greets me with “Good morning, Pastor!”, even though he’s not a member of my church. Every so often I get a phone call from a community leader, “Pastor, we’d like for you to come and do the opening for _____.” If I ever need a calling card to get me in a door, it’s “I’m the pastor down at the Lutheran church, the one by the schools.”, and I’m in. It’s bizarre. It’s like being a mini-pope. I half expect someone someday to kiss my ring.

. . . and I like it that way. Which makes me feel really, really gross.

It’s one of the few times in Scripture where I can hear Jesus speaking directly against me. In Mark 12:38-39, Jesus warns his disciples, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.” And I think of myself, in my Lutheran clerical garb of flowing robes, and my fleshly desire to be known and respected . . . and I weep. I weep for what that pesky sin twists and warps inside of me.

So I make choices to combat that pesky sin. I choose to be the anti-pastor. I’ll live like the common man. In my time off I’ll go around in jeans and my warm and worn flannel shirt. I’ll talk like a normal human being. I’ll be known around town by my first name. I’ll smoke my pipe in public and even unashamedly buy some good beer at the store. And ultimately, I’ll live out my faith in simple, quiet ways. I refuse to live a life of loud piety, broadcasting it with flowing robes and important-sounding titles.

Because in the end, I want to be known for Whose I am, not what I do. I want to be known for the character of Christ that causes me to love others, not my office that demands I preach to them. I want people to know that I am just a servant. That I must decrease so that the One I serve may increase.

I want Christ to be known . . . not me.

And then, just every so often, a person pays me a compliment higher than all the deferential treatment combined. Every so often, a person I’ve known for a while will say in a very complimentary way, “I didn’t know you were a pastor.” And then, more often than not, they’re ready to hear about the One I serve. Then He increases . . . and I decrease . . . and I rejoice that Christ has been made known.


  1. Nice post! I resemble that remark. It's something in guys who are pastors we do crave the "up front" time or we couldn't do our job. The balance comes in when we are focused on Christ and Him Crucified for OUR sins as well as those who we are serving. Thanks!

  2. Love the Openness!