The story of a pastor who walks into his new church as a homeless man seems admirable at first glance. The ‘how would your congregation respond’ scenario is very thought provoking, but the tale does not stop there–and it probably should. For the pastor to use Matthew 25, the story of the sheep and the goats at Judgment Day, to shame and guilt a congregation he has not yet served is beyond absurd. Thankfully, it isn’t a true story…this time.
I am not one to say we should all be comfortable in our faith journey–quite the opposite. So, while I find it commendable to mess with people, a rich person posing really isn’t the way to do so. Let the poor speak for themselves by providing a place at the table. The church has an opportunity (a duty?) to be different from society in doing exactly that: making space for all to speak within a congregation, and to be heard.
The story of the pastor is exactly that, and no more–a story of a pastor. From Finney to Piper there is a long standing tradition of the Pastor as leader above all. It is the Pastor’s voice who is heard on Sunday mornings. It is the Pastor who is trusted to problem solve, counsel, guide and teach the people. It is the Pastor who prays, and the Pastor who speaks, and the Pastor who is heard. Isn’t it time we let the pastor be a Person?
In seminary we are taught all the things we need to craft a good sermon, to study Scripture well, and we even learn about congregational care. But, if we’re not careful, we can miss a vital lesson: we exist for the people of God. While having a vision for the church is very important, that vision needs to take into account the people who are the church.
The pastor who places his ideas of what the church should be before truly breaking bread with the people can–at best–only become a motivational speaker. At worst, he becomes the next fire-and-brimstone itinerant to pass through, slashing and burning the terrain as he goes.
So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. 1Corinthians 14:12
David Hayward has some great reflections on the latest social media buzz here: naked pastor blog.