“May we never lose our wonder. Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of our King.” Bethel Worship
Let me first start off by saying this: I am fully aware that most pastors aren’t cool. A lot of them are as old as Moses and have loud, belty fake pulpit voices. And then on the opposite end are the ones with the hip fade haircuts and ironic bowties who call everyone “man” and “bro.” Not cool.
I am also fully aware that churches suck. They are just stuffed full of broken people. They sometimes take advantage of the ability to hurt people really badly. In fact, I’ve been hurt by the church pretty badly. It sucks. And, like, can we all just sit down and agree to not have any weird out-of-wedlock sex scandals for a while? That’s not doing anyone any good and it grosses me out.
So we’ve established that pastors aren’t cool and the church isn’t good.
Now let me explain why they are cool and good.
[Did that catch you off guard? Welcome to my life. I’ve not had the same emotion for more than 24 hours in years. In fact, this past Saturday I was standing on top of a mountain thinking to myself, “This is glorious. How could I ever live anywhere else after seeing beauty like this?” And then the following Sunday, say, 15 hours later, I was scouring my calendar looking for the closest feasible time I could go back to Texas for a weekend. It’s a tough brain to call mine, people. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty fun too. I have now quite extensively digressed for no real reason.]
While I have a generally pleasant outlook on life and, with the correct amount of caffeine running through my veins, can look at any situation in a pretty positive light, there is one area in my life that I tend to lean towards bitterness: pastors and churches.
I hate that I am this way. The moment I find myself feeling this way, I end it. But it happens.
I think this is because I love my dad so much.
See, I’m a pastor’s kid. (I like to think I’m not crazy, but you can come to your own conclusions there. Please don’t tell me about them.) We didn’t have any extreme rules growing up. I mean, we had to be polite and leave rooms better than we found them, but I didn’t have to correctly quote the book of Numbers before going to bed or anything like that. I got to wear pants (except for chapels on Wednesdays – DO NOT GET ME STARTED. Fifteen years later and I’m still bitter about that… Mom.) We called dating “dating” not “courting.” I got to use electricity and watch TV. Heck, if I was sneaky, I even got to stick my tongue out at my older sister from time to time. I wouldn’t say I grew up in the stereotypical pastor’s home and I can say that with confidence because none of his children have become nuns or drug-addicts. Instead, I would say I grew up in a stable Christian home, one where my parents loved each other and Jesus and showed us how to love others and Jesus every day. I never saw my dad practicing his sermon but I did see him in his chair every single morning in prayer and the Word. I didn’t get to see him firsthand in meetings, but I did see him and my mom open up our home to the whole church every year for a picnic. Smaller groups of people would come over in between those picnics for countless dinners and conversations underneath our willow tree. I saw him at the local football games even when none of his kids were in high school, let alone football players (shocker.) I didn’t see him struggling over what sermon series to do when, but I did hear him talk about his passion for Jesus and neighboring over every dinner party for years. I have seen him put his heart and soul into the church and community, both in Michigan and Texas. My dad is my dad in front of and behind closed doors. What you see is what you get.
As I got older, I realized that not everyone loved my dad as much as I did. Some people were not onboard with his passions. Some people weren’t convinced that he was authentic or his motives were good. Some people said and did nasty things to my dad and our family. Because of these things and others, I was hurt by the church. I didn’t even notice it myself, but that hurt turned to bitterness and slowly that bitterness became second nature. When I went to new churches, my mindset was closed and skeptical. When I met new pastors, I found myself secretly rolling my eyes. I trusted my dad, one or two other Christian leaders who had earned my trust before the hurt, and that was it.
Oh, and I was in school learning to be a church worker which makes no sense at all and I totally understand that and I definitely should have switched majors at this point in the story but I didn’t because I am an interesting and very specific combination of stubborn and lazy. I am convinced that the only reason I am where I am right now is because the Holy Spirit really, really wants me to be.
I came to work at The Point Church in Knoxville, Tennessee with this secret, subtle bitterness still twitching at the edges of my heart. I didn’t even always notice it myself; but I silently second-guessed every idea. I anticipated harsh criticism and blatant hypocrisy at every turn. I expected the worst for months.
I was proven wrong. Every. Single. Time.
The people I’ve worked with have, without knowing it, slowly chipped away at my bitterness towards church leadership. I rarely saw my dad at work. I saw him love the Lord with his whole being at all other hours of the day, but I didn’t spend time in the office. Growing up, I spent any time in a church office firmly planted in front of Larry the Cucumber or doing cartwheels up and down the hallway. Now, without the luxury of talking veggies or cartwheel time, I have seen these pastors mull over sermons for hours, days, weeks. I’ve seen them go over Scripture again and again, desperately trying to express what God is showing them in the best, most accessible way for our context, while still being bold with the truth. I’ve seen them handle difficult, sensitive situations with grace and spiritual maturity. I’ve watched them work way more than anyone would ever ask of them. I’ve seen them take constructive criticism and not be too prideful to use it. People, they have heard your stories and prayer requests and cried over them.
They wrestle. They think. They care deeply.
They also suck and sin and are super broken, but don’t worry, Jesus is bigger than all that.
What you hear on Sunday… it’s not passive. It’s not easy. They have researched and written that sermon with you in mind. They know that Jesus gives abundant life and they want you to know Him better and better and fall in love with Him more and more. Whether you’re reading this and you go to The Point or you live on the other side of the country and go to a completely different kind of church… your pastor probably feels the same the way… even if he talks in a weird loud boomy voice or calls people “man” a lot.
Today my workflow got interrupted multiple times because we stopped to pray specifically for people who needed it. Interrupt my every day with that, please.
[For future reference, these are the interruptions I will allow no matter what the circumstance: 1. Prayer 2. Dance Party 3. Conversation 4. Music Making 5. The Promise of Literally Any Kind of Food/Drink.]
Pastors that acknowledge their flaws and love Jesus, their people, and their city deeply – that’s cool. And they’re not as rare as I once thought them to be.
Churches that are led by Spirit-seeking pastors like the ones I’ve had the privilege of knowing – they’re worth fighting for. The church is still good because she is full of super broken people who know they’re redeemed by Jesus. The church is still good because her people love. The church is still good because she is living and active, breathed into being by the Giver of Life. The church is still good because the Holy Spirit keeps showin’ up and changing lives, y’all!
The church, like her leaders, is flawed and broken and messy and honestly, just annoying sometimes. I’m so sincerely sorry if you’ve been hurt by her people. But she’s good, guys. She’s worth not leaving. She’s worth pouring into. She’s worth giving a second chance. The church is redeemable just like the people who are apart of her.
I now believe that pastors are cool and the church is still good.
Omg, y’all, God is so good. I need to drink another coffee and simmer for awhile because if I don’t I’m gonna start praising in public straight up Kirk Franklin style and that will just make everybody uncomfortable.