April 07, 2011

Not That Kind of Pastor

Sometimes it's hard to be a pastor.  Sometimes, if I can be completely honest, I wish I were something else.  Sometimes, when I hear or read about how some of my clergy colleagues behave, I want to scream, shout, and let the whole world know:  I'm not that kind of pastor!

This week, I was even tempted to change the title of my blog from fieldofdandelions.com to notthatkindofpastor.com.  That's how much I want people to know this about me. 

Last week, a friend of mine wrote a sentence comparing organized religion with organized crime, and posted it online.  A large number of people wrote their own responses, some supporting my friend's comment, some strongly dissagreeing.  I considered posting my own response, pointing out that I took no offense because my own church is as unorganized as they get (haha), but I reconsidered after reading the comments that had turned into a rather intense discussion, feeling that my humor would not be appreciated there.

In his own response to all the responses, my friend listed what he considered to be some of the abuses of the church, specifically mentioning preachers in their $2000 suits who ignore the need of the poor while raising huge amounts of money for Prop 8.

Again, I considered responding, this time in a more serious manner.  I even typed in a comment, but then deleted it before posting.  The reason, this time, is that I had just read an article in the Huffington Post titled "Ricky Martin Boycotted by the Church."  Well, it wasn't "the church" that was boycotting Ricky Martin, but a Puerto Rican pastor, Wanda Rolon, who declared that Ricky Martin was "dragging the church to hell" due to his homosexuality.

After reading the article, I realized I had no defense to make to my friend.  Pastor Rolon doesn't speak for the church, and she certainly doesn't speak for me, but that's not the story the media tell.  According to the media, "the church" is against gays.

Gee, thanks, Pastor Rolon.

Sometimes I wish I were not a pastor.

And about those $2000 suits... I don't think my whole wardrobe is worth that much.  A lot of what's in my closet actually came from thrift stores.  I don't look like those preachers on TV.  But that's just it:  they're on TV.  I'm not.  I'm just the pastor of a small church filled with a handful of wonderful, loving people who pay their pastor what they can.

$2000 suit? If I had $2000, I'd go see a dentist, something I haven't been able to afford in over five years.  Or maybe I'd get my bike tuned up, seeing as it's my primary form of transportation.  Or maybe I'd use that money to send my son to that camp for kids with diabetes that he wants to go to.

It's stressful being a pastor.  The proclamation of a few of my more outspoken colleagues - and the media attention - doesn't help.

What does help?  First and foremost, remembering why I do what I do.  I was called by God to guide a congregation of people who are struggling to figure out how to fully live the life God intends for them, a life filled with joy and blessing and goodness and service to others.  How awesome is that!

Secondly, it helps to know that I am making progress with myself when it comes to living that abundant life.  A lot of folks who have more money than I are a lot less happy than I; they see less meaning and find less satisfaction in life. 

Thirdly, the word of God within me is like a fire.  I cannot contain it.  It is a word of wholeness, a word that liberates people from bondage and oppression.  With so many who claim otherwise, this good news is bursting within me.

Lastly, I find things to do that bring me peace and relieve the stress.  I've written about them here before.  I pray every day.  I seek out beautiful places to explore, usually close to where I live, often by hiking or riding my bike.  I meditate over a cup of green tea, or while stacking rocks, or while making friendship bracelets.

Yes, friendship bracelets.  I know, it seems kind of juvenile to make friendship bracelets.  Kids at camp taught me how to make them a number of years ago. It really is relaxing to me.  As it turns out, I've made quite a few.  And I find it an enjoyable challenge to picture a pattern in my mind, then see if I can transfer that pattern from my mind to a bracelet.

The only thing is, now I have a whole bunch of these bracelets, and I'm not sure what to do with them.  I did see someone selling similar bracelets at DowntownDisney awhile back for five bucks apiece.  I don't really want to "sell" my bracelets, but I would be willing to send one to anyone who makes a donation - of any size - to Bixby Knolls Christian Church.  That might help me feel better about not being able to give back as much as I'd like to the congregation that has given me so much.  Let me know if you are interested.

I've rambled a bit here, and at times this has come close to being a "rant."  It is not my intention to "rant."  But I do want you to know that I'm not that kind of pastor.


NHISHand said...

Bro Danny!

This is a great post! Just like you, I do not own any $2000 suits. And sometimes it is a very frustrating thing to get questions in reference to what another pastor has said! However, mid-way of your post, you shared the love that overtakes all the suits and comments of the world . . . being "Called!" When GOD calls us to share HIS Word, it can't be contained! It's like Jeremiah 20:9, when he said, "Its like fire shut up in my bones!" You have to share! You have to give! And you can't help but Love, Love, Love!

Danny Bradfield said...

NHISHand, Jeremiah 20:9 is exactly what I had in mind (but I was too lazy to check the verse). That is exactly what it feels like at times, though: like a fire in my bones! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Danny, your column comes just as I am beginning to write out some notes based on "In Search of Paul" by Crossan and Reed. Their thesis is that Paul taught a way of life that was a direct challenge to the Roman system, which included a strong division in social structures. In contrast, the church was to adhere uncompromisingly to radical egalitarianism in status. He recognized that in their outer life, people would prosper in differing ways. He adamantly opposed allowing these differences to determine the church's life. He, too, would oppose $2,000 suits (and probably designer jeans).

Danny Bradfield said...

Keith, I'll have to find that book. I read Borg's "The First Paul" a few years ago (checked it out of my local library!) and found it incredibly helpful, and "In Search of Paul" sounds like it may similarly so.

I do have one pair of jeans that I think could be considered "designer," but I bought them at a thrift store. :-)