You get the metaphor.
I went to a Pastors Appreciation luncheon today, put on by WNIV 970 & 1400 here in Atlanta (and sponsored by their ownership group, Salem Communications). It was a nice affair, with plenty of things that people in the ministry like: food, coffee, and stuff – all free. I came home with a rather substantial sack full of goodies and a lot to think about.
Namely, what kind of a man do I want to be? And more specifically, what kind of pastor?
I’ve always taken for granted that being a pastor was as natural as breathing, if for no other reason than because I don’t know how to be anything else. Even when I was working in a “non-pastoral” role with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (whut-whut!), I still found myself performing pastoral functions like leading chapel and just checking in on my coworkers to see how they were doing. I just couldn’t live life any other way.
So when I think about going forward as a pastor, part of it feels like it should just be easy – that I’ll innately know which path to choose or which words to say or what messages to preach. But the truth of the matter is that there are some hard choices I have to make in order to be the best pastor I can.
I realized this while reading an interview with Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-church in Southern California. Warren was talking about advice that he would give to young preachers, and he said something that really resonated with me: make sure your people know that sermons are meant to inspire them to do something (what Warren and his church call “do-able faith”).
I wrote it down like this:
Teachers impart knowledge; preachers inspire action.
I like that, especially as I go back and re-read the Gospels and look at the life of Jesus. He was deep but He always required his audiences to do something in response to what he said – either change their beliefs, their actions, their view of themselves, or their view of Him. He never left His hearers neutral; they either moved closer to Him or they moved farther away. People couldn’t help but act when Jesus spoke.
Can’t exactly say that about me. In fact, you’d say the opposite, because I kind of go out of my way to leave people alone. I don’t like ruffling feathers, I don’t like confrontation, and I don’t believe in saying things that hack people off just get a response out of them.
Honestly, I believe that if I can just come alongside people and show them the kind of person Christ has inspired me to be, then I’m doing what I’m supposed to. I learned that from Jesus too.
But at the same time, there’s something to be said about a man who can make people think. Who can inspire them to act. Who can use his words to cultivate in the hearts of others something genuine and good and powerful that leads to change (or, if you want to go all King James, repentance).
I came away from today’s luncheon wanting to be that kind of man. I want to inspire people to do, to act, to think, to feel. I want people to walk away from an encounter with me and have an impression left on their life. That sounds kind of vain when put that way, but it’s not meant to be.
And now that I’m sitting here typing, I can think of a better way to put it: I want the things I say to be as inspiring as the things I write. Granted not everything I write is inspirational, but I’ve gotten enough feedback from you, the audience, to know that what I write resonates with you in some way (enough to keep you coming back). I want that kind of resonance in all areas of my life.
But I don’t want it the cheap or easy way. I’m tired of the people who decide that the bully pulpit is the best way to communicate to others. I don’t believe that I have to bash anyone over the head with my faith in Christ, nor do I feel compelled to hold a figurative sword over anyone’s head and demand a response. I know that I want to do as Jesus did – preach the Word, be a light in the darkness, sound the message of the Kingdom of God, let people know what they must do in order to be saved…and patiently wait for those things to sink into the hearts of people so that they become sincere. There is no such thing as quick and easy faith in God. It’s a journey, for many a struggle, and it takes time, compassion, patience, consistency and love to yield anything that lasts.
That’s the kind of man I want to be: someone who inspires others, by my words and actions, to journey towards something that is both demanding and simple, something that is far beyond what most people assume or believe. I want to be the person of whom others say, “That’s the real deal there, dude.”
I’ve got a long way to go.
But then again, don’t we all?
**Don’t forget, you can also read this post at the new Jason Muses website, located here.**