Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Honoring ain't easy

A friend of mine shared a quote with me a while ago...well...actually he has shared it with me several times. He uses it as somewhat of a lens to look through; to guide his attitude as he engages with pastors:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
-1 Timothy 5:17
Don't do this...

Now...there's a lot to pick through in that little piece of advice. If you're anything like me, your brain will instantly begin searching through ways to undermine the heart of what is being said.

  • You'll pick up on that word "well" and make excuses that you don't have to honor pastors who don't minister excellently...and then you start making a mental hierarchy of what is "kinda" well and "mostly" well and "very" well...
  • You may also look at the phrase double honor and start questioning what that even means. Seeing as it's "double" something, you'd just look at the regular amount of honor you give everyone else and then pay that much to pastors...right? Even better if the regular amount isn't very much.
  • Or you could grab a hold of that "preaching and teaching" at the end. Make an argument that this would only apply to people who do both...and not one or the other. Surely that would be a way to skirt this whole concept.
The point is that it's way too easy to dance around some practical advice because our own pride gets in our way. There's something inside us that says people's honor, respect, etc is all relative to each other. So if we make someone else look bad, that will make us look good. And likewise, if we make someone else look good, that will make us look bad.

That's garbage. Don't think it.

Why a pastor?

The reality is that pastors have it rough. They find themselves constantly on the brunt of criticism, hostility & undermining. Many of them have been betrayed & abandoned by people they would have sworn had their best interests at heart.

After a while, you stop trusting people. You start to see & expect the worst. You've been torched by so many that you start to build up walls to protect yourself. You don't let others in because you've done it before, and gotten wrecked time and again.

Eventually, this can lead to people thinking that a pastor is setting himself apart. That he makes himself hard to get a hold of because he doesn't care. Or he doesn't want to be bothered with the "little" people. This can make people grumble about him even more, feel disconnected from him, and look at him as some kind of celebrity...or a douchebag.

But all the while, what's really happening is the pastor is tired of being crushed and betrayed.

So we have this advice from Paul, a saying on how to respond. That requires us putting away our own insecurities to come alongside someone with pressures, frustrations, failures, betrayals and hurts that many of us can't imagine. It requires us putting away some of our pride that says it will make us look smaller to make someone look better. Seems kinda Jesus-y to me for that matter.

Why honor?

Call it honor, respect, whatever...it doesn't matter. Personally, I think it can be a powerful thing for a pastor to be surrounded by people who honor/respect them. Publicly and privately. Who don't question & undermine their motivations, who give him the benefit of the doubt...even when the reasoning isn't understood.

And if a pastor really is operating from a context of betrayal, pressure, frustration and undermining; how powerful would it be if there was a group who legitimately respected & honored him? Not just pretended to.

Doesn't that trickle down over time? Wouldn't that help to break down some of the relational isolation a pastor has placed themself in? Doesn't that lead to a spiritually/emotionally/relationally healthier pastor than before? And doesn't that lead to a healthier church?

So what do you do?

How do we take this advice and do something with it? How can we set aside our pride and consider someone higher than we consider ourselves? Do you even agree that this is something worth doing?

I'm interested in what you think, & thanks for reading.