Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is that what a Pastor Looks like?

One of the movies of my college days was the movie "Fight Club" (disclaimer - due to it's graphic and violent nature, I cannot recommend the movie, especially if one is offended by that - it well deserves its R rating). The premise basically involves two men who start underground fighting clubs - barefoot, barefisted expressions of masculine aggression. The two are riding a bus in one scene, and they see an ad for something by Calvin Kline with a male model. . . and derisively one asks the other, "Is that what a man looks like?" It was a rather poignant commentary on how crass commercialism shapes our ideas of what we ought to look like and be.

Today I saw an add that said "Learn to be a pastor" and underneath it was a photo - you didn't see the face or chest, but the guy was wearing awesome jeans and a button down red shirt, awesomely not tucked in, one hand hooked in his jeans, the other hand holding a big floppy bible. Full of awesomeness. "If you were to study to be a pastor," this ad tells me, "then you would just be cool and hip."

Is that what a Pastor looks like?

What is most odd is that I will dress like that on occasion during the week if I am just doing office work (I leave the AC and heat off in my office to cut down on energy - this makes it warm in the summer and sweater worthy in the winter - it works) during the week. I have a shirt that color, I'll even throw on a pair of jeans to wear in the office before I go on calls - but I've never thought it to look "hip" or "cool". I'm not a pastor in order to be hip or cool.

What do we expect pastors to be? It seems as though society has this idea that a pastor is fundamentally now meant to be someone who is (socially) charismatic and . . . cool? I mean, the public has always wanted charismatic pastors -- but there have been times when the image of pastor was charismatic and slick (the 80s, anyone?), or charismatic and successful, (the 90s), or charismatic and venerable (the 50s) -- but now the added mix is that the pastor ought to be cool in addition to charismatic.

And yet - is that ever what a Pastor really looks like? You know, I was going to have this be a critique against the whole idea of the "cool" pastor -- but that will change over time, just as none of us in the clergy feel pressure to slick our hair back. There's so much of the idea which changes - that is clearly out - Christ Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and forever - the folks who are His servants probably shouldn't be that. . . trendy, whatever the trend is.

But what about the other aspect - that being a Pastor is all about personal Charisma? Do we realize how foreign that is to Lutheran theology. Lutheran pastors cover themselves -- with vestments, with their office (... by virtue of my office. . . in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ) - with the fact that we know that we are completely replaceable in that office. Our focus is not to be own how awesome or charismatic we are - but rather we are always to point to Christ. Various men with various talents and gifts - but those talents and gifts are always to be used in pointing to Christ.

The Words of John the Baptist come to mind here - "I must decrease that He may increase." That really is the description of a pastor - that is what a pastor should look like. And what is sad is that so many people, even Christians, have no concept of this.

But then again, this probably shouldn't be surprising. Thus is life in the sinful world.


Bror Erickson said...

hey, just because you can't pull it off....
No I have the same thoughts. And I often wonder why anyone would really want a pastor that way. I mean do you really want that guy visiting you in the hospital? Do you see that guy making shut in visits?

Pastor D said...

After serving as Circuit Counselor for six years filling five vacancies without exception the members of each call committee was looking for a pastor who was just as the one who had previously served them. Each new man came with his own strengths, talents, gifts, and yes, with his own unique personality. The common thread – each pastor - the one who left and the one who was sent - served as an under shepherd of Christ. That's the way things go!