Thursday, June 14, 2012

You've lost your LA Privileges

Sweeping generalization number 74: "Pastors can be socially naive."  Let's face it, many of us pastors tend to be bookworms and nerds, and often not the most socially adept.  I see many times where a pastor will make a pronouncement -- let's call it "X".  And then people will become upset with X, view X as a personal attack against them, all while the pastor backs up with his hands in the air, honestly confused saying, "I wasn't talking about you, I was just thinking about X", while the hurt people think, "Yeah, right... jerk."

Pastors acquire what I like to call "Political Capital".  When you do things that are good and kind, you build up political capital... think of it as goodwill, or a token of credit.  It is the sign that you as an individual care for a person, that you love them.  People enjoy being loved.  Different things build up this capital at different rates with different people.  It's the pastoral equivalent of kissing babies for a politician.  And it can be silly or odd things - the things that help you connect with various folks.

And that capital is lost.  Whenever you speak somewhat controversially, or against a beloved or enjoyed practice, you burn that capital.  Indeed, speaking the Law will often burn that capital.  And as a Pastor, there are times where you must burn that capital - there are hills and battles you must fight. That's part and parcel of the territory - there are times that you need to have that hard, difficult conversation with a person.

So, what's the problem?  Well... if you keep making pronouncements about how things should be, or harping on things, or start coming across as a know-it-all who thinks he's so great... or are perceived as such - you complete lose your political capital... and then people will jump on your case and assume the worst about what you say.

"But it's just God's Word - that's all I'm saying!

Again, see, here's the thing.  That might be true -- but remember, the Law kills.  The Law smacks people around.  The Law is an attack on the Christian... which you seem to be forgetting.  Of course the Law is going to wound folks to which is applies -- that's its job.  It is to wound them -- to kill them in fact so that the new man might emerge.  But the Gospel must be applied quickly... and if it's not at all... in fact you just keep killing people.  Needlessly -- because if you don't give them life, you're just pissing off people to death.

"Well, but I'll preach the Gospel, and that should earn me this goodwill, right?

See, here's the thing.  Preaching the Gospel doesn't earn *you* that much capital, because, well, the Gospel you preach isn't about *you* and *your* care for the people.  It's about Jesus and His love and care.  The fact that you preach the Gospel doesn't say anything, really, about you, or what you are like outside of the pulpit.  Oh, and here's the other rub -- if you've lost your capital... well, people are going to focus more and more on your jerky law and quite possibly be fuming when you get to your one or two lines of law you legalist jerk...

See how the thought process turns against you?  If you burn the political capital, you lose the benefit of the doubt.  Sure, you might help someone out, but you've still lost your LA privileges.  Add to this interactions where people don't hear you preach the Gospel... think about folks who don't show up to Church that often, or on-line discussions with people who live far away and never hear you preach.

"But this is God's truth - why should any of this matter?"  Because God uses means -- and for better or worse, you are a means by which His Word is proclaimed... and if you've put your foot in the way, get the foot out of the way.  It's what needs to be done. 

It's the nature of the beast.  Even this post, there are probably folks who never get this far into the post because they view me as a moralizing, pandering jerky poopy-face McDumbie.  Where there is no relationship, where there is no trust, where there is no assurance of goodwill... well, folks will just assume that you are a jerk.

And let's be honest... they are probably right.  I'm a jerk, he's a jerk, she's a jerk.... wouldn't you like to be a Dr. Pepper too?

So what is to be done?  Well, show concern.  Show humility.  Accentuate the positive things.  Mark when people have done well.  These all build up balance, help to disarm the hearer's sinful flesh when it say, "Don't listen - he's just being mean!"  Care and humility and love undercut that complaint.

And, as we learn from Pr. Fisk's videos just include cute kitten videos.

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