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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Faking It

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

If you were to walk into the "office" in my apartment on any given day, you would see about seven different library books lying in various places: the desk, the chair, the floor. All of them have markers in them, attesting that they've been read--at least partly. But it is a rare occasion when I get through one of them cover to cover (here's an exception, an 80 page opus).

Last night I picked up (from the floor) Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor. This book was all the buzz among my pastorally-oriented classmates in seminary, so I had read pieces of it. But not all of it. Last night I picked up the chapter entitled, "Lashed to The Mast." Here's a money quote from the chapter:

" . . . the image aspects of pastoring, the parts that require meeting people's expectations, can be faked. We can impersonate a pastor without being a pastor. The problem, though, is that while we can get by with it in our communities, often with applause, we can't get by with it within ourselves."

Recognizing the potential fallout resulting from an admission that I've been "faking it" as a pastor, let me simply add a hearty "Amen!" to Peterson's assertion. It can be faked. In fact, you'll probably be more successful and healthy in the calling if you are faking it much of the time. Because so much of what you have to go on day in and day out is people's expectations of you and their expressions of whether or not those expectations are being met.

The problem is that our expectations of pastors are more conditioned by cultural images of success or therapy than they are by the gospel of Jesus. We want pastors to be ever-present advice givers, or we want them to be well-groomed images of certainty and prosperity. What we most certainly don't want is a human being who bleeds like we bleed, sins like we sin, and fails like we fail. Peterson's image of the pastor as the one who is lashed to the mast by her calling is good because it understands this, and it insists that the faithfulness (not success) of the pastor is largely the charge of his congretation.

To lash a pastor to the mast of the ship is to say, in Peterson's words, "We know you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as we are. We know your emotions are as fickle as ours, and your mind is as tricky as ours. That is why we are going to ordain you and why we are going to exact a vow from you." It is to proclaim a counter-cultural preference for the messy-ness of a real pastor over against the shining therapeutic image of one we have all come to expect.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:25 AM

3 Comments:

Don't we all, at some point or another, feel as though we are faking it? No matter our vocation or calling?

I almost wonder if it isn't part of being human and fallible. Wouldn't it almost seem transendental not to fear the world might find out we don't really know what we're doing?

A wise man once said, "The Christian's life isn't defined by what he does, but by what he doesn't do." Our life isn't defined by the sin (i.e. faking it) because of Christ's atonement; it's defined by the sin Christ helps us overcome - the victories.

Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is why this expectation is placed on pastors in the first place.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10:39 PM  
I think pastors have probably asked for it. As the culture around the church has shifted, pastors have strained for new roles to define their calling, and the ones that have been most meaningful have been therapist and CEO. I think most pastor's are happy with the trade-off involved because, at the very least, the role gives them a defined place of importance both in the church and in the world. The problem arises when we realize that the gospel is patently not about feeling like we have a secure place.
commented by Blogger Rocky, 5:41 AM  
Peterson is amazing stuff. It will screw you up and rebuild you all at the same time.
commented by Blogger Scott, 12:44 PM  

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