A Pastor's Failings, Pt. 6

For both devoted readers of this blog, I assure you I have not run out of failings as a pastor. That's NOT why I haven't posted #6 in this series before today, though more than a month has passed since the most recent installment. Blame it on the unseasonably warm weather of late. Blame it on the devil. Blame it on--but wait, save all that blaming for another time, as maybe that's another one of my failings.

So here's another failing, something I never got a handle on (though I DID improve considerably over the years): I habitually let others set my agenda as a pastor.

A favorite author of mine, Eugene Peterson, wrote about various reasons he was "a busy pastor" (which, he explains, is NOT a compliment) in his book, The Contemplative Pastor. All of his points hit close to him. This one, however, moved in and peed on the floor:
I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day's work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people's minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

Because these assignments to pastoral service are made sincerely, I go along with them. It takes effort to refuse, and besides, there's always the danger that the refusal will be interpreted as a rebuff, a betrayal of religion, and a calloused disregard for people in need.
As Sheldon Cooper would say, "Bazinga!"

In my well-read copy of The Contemplative Pastor, I circled "slipshod" and wrote in the margin, "or spineless." Because that feels a little more close to the truth in my case.

I let too many people--who, as Peterson said, had a limited (if any) understanding of the pastor's work and calling set my agenda. I kowtowed to their expectations. I even tried to meet expectations I assumed people had of me. Because I wanted to do a good job--in their eyes. I wanted to be liked. And I was too spineless to say "no" with courtesy and authority.

It's a failing. A big one. And a costly one, because I might have been a better pastor than that.

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