Writings by Cole Huffman

A Pastoral Selfie

Reorganizing my bookshelves yesterday was a chore due to my neglecting the task for too long, but doing so renewed vocational thanks for my occupation. I don’t have to be a pastor. I get to be a pastor.

The hard things about the job aren’t worth complaint. Criticisms? No one likes to be criticized. We pastors give the impression we get more than our fair share but that’s because we’re in our own heads a lot, this being a reflective work as well as relational, and also because a lot of us have glass jaws—we don’t know how to take a punch. When I think about it, the greater marvel is that I’m not criticized more.

This is a good work, pastoral leadership. It’s a good tired when it drains me. It’s a good burn when it frustrates me. It’s a good grasp by the collar when it rebukes me. I would be a sorrier Christian if I wasn’t a pastor, by which I mean I would be much more individualist than I already am. Pastor = present to the people of God and o how I need that full-on.

I had a bad Sunday a couple weeks ago. Preaching was fine but I was in a surly mood. I growled thanks to those who affirmed my sermon, short-circuited greetings, kept my head down in the halls, avoided a luncheon my family attended to go eat crap at a fast food place and feel unjustified sorrow for myself. But you know what I actually felt sitting in that plastic booth? Yearning for my congregation! I wanted to call everyone back into the building, form a large circle, and spend a couple hours embracing everyone, thanking them for the privilege of pastoring their church despite my petulant heart. As Yogi Berra might have put it in my shoes, even the people there I don’t like I really love. (Found my collection of Yogi Berra sayings yesterday.)

I don’t have to be told how well I have it in my church. I tell myself frequently. The church I deserve is not the church I pastor. Years ago a pastor-friend passed on to me what a pastor-friend told him years before, that there are churches unworthy of God’s servants and servants unworthy of God’s churches. Worthiness can be a relative consideration to be sure, and coming out of seminary I worried about landing in the unworthy church, but now I know myself better. I would prove myself the unworthy servant far more quickly and easily than First Evan would prove herself the unworthy church.

Even if I was serving an “unworthy church” and down with an acutely fetid case of ecclesiasticitis this Thanksgiving, pastoring is still the frame in which I want to leave my life portraiture. Speaking of, at First Evan my portrait will someday augustly hang in the hall outside my office alongside the portraits of those who occupied this stewardship before me. (Yes, we’re that kind of church; my children wonder why the church waits to put it there only after I’m gone or dead, whichever comes first.) Till then—some years yet I hope—I’ll take more selfies with the people who give me the privilege of belonging to them now and in some sense always too, with increasing gratitude.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 12:03 PM
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