So after 5 years of being pastor of a church plant with no building and no office, after spending countless hours working out of coffee shops and counseling people with the smell of fresh brewed espresso in the air, I have a wonderful, beautifully decorated, huge office.
Last year I moved from the fledgling church to an older established church within a major US city. It’s a whole new challenge of a completely different nature, with a sprawling campus of buildings and a private Christian school as well.
And frankly, my new office embarrasses me. I guess it’s all those days sitting in coffee shops, but the opulence and comfort of it seems a bit overblown for me. Bookshelves line my walls now, with a comfy couch and chair are at one end to relax and talk with people.
News flash: my office has its own bathroom.
Yes, God forbid I’d actually have to use a bathroom with the rest of the staff. Or heaven forbid with average church members. No, I have a dedicated “throne room” all my own, a holy vessel dedicated to, um… pastoral duties.
And it has a shower. Yes, you read that right. A shower.
For exactly what reason, I’m not sure. I guess in case I have an especially intense prayer session with the Lord, wrestling with an angel like Jacob, or something. I can just get up off my knees, run into my “prayer closet” and catch a quick shower. No biggy.
And while I greatly appreciate the honor my church has given the position of pastor, I must admit I think my office is perhaps a symbol of what’s wrong with pastors these days.
For instance, my office is secluded. I understand this is so I can study uninterrupted, and that is truly helpful to a pastor. But few people interrupted me at Starbucks when I studied there, unless they recognized me or I was meeting them there to talk. I’m afraid I’m a little too secluded for my own good.
I think pastors today are largely ineffective specifically because of the kind of seclusion my office affords me. If I didn’t force myself, I could stay behind my closed door, safely inside the “holy of holies”, well out of reach from all human contact.
And human contact is important, because the ministry is ultimately about two relationships: God and others.
My office is also, frankly, a symbol of pride. It’s beauty and opulence is meant to tell anyone who enters for a meeting, “The guy who works here is pretty special. You should be impressed with him, and possibly even a little intimidated. Because they don’t give offices like this to just anyone, ya know!”
I hate to admit, I actually have used it once to intimidate. I had a confrontational meeting a few months back with a couple I knew were ticked off about something I was doing (or not doing…who knows which it was that time). So I was sure to have them ushered back ceremoniously into the inner sanctum.
After I greeted and seated them, I watched the husbands eyes dart around the room at my books, all ensconced strategically on the shelves. My plan had worked.
I imagine it made a much better impression on him than if he were surrounded by decorative mugs and K-cups in mold office.
I enjoyed that meeting, but I shouldn’t have. That’s what scares me a bit, the fact that I enjoyed it so much. You see, I’ve worked for quite a few other pastors in the past. I was afforded quite a vantage point to view several different men and their leadership styles up close and personal.
The main thing I learned by watching them was just how incredibly debilitating one specific weapon of the enemy is on pastors. It’s the one thing Satan can always seem to trip them up with, no matter how holy or wise they are.
That weapon is pride. We’re all suckers for it.
And Lord, do we love power. We need some of it to get anything done, sure enough. But when you give it to us, we immediately become dangerous. We start protecting that power, thinking maintaining it is for the good of the church. Often it is, but over time our motives turn from helping the church to helping ourselves.
I’ve sat in a staff meeting and watched pride swell up in men much more godly than me. That scares me. I’ve seen them make the church all about them and their ministry. And now, I’m feeling that temptation myself as I sit behind my nice desk and look out at my nice office and finally feel like a success.
Funny how Satan doesn’t mind whispering to me, “You’re finally a success!” Why would he compliment me, when I’m trying to destroy him?
Because the best way to destroy me is telling me how awesome I am. If I believe him, my defenses go down, my pride goes up and I’m set up for a huge fall.
Perhaps that’s why today I’ve decided to hold court back in my old stomping grounds. I left my car at home, and hopped on a bike just like I used to when I was a church planter and we couldn’t afford two cars.
I rode today to a new coffee shop across town. I’m sitting in the midst of a bunch of young hipster college students, typing away like mad. The smell of coffee wafts through the air once again, as I am stripped of the trappings of my office and position.
Thank God. I’m finally starting to feel human once again.
I’m putting out notices on my Next Door community app, letting people know where to meet me if they want to talk about God. Sure, I’ve gotten some odd people every now and then in the past. But I’ve also had some terrific encounters that led to introducing people to my best friend, Jesus.
I think I’m learning anew pastors were never meant to hide inside of church walls, just talking with nice little Christians in nice little offices. I need to be out among the people, accessible in public where they are, getting my hands dirty in the muck and mire of real life.
Reality is a good thing. The tire marks on my calves today are good reminders not to take myself too seriously. The dirt feels like home.
And if I ever get too dirty, I never have to worry. I know where there’s a really nice, secluded shower.