Monday, March 29, 2010

How am I doing?

Flipping through the channels last night I came across the 1996 remake of The Bishop's Wife, the perhaps more familiar The Preacher's Wife starring Whitney Houston as Julia Biggs, the wife of the Rev. Henry Biggs.

Both the original and the remake have the same basic plot:

The bishop/preacher is so busy caring for his congregation that his family is neglected. So God sends an angel to the rescue – Cary Grant in the original and Denzel Washington in the 90’s version. In 1947 Grant’s angel was more unashamedly Christian, Washingtons’s is more “vaguely spiritual.” Both help set the preacher back on track with proper priorities.

The movie reminded me of the struggle that every pastor I know experiences on some level:

How to balance the expectations of family and congregation?

The decisions we make, almost daily, to maintain those expectations puts us in a perfect spot to be judged. And the more I think about it, simply being a pastor means constantly being judged (if “judged” sounds too harsh you can substitute “evaluate”).

Yesterday I was pretty good in the pulpit. It was a text and a topic I was especially excited to preach on and it came at the end of a series that I felt has gone really well. It was just one of those mornings when I felt like I was “in a zone” and the feedback I received after both worship hours suggested that those in attendance thought I was pretty good too (at least I was yesterday).

But in a sense every “good message, that really touched me” is that person’s “judgement” on how they thought I did – their evaluation of my performance. It’s an evaluation I am constantly looking for – I seek my wife out following every message to find out from her “How did I do?

How did I do? How am I doing? Those questions extend beyond Sunday morning. Because the role of pastor (maybe especially in a larger church where it seems there are members everywhere) is so very public the are opportunities for people to evaluate how I’m doing (every decision and action) every day of the week.

This probably comes across as whining (in fact this blog may be a “rant” I need to work through) – but over the years I’ve been “evaluated” for:

What kind of car I drive
Where I shop
Where I vacation
How I spend my time
Who I eat dinner with and where
Even what coffee I drink (seriously I once received complaints that I spent too much money at Starbucks… probably true)

With a church of 3,700 there’s never a shortage of opinions and (here’s the whining part) sometimes it’s exhausting to be constantly judged.

Okay, enough whining, I knew this came with the call – here are the lessons I’m learning:

I need to worry less (even less) about how I am doing in the eyes of everyone around me – no matter how vocal they may be.

It’s actually comforting to realize that this must have been going on from the very beginning of the church. In a letter to a church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul wrote:

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts…We were not looking for praise from any human being, not from you or anyone else…

It appear that church leaders from the very beginning faced the temptation to bless the crowd of evaluators.

The second lesson I am learning is:

I need to be less (much less) judging of others.

Jesus made that one pretty clear:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I’m getting that more and more.

Okay – whining rant over – time to focus on Easter…. because I know that everyone will be “judging” my Easter message!

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