Monday, October 22, 2012

But you gotta have friends... II

I wanted to make sure and follow up on the post I wrote last week with my thoughts after simply relaying the catalyst and my initial reaction to the conversation that I had over lunch.  If you haven't read the other post, you may need to before this makes sense.  In that post, I was overly gracious, and tried to leave room for disagreement, so don't think that I espoused everything these two brothers said.

As you may have noticed, my initial reaction was more like shock.  I wasn't expecting that at all!  I kinda figured that they would share my sentiments of the desire to have congregants treat me as a friend. And as I pushed back against them, they stood firm.  Again, shocked. 

Several readers of this blog, as well as the comments on my Facebook post about it, were accurate and helpful in their assessments. I appreciate your grace in agreeing and also in disagreeing. Comments mentioned scripture from Proverbs 27:6 about being a friend and the ability to reprove and receive reproof.  Comments mentioned the apparent superiority of a pastor to the flock which is projected by the argument presented by these two brothers.  Your comments mentioned the smallness (or absence) of the distinction between clergy and laity.

Some of the places that I thought about were the Apostle John leaning upon the breast of Jesus during the Last Supper (John 13:25); the fact that Jesus called his disciples no longer "servants, but friends" (John 15:15); Paul's self-description of his relationship to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 as a "nursing mother" (not sure how much more intimate a relationship gets); and all the other family language such as brother, father, etc. that is found in the NT.  There are many more scriptures and biblical examples that could be mentioned in favor of intimacy between believers, and between sheep and shepherds.

Furthermore, I believe discipleship always takes place best in the context of relationships.  My experience as a disciple-maker testifies to this.  I could list numerous times where my closeness with people, my willingness to share my life, my struggles, my deepest thoughts, as well as time spent with them, has contributed in large part to the spiritual growth in my life and theirs too.  Also from experience, as I alluded to in my last post, how could you not grow close to people that you love and share life with (which is the essence of the word koinōnía or "fellowship," "communion," or "sharing").  And, my closest friends are/have been in my congregations.  I love them as friends, and for better or worse, I try to treat them that way.

Maybe I'll get a chance to continue this conversation with them, or maybe I will just let it go.  But I did want to be clear about where I am, and how I tend to think about this subject.  As always, I welcome your thoughts.  But I say, "Pastors, cultivate deep and lasting friendships with your people, and do not withhold your friendship for fear of limiting ministry or fear of being hurt." And to my beloved congregation, I have no qualms, in fact it is my desire, to enjoy the deep bonds of friendship that God has made.  And I look forward to the future bonds to be formed within the body of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Jason,

    The question itself shows a separation that cannot be overcome just by trying to relate to "your congregants" as friends. Can you imagine someone asking this, "Should I try to be friends with a fellow Christian?" It doesn't make sense does it? The answer is, "Of course!" So, why is the answer to your question not, "Of course!" in many people's minds? Because the question itself forms and demonstrates a distinction.

    Now, you will occasionally find people who can go against the grain and overcome those distinctions. But, as long as we persist in the clergy/laity distinction that is even apparent here, the kinds of mutual relationships that are necessary for growth, edification, and discipleship will be fleeting, and the maturity of all involved, including "the pastor" will be hindered.