Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Expect to be Quoted

Do you know that you are repeated? I know I am, as are others. As a new pastor in a new community, I am the adjusting "newbie". I am the one who does not pronounce names correctly or know who legendary names are. I'm the one who does not know community traditions and customs. I'm the one who gets lost. I'm the one who does not know about long-held hurts and wounds. It's both painful and fun. It's fun being ignorant of all the rules and being able to plow ahead into new territory.
Because I learned long ago that I should expect to be quoted, and misquoted, I try to judge my speech judiciously and graciously. I expect to have what I say about others repeated. Isn't that a good thing? Should not our words be repeatable?
The other day I had to confess to a pastor-friend that I had been holding a grudge against him for a slight I felt. I told others about my hard feelings, but did not tell him. After a couple of months, I felt like such a hypocrite. I was teaching direct conversation from Matthew 18, but was not practicing it myself.
So, in a random phone conversation I said. "Do you have a few minutes to hear my confession?" He said "Sure." And I proceeded to tell him, to his face (or voice) what I had been holding and telling others, but not him. It felt right and good for me to tell him what, I'm guessing, he already heard from others I'd been saying about him. Now we are in a place of reconciliation and clarification.
Among pastors and denominational leaders, I think there is a long way to go here. We are civil and polite, but not always honest. We value loyalty and team-play, but not honest critique. I do not have a solution to this problem other than person-by-person, case-by-case. I need to demonstrate to my critics that their criticism of my and my gaffs will not render them to the out-cast party of disloyalists. Pastors need critics to be their friends and loyal adversaries.


At 9:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so right on that last point. I'm enjoying your BLOG and think I will bookmark it and keep in touch.
I have been pastoring a small church for almost 7 years, a church that I planted. Funny thing is, I still can't get the kind of face-to-face honesty out of people that you are speaking of.
My "friends" here will talk behind my back if they have a beef and then when it gets to me (which it always does of course) it really hurts. The reason it hurts is not the criticism, it's that they didn't face me with it. Then I see them smiling and inviting me over for dinner and wanting our kids to go swimming together and, and, and...
In fact, it has gotten to the point that I have admitted to my wife that there is no one in the church I actually trust.
In an effort to save some friendships, or at least to give them a chance, I will be resigning in the new year. That's the end result of people who won't work things out with you.
I am a good pastor and people will be sad to see me go. They may even wonder if their critical words (behind my back) had anything to do with my leaving. The answer is yes.

At 9:04 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Dear Anonymous; Is there any other direction you could go besides resigning? Maybe it's time to move on. But maybe it's not. Is there some internal group in the charged with your care? Here could be a great place and time to open up and ask for and receive honesty. If it doesn't work, you can still quit. If it does work and there is some reconciliation, how good would that be? It's hard for pastors to find new churches whne they resign without a call. But then again, over the years I know too many pastors who, when they resign, never want to serve a church ever again. They were just too burned. Where are you in that?


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