Pastors make mistakes like everyone else
The Rev. Joanna Harader, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln St:
As children, most of us were confident that our parents knew just what to do about that splinter, or a flat tire or nuclear holocaust. Then we became the “responsible adults” and had the horrifying revelation: Adults do not actually know how to fix everything.
The pastor is sort of the parent of the congregation. I would say the most misunderstood aspect of being a pastor is that people often believe I inherently know the right, pastoral, response to any situation.
Whether it is a troubled marriage, a theological disagreement, a budget crisis or a leaky faucet, the pastor will know what to do.
Pastors are supposed to know the words for weddings, funerals and prayers. We are supposed to know appropriate Scripture passages — chapter and verse. We are supposed to know the floorplan of the hospital and the right things to say to the people in the hospital. We are supposed to know the dynamics of our congregations, our denominations and the Christian church at large.
I am not saying that pastors are expected to learn these things; pastors are simply expected to know them.
I am blessed to be the daughter of two pastors who teach me a lot of the things I am supposed to know. Like when I found out a church member’s father had died. It was about 7 on a Sunday morning.
“Mom, Dad, what should I do? Visit the family now? Just call? How long should I stay? What should I say?”
They said, “Call. Then go. Don’t stay too long. Don’t say anything stupid.”
Pastors have to learn how to do their jobs well, just like everyone else. Sometimes we do know what to say or do. Sometimes we go into new situations with a simple prayer: “God, don’t let me do anything stupid.”
— Send e-mail to Joanna Harader at email@example.com .
Myths about greed distort perception of Christianity
The Rev. Shaun LePage, pastor, Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road:
Two big misunderstandings come to mind.
First, I’m not after your money. Some people think ministers prey upon sincere, but naive, believers so they can con them into giving money. To be sure, there are some greedy ones out there (mostly on TV). There are groups teaching that God is like a big vending machine — if you give money to such-and-such ministry, God will give you health and wealth.
This is a distortion of true Christianity. Please don’t lump us all together. Most ministers I know personally are not getting rich. They typically make great sacrifices or take on second jobs so they can keep serving God and people. Churches like ours make no demands on people financially. We believe in free-will giving motivated by gratitude for what God has done for us.
Second, I don’t want to shove anything down your throat. Some people think Christians (especially ministers) want to force their beliefs on people. I do want to “share” what I believe, but I have no interest in “forcing” my beliefs on you. If this sounds like semantics to you, please do a Google search on “forced to convert.” There’s a very real difference between “share” and “force.” Anyone who believes anything passionately will want to “share” his views (like those who will comment on this Faith Forum).
That’s not “forcing.” That’s not malicious. We all do this. In my case, I believe the Bible teaches that heaven and hell are real, and that trusting Jesus Christ for your eternal destiny is the only way to avoid hell and be in heaven. If that’s true, then “sharing” this with people is the right thing to do!
I — like most Christians — try to “share” my beliefs respectfully at the right time in the right place out of love for people.
— Send e-mail to Shaun LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org.