The other day I sat in a circle with a bunch of my friends who happen to be pastor’s here in my city. We shared what was going on in our lives so that we could pray for each other, and one of my friends is just burnt. I can see in his eye’s the fatigue that comes from so many years of pastoral ministry. As one who has gone through burnout I can see that he needs a break, and I’m so glad that he is courageously asking his church board for a break. However, my friend shared, “The bummer is that our leadership team, which has never had any awkwardness in our meetings ever, is really strained right now and they are having a hard time understanding that I need a break.” That is indeed a bummer.
Here’s the thing. I learned this weird thing about being a pastor a long time ago. When I first started as a pastor, it made me smile when people would introduce me to their friends and say, “This is Andy. He’s my pastor.” At first, when someone described me as “my pastor” I thought it meant I was trusted and appreciated. While they absolutely did mean that, I also began to discover that it meant even more. Over the years I began to realize that quite often what they were saying was; “This is my pastor who I personally selected and who is the provider of the many religious goods and services I consume and enjoy in this city.” It’s sad but we American Christians almost can’t help ourselves from commodifying everything, including people and pastors. So when I was called “my pastor” I learned that it meant I was being viewed as this commodity on call for to serve someone’s need for religious consumption, but I wasn’t necessarily a human being.
As I listened to my friend describe his predicament I thought of two things. First, I’m moved to pray that his church will treat him like a person and work really hard to give him a break for the sake of renewal and not treat him like some commodity that has to keep working without end. Second, I thought about how deeply grateful I am to the people of Faith Community Church, and particularly my friend Rob Patterson, who treated me as a hurting human being rather than a commodity so many years ago. When I admitted to the leaders in my church the same things my friend is admitting to his church, the people in my faith family treated me as a friend, a human, and a follower of Jesus who needed some help. I’m deeply grateful that I serve in a church that loves me and treats me as a human being, and not some commodity. I also hope that’s how you will treat the pastor who shepherds you.