In general, I have a difficult time trusting people. Folks may say this is an odd character trait for a pastor, but I’d contend that, on the whole, this has been a boon for me. I do make quick acquaintances, and treat folks with respect, but friendship requires the trust I find so difficult to extend. Most of my friendships form from moments of quick connection, followed by a period of just seeing if our paths cross in the future 1. If our paths continue to interact in positive ways trust, and therefor friendship, grows with it. In pastoral work, the practical outworking of my trust issues is that I have boundaries.
So when someone comes to visit church and proclaims they want to be involved, I’ll sometimes appear to be uninterested 2 because I’m not the type of pastor who runs around plugging people into ministries hoping they’ll stick. Instead, I’ll point out opportunities or encourage people to keep pondering. The way my mind works, I figure if they are being called by Jesus to be a closer part of Central’s family then nudges will be enough to help them find their niche. And the more people find their niches the more they reveal about themselves–whether they’re present for the well-being of the community, or there to pursue their own agenda and meet their own needs. Folks who are there for community will inevitably see deeper into my heart, because what makes their heart sing is what makes my own heart sing 3. Folks who are present to pursue an agenda typically drop out of the circles I lead, because I tend to not encourage their pathology–neither by encouraging it nor challenging it 4. And when a person with whom I’ve entrusted my inner heart abuses or betrays that trust, the wound is deep. Such folks may remain acquaintances, but it will be a long time before I can once more refer to them as a friend.
This willingness for “slow burn” relationships to form is one reason I’ll never be a “successful” pastor. Things like membership, assimilation 5, and retention aren’t important to me. I’m not a pastor to “grow a church,” I’m a pastor to see people grow in Christ–and that means, to me, letting relationships flower over time. It’s a terrible institutional model in the short-term. In the long-term, however, I think it yields folks with a much more healthy appreciation for the church, their faith, and what it means to live it out in the world.
On the other hand, I am a guarded person by nature. I could just be deluding myself into thinking the world is mad and I’m profound. In reality, it’s likely a mix of the two. We’re all wounded, after all.
- Sometimes this can be years. Other times a few months. I’m just not inclined to rush a friendship, and I’m fine if people remain acquaintances. ↩
- This is the downside of my affect, which I’ve tried to work on for decades. ↩
- And this is deeper than theological agreement. There are a ton of folks with whom I agree in much of theology, but personally cannot trust with my heart. There are people with whom I may have profound differences, but would seek them out in a heartbeat to bear my soul. ↩
- Both, I have found, are equally desired outcomes by agendaistas. ↩
- Resistance is Futile. Seriously, can we please drop this word? ↩