SUPERMAN, the PASTOR, and the CHURCH ETHOS
“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.” ––Christopher Reeve
In order to follow this blog post, a brief article and short video found here (http://www.paultripp.com/articles/posts/do-you-know-your-pastor) will be necessary. In the article and video interview, Paul Tripp raises some salient, biblical, and necessary points concerning the pastor-congregation relationship in the modern evangelical church. I encourage you to pause here watch the video, and read the article then return to this blog post.
Most pastors that I know have to go outside the congregations that they lead in order to develop an ethos for personal accountability, spiritual growth, challenge, confession, and inspiration. The modern church ethos shouldn’t be this way. While I am sure that a number of issues lead to this reality, I would point specifically to two that considerably shape this unhealthy ethos between pastors and congregations.
First, pastors are partly to blame. Unfortunately, we pastors too often think we have an “S” on our chest, which results in an attitude of spiritual self-sufficiency at best and arrogant pride at worse. While pastors are indeed important leaders within a congregation, they are not intended to be the only leaders. And Second, congregations are partly to blame. The modern American evangelical church is largely made up of consumers, who are at church to “get” rather than to “give,” which violates the very core of the definition of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Simply put, consumerism is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus' Kingdom. Furthermore, the modern church ethos seems to be devoid of any sense of “community” as a serious and indeed necessary part of the Gospel. As a result, the average evangelical church member expects the pastor to have an “S” on his chest, jump into a phone booth, change outfits to reveal that “S,” and swoop in to “save the day” concerning whatever issue one might be having. After all, Superman was there to serve the city of Metropolis not the other way around . . . right?
So, where does the modern evangelical church and pastor go from here?
First, I would say that I don’t intend to belittle the importance of the pastoral role in a congregation. Pastors are an important part of the leadership of the church. Pastors do need to give thought and action to the significance of their role in challenging and inspiring the church they serve. Second, I would argue that transparency and leadership as pastoral qualities are not mutually exclusive, though many think they are. An authentic transparency of weaknesses as well as inspiring leadership can exist in the same person. We pastors may simply need to recognize that we are not the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to the church. We are less like Superman and more like Clark Kent; an honest, sincere, passionate, intelligent, loyal, quite strength of a guy who is simultaneously weak, at times fearful, clumsy, and wears goofy glasses. Clark Kent already has within him what is needed to lead, challenge, and inspire; he doesn't need the suit. And finally, church members need to remember the King and the nature of the Kingdom that they claim to follow. Which is to say, they need to stop building an ethos of Christian consumerism and start building an ethos of Christian service. The result may be that they apply Tripp’s questions as necessary and valid questions for themselves as much as for their pastors. Yes, Superman was to serve the city of Metropolis, but so also the city of Metropolis should serve Clark Kent.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ––2 Corinthians 12:9