by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
We heard this quote often at our former church:
“Pay now, play later. Play now, pay later.”
One of the most impressive things we noticed when we first began attending our former church was that the senior pastor appeared to be very “servant hearted.” Unlike the majority of churches that have a reserved spot for the pastor right next to the building, he would park at the far end of the parking lot so that others could park closer. After services on Sunday, he would return all of his glasses (he usually had three or four glasses of water collected under his chair) to the kitchen and he would go into the restrooms and collect the trash. At wedding receptions you would find him in the kitchen washing dishes.
As the years passed, we began to notice that the pastor was parking closer to the building and you never saw him collecting trash any more. In all of the years that my husband and sons and I worked in the cafe and developed a huge portion of the landscape, we never saw the senior pastor, or any of the staff, for that matter, so much as reach down and pull a weed.
My husband and sons were involved in several of the church’s organized efforts to help people – cleaning gutters, painting, cleaning up neighborhoods. Never once did the senior pastor show up.
And of course, if you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know that even in times of crisis, neither he nor any of the staff made an appearance – not at the hospital when my husband injured his hand in a table saw and had emergency surgery, not when we had deaths in the family.
Yet, the general consensus in the church is that he is a wonderful, servant-hearted pastor. Lately, I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out what he did that was so servant hearted those last ten years or so that we were there. Parking at the far end of the lot? Washing a few dishes?
By his own admission, he never even thought of a sermon on his own. His sermons came from books and pastoral resources. Those last couple of years, my husband and I would google his topics and find the books and resources he was using. It wasn’t until just before we left that he made an admission to the congregation that he didn’t have an original sermon in his entire 20-plus tenure there.
So, what makes him servant-hearted? Knowing who to wine and dine for the money he needed to build a mega church? Knowing who to stroke with his attention?
He didn’t do pre-marital counseling – that was farmed out to a local counselor. But I know of one woman who boasted that he was traveling hours away to provide pre-marital counseling to her daughter and the daughter’s fiance. They were wealthy business owners and high society people in the community. So, apparently, it all depends on who you are (as I have said before).
In one of my famous emails to him (okay, probably more than one), I even pointed out to him that it appeared that he didn’t want to help me with the spiritual abuse that his proxies staff (I hadn’t figured out they were proxies yet) had meted out because I was not pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, high enough on the food chain, etc. But his behavior testified over and over again that this was certainly the case.
So, again, I ask: “What makes him servant-hearted?”
Being servant-hearted to some and not others is not servant-hearted. It’s politics.
It’s not doing it “to the least of these” for sure.
He started out putting on a good show with the dish washing and parking and trash emptying. Not really all that much, but enough and where everyone could see it. He “paid” in those early years so that he could one day “play.”Very shrewd.
More about Ellen: