Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pastor Paradigm

One of the things I think I’m saying is the church has gone haywire. Not only recently. Not only in the last few years. The last few decades. The last few centuries.

What I think I’m discovering is the paradigm is wrong. The concept of the pastor. The priest. The minister. The singular head of a congregation. The singular head of a church.

The idea that here’s a person who knows it all for us. Who intermediates between God and us. Who is the Biblical authority for us. Who is the Holy Spirit authority for us. Who is the Christian reasoning and feeling and experiencing authority for us.

The idea that here’s the person God invests with his presence uniquely. Or at least unusually.

The notion that here is Jesus’s stand-in. His surrogate. Listen to him, because he speaks for God. His life is sanctified by God. His being is particularly infused by God. And therefore we should listen in particular to him. More closely to him than we would to most others. More closely to him than we would to ourselves. To God in ourselves.

Because he has God’s authority among us. He or she has God’s presence hovering over him. And in him. And all through him. In a way and to an extent that we run-of-the-mill Christians. We mere mystic believer priests who sit in the back of the church and chew gum. We unwashed, poor, working class, middle class sinner Christians. Do not.

You can see it. It’s everywhere if you know what you’re looking for. How for example the priest or minister or pastor expects and the congregation expects him or her to preach for twenty or thirty or forty minutes about what we should do with our lives. Or about what the Bible means. Or about the pastor’s own faith journey. As if we were all waiting out here for a revelation. For the pastor to enlighten us about God.

As if we all were putting our lives on pause to have them be informed and changed and refitted and refashioned and rehabilitated by the pastor in his or her weekly address to us.

I don’t know about you, but this seems like a lot of hogwash. I mean. Who did Jesus say was first in heaven? In the Kingdom? The priests? The ministers? The clergy? The pastors?

Who should we look to for guidance after Jesus? Did Jesus say to look for the priests, pastors, ministers? The clergy? Did he say I will send Peter to you, and he will be your guide, philosopher, and friend? Or some surrogate of Peter’s?

I don’t think I find that anywhere. I find him saying that he’s sending the Counselor. The Holy Spirit. And that we should seek him out. Should look to him for guidance. Should look to him for God’s authority. God’s presence.

So what’s up with these pastors? What’s up with this paradigm that all of us sinner mystic believer priests and the pastor-minister-clergy-priests have gotten ourselves locked into?

The damage is everywhere. Speak to a few fellow Christians in the back of the church. Real damage there from pastors. Speak to a few pastors. Real damage there from Christians in the back of the church. In the sense that they believe what we believe about them. They believe that they are special. They are chosen. They are annointed. They are invested.

Can you imagine what that does to a person? When everyone around you constantly reinforces this ridiculous idea? This unBiblical idea? This grandiose idea? And can you imagine trying to live up to this impossible idea? Can you imagine the self-torture that goes on? Or alternatively the arrogance?

But most of all, I’m concerned with us. We mere Christians. We merely sinful struggling mystic believer priests. Because there are so many of us. Because in terms of a class of damaged Christians, we sheep outnumber the priests and pastors and ministers and other religious types about 100 or 200 to 1.

To the extent we buy into this privileged pastor nonsense, we do not look for God ourselves. We do not believe the Holy Spirit has invested us uniquely with God’s presence, with God’s Word, with God’s love, with God’s own delegated authority.

We do not seek God with all our heart and mind and strength. We let Mikey do it. We delegate the knowledge of God, the understanding of God, the seeking of God, the things of God. To someone else. To the pastor clergy minister priest.

To the person in charge. See him or her up front? To the person leading the whole business. The person calling the shots and standing by design next to the Holy of Holies. Next to God himself.

And we. We the unwashed. Stand or sit or kneel. At a great distance from that. From God. Down here in the sputum and blood and mucous and dirt and and excrement and vileness of ordinary life. The quotidian banality and boredom of regular life. The profane abandonment of unGodly life.

And this is wrong. This way of living and thinking and feeling and being with God is wrong. Life in God is the full tilt boogie life. We all stand in the Holy of Holies. Co-located and co-habitant with God.

And don’t you let your pastor or your friend or Lucifer or any unholy voice inside you say different.

Jesus has given us life in him. Not life in a pastor. Not life according to some priest’s understanding. Life in Jesus Christ. Life according to him. Life authored by him. Life in full only with and in and through him.

First God, for he is our root. Then Jesus, for he is our vine. He connects all of us to God. Individually and corporately. And all of us to one another.

And then us. All of us. For we are the branches. All of us. Equally. The people of God.

All of one being, each with its different nature. All partaking of God's life. All alive in God's grace and love--his Holy Spirit--which he pumps like nutrients and the water of life itself into us each moment.

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