Pastors, imagine if we could preach our sermons through metal screens, scamper backstage, collect a paycheque, bolt out the door and never look anyone in the eye. How awesome would that be! We could say whatever we wanted with no accountability for our words, poke holes in people’s lives but never show them our own gaping wounds, and leave them to muddle about in any ambiguities we left behind with no opportunity for clarity. How awesome would that be!
For those interested in my imaginings, they are actually no longer fictitious. From full-time, credentialed bloggers that say what they want but have minimal face-time with people (pardon the pun), to celebrity pastors who preach and then hide from their people, to professors that wax eloquent on how to run a church but fled from steepled structures years ago, to regular old Christians that use social media to “teach”, rant and rabble-rouse – there are plenty of venues to be bold and brash but simultaneously be insulated from people and all the accountability that comes with it. Now that I think about it, this isn’t really awesome at all.
Most assuredly, I do understand the allure of standing at a distance, and I also understand that-pastorally speaking-I cannot allow everyone under my care unfettered access to me at all times and in any way they choose. I am flesh and blood, and I need down time, alone time and rest time or I’ll go to an early grave. Sometimes boundaries need to be erected for the boundaryless and reinforced for those that like to push on them. But there is something about living life both in front of and down in the sheepfold that reminds me of my humanity and my collective solidarity as one of the Great Shepherd’s sheep and serves to sharpen me (Prov. 27:17). My church doesn’t need an armchair theologian but rather one that walks before them and then turns to walk among them both for his benefit and theirs. That’s what the Over-shepherd does, so that’s what under-shepherds should do too.