Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Of Passive Men and Flailing Pastors

It was a good day for a long drive with the windows down. Plenty of sunshine and blue sky. Lots of time to think to be grateful. And think.

My trip took me to a prison. I spent a few hours with a friend. He's a good guy and I always learn something from him. Today we were talking about our fathers. I was also trying to recruit him to become a pastor.

In sharing our stories with each other, we got to talking about the different ways that men can be passive. How passivity in a man can become addictive, a form of bondage, and how a wife's response is often counter-productive. We ruminated on the ways that this passivity can get passed on to the next generation. It's a form of giving up, of disconnecting, of disengaging. It's part laziness, part selfishness, part apathy, part despair. It's also toxic.

We also got to talking about the ways pastors can flail in their ministry. There are pastors who are very religious, but disconnected from reality. There are pastors who are above others. There are pastors who are popular but then disappoint. There seems to be an expectation of pastors to never fail. But there is also an expectation for pastors to be useless. The common experience seems to be that pastors will let you down sooner or later; they are ultimately unreliable, just like everyone else.

For the boys and men in our church who have passive fathers and flailing pastors, what is their fate?

And what is the antidote?

My friend in prison is honest with me about his life, his experiences, his assessments of people. He can see through people. He knows what failure is. And recovering. Together we discussed some options for dealing with a past that included passive men and flailing pastors. It involved authentic introspection, identifying the ways that we were passive, the ways we flail.

How do you impart courage into a passive man? What's the antidote for cowardice, the fear to engage and love and make decisions? There is help, it doesn't have to be a mystery. It's not about ignorance, it's about desire.

What to do with the flailing pastors of your past? Forgive them? Be wary of them? Learn from them? Pity them? Mock them? Reconnect with them? When a pastor flails, it often results in others falling away from the church, their faith, even God. The pressure to not flail can be oppressive. And yet flailing pastors will always be part of the church experience, of our culture. Why the scorn for flailing pastors?

I know a lot of passive men. I could be one of them. I know pastors who are flailing. I could be one of them. I have been passive, and it was toxic. I have flailed, and it has hurt others. What do I do with that part of me? What do I do when I see that in others? When those men and pastors are part of my life?

Initiative. Decisions. Confidence. Choices. Engage. Listen. Learn. Sacrifice. Desire. Lift. Care. These have been my attempts to erode my passivity, to make amends for my flailings.

Hmmm...well, yes... there is plenty on which to ponder.


katelyn said...

I do not believe that a pastor can fail. People all away from their faith because they change or because they are confused about their religion. Yes, a pastor is there to help get a life on the right track and help clear up confusion and misunderstandings when it comes to religion. A pastor is like a life teacher. They teach life lessons, religion, and they are there when you need someone to talk things through with. But how can a pastor help someone who is unwilling to admit when they need help understanding things? They can't. For a pastor to "fail" it is really at no fault of their own. Yes they do make mistakes; everyone does, but we call this human error. Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes, but we all deserve a second chance. So I would say that if a pastor did "fail" it does not make them a bad person, so why not reconnect and give them a second chance; people change. :)

El Stevo said...

Great reflection Tim. One pastor acquaintance of mine, successful by most standards, flailed by finishing his sermon on a saturday night, taking a gun and blowing his brains out, leaving widow and two kids. The ultimate flail. Only God knows the fight he was fighting, and whether he did well or not. Others fight the good fight, and retire to hobbies. Still others never cease the striving to be God's own, and carry on their ministry and the
call to death.