Introducing Preacher of the Month

Recently I asked a prominent female preacher who is another female preacher that I should be listening to. This preacher looked at me and said, "I cannot tell you a single female preacher in a large pulpit." I was struck at her assumption that the only people worth listening to were those with a large pulpit/platform.

After sharing my shock with a trusted friend about this experience, my friend (also clergy) said, "Jason you say that you want to advocate for the voices that are not in large pulpits. What are you specifically doing to advocate for those preachers to help get their voice heard?" She allowed me to steal her idea and put it on this blog - "Preacher of the Month". 

Each preacher is asked to respond to the same set of questions so you can quickly get a sense of who they are and where/how to learn more about their efforts in ministry. And because I do not appreciate it when someone suggests something to me without telling me why they find it compelling, I also will put a note at the bottom of each profile of why I think you should know about that particular preacher.

It is my hope and prayer that you might find a new voice that is compelling for you to guide you in your faith formation.


The tension of doing things to be seen

Near the beginning of the "sermon on the mount", Jesus teaches the following:

"Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

The common understanding of this text is straightforward and literal - don't do acts of piety in order to be seen.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” - Albert Einstein 

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” - Albert Einstein 

The truth be told, there are some things that I do in my life in order to be seen - especially by my sons. I want him to see me be graceful toward others, so sometimes I act graceful even when I do not feel graceful - just so they will see graceful models. There are times when, as a pastor, you have to do things that you may not want to do in order to set a better model for others. I do not get the luxury of going to worship and just sit there and not talk with anyone - even if that is what I feel like doing. I have to be "pastoral" sometimes just to be seen and set a model.

Do you know how many times pastors go home or sit in their offices and scream or cry at the amount of venom they encounter? And at least half of our emotions are because we cannot do what we want to do or what others seem to have no problem doing. Pastors have to act in ways in order to be seen, not for bragging, but as a way to set an alternate model. And before we jump to the conclusion that pastors are hypocrites (which everyone really is), there are strong social pressures on pastors to be a certain way.

For instance, pastors cannot cuss, they have to wear suits (or at least tuck in their shirt), be older/experienced, etc. There is a pressure for a pastor to "look the part" and if they don't then there is an aura of suspicion. 

From internal pressures and external expectations, pastors are asked to do a lot things in order to be seen. And that makes this teaching of Jesus very difficult for church leaders. 


I know you are human, just don't be human around me.

There are many people that I come across who talk about how they wish the pastor would be more intentional at practicing what they preach. Perhaps they had an experience with a pastor and the pastor was a jerk to them. How can someone preach love on Sunday and be a jerk on Monday? 


Isn't that hypocritical? 

People have also expressed to me that they appreciate that I am a "real" person and not a 'holier than thou' sort of preacher. Words like authentic and real and human are thrown around and these words of affirmation make me feel good. They make me feel like I am really connecting with people and thus building trust and, in turn, spreading love. But there is an edge to all this "realness" and "authenticity": the pastor can be "real" and "authentic" but in very controlled ways.

Pastors can rarely call out the BS they see without doing more damage.

Pastors cannot flip people off or tell them just how wrong they were.

Pastors cannot tell someone that they are sort of crazy or imbalanced or out of line or inappropriate or acting a fool. 

Pastors cannot let their hair down, cut loose or in any other way loose control. 

Many of my clergy friends feel that people are okay with clergy being human, just as long as clergy are not human around them. 

Many of my friends feel like people give permission to (and would expect) pastors to express the range of human emotions but just not with church people. 

This may not be just a clergy thing. Do you find yourself in a lot in life where you are expected to be happy, carefree and "put together" all the time? Are we willing to let each other really be human?

The one superpower of pastors

Don't tell anyone I told you this, but pastors have a superpower. When we are ordained there is a whole "pastor's code" we have to sign that demands we not tell anyone about this superpower so few pastors will talk about what I am about to tell you as their superpower. But do not be fooled. Pastors have one superpower and it is our bread and butter. 


Were you expecting something cooler? Water to wine? Walking on water? Ability to find quarters behind people's ears? Sorry, nothing like that. But that does not mean that listening is not one of the most super of superpowers. 


Everyone needs someone to listen to them. Everyone. Even the hermits of our day talk to themselves or to God or to a volleyball (as science shows). 

Which is why when you come into contact with someone who will listen, you are drawn to them. You find something about them that is "warm" or "helpful" or "holy".  The power of listening is a very powerful power. Do not underestimate it. 

Recently I heard this TED Talk by Julian Treasure about listening. At the end he gives an acronym to remind people how to listen. I tweaked his acronym a bit because I think that listening is like exploring, which is why when I listen to others I work like NASA.

Nod, Affirm, Summarize and Ask.

Nodding your head goes a long way. Not like a bobble head. Just nod.

Affirm. Just say 'yes'.

Summarize what you have just heard - "so what I hear you saying is..."

Ask - Ask a question. Even if it is just in the ballpark of the conversation is good enough.