Brent Thomas recently reflected on his journey from a tie-wearing, seminary student and youth pastor in Kentucky to an untucked, jean-wearing church-planter in Arizona. I appreciated his comments, especially these words below.
It has taken me almost seven years in ministry to finally be comfortable with the fact that I don’t necessarily fit the mold of what many people think a pastor should be like. I almost always wear argyle socks, even with shorts. I like what many people consider to be weird music. I ask questions and actually want answers when I preach. And I’m most comfortable untucked (not to mention that I live in a very casual city, so if I truly desire to me missional, I’m not going to alienate people by preaching in a suit and tie. And, yes, it would alienate people). Yes, this last piece has now become a stereotype, but I’m OK with that because I can honestly say that I don’t do it to be like anyone else. I do it to be like myself.
...let’s acknowledge that pastors face pressure to conform to standards possibly more than any other vocation. We are held to the standard of what you remember your childhood church experience to be like (good or bad), we are compared to whoever filled the pulpit before us, we are judged by your cultural baggage and we’re continually told that we need to be more “relevant” (whatever that actually means).
All the while, it is nearly impossible for pastors to even strive to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) without first being able to be comfortable with who God has made them. This doesn’t mean embracing sin, saying “well, that’s just the way God made me,” but it does mean being confident that God has made us each unique individuals with particular and sometimes peculiar twists and quirks. We need to encourage pastors to be “sanctified versions of themselves” rather than “watered-down” versions of who we want them to be. Only then can they minister with the Gospel-confidence that we see in our favorite preachers.