Real talk time. I told myself, when I started this blog, that I had to be honest and frank when I wrote. Holding back was counter-productive and if I want this to help someone else – if I want someone to feel or learn something – then I need to give them everything they need, not just the things that I am comfortable sharing.
No specifics – not worth it or even helpful – but I have found myself in a situation where I no long feel like I am friends with a bunch of people I have been friends with for a couple of years. We are still friendly acquaintance, we still work together, we still laugh, but some childish drama placed a wedge between us. I am kind of alone out here – I’m not a member of the Presbytery I’m serving because I’m not really officially serving and the ordination process is what it is – and I haven’t found a plethora of friends. Support, clergy discussions, direction, that all I have, but I found having a group of friends where being a pastor wasn’t defining of our friendship relaxing and uplifting, and I feel like I lost that.
I wasn’t sure how to process what I was thinking about, but this idea popped into my head: I should write out what it means to be a friend to a pastor. I’ve seen it before, and my version will probably be inadequate, but this is where I’m at.
So, here’s how to be a friend to a pastor:
0. You aren’t friends with your pastor.
This isn’t relevant to my situation direction, but tangentially it leads to difficulty making friends. And I know it sounds harsh, but hear me out.
Your pastor is tasked with leading the spiritual lives of their congregation. That includes you. Your pastor is tasked with being a spiritual exemplar to the congregation. That includes you. Your pastor is tasked with not distracting from the Word of God, be that intentionally and sinfully or unintentionally with adiaphora, at all times. That includes when they are spending time with you.
All that aside, though, your pastor is also tasked with providing emotional care and support to the congregation. This isn’t a two-way street. You don’t provide the emotional care for your pastor that they provide for you. That’s the point of being the pastor, to provide care professionally.
Friendships go both ways; pastoral relationships that are effective don’t.
1. If you are friends with a pastor, they aren’t judging you.
Stop trying to be perfect around your friend because they are a pastor. Treat them like a friend. They don’t want to be your pastor; they want to be your friend. They are not looking for your sins to write down in their register to talk to God about. They simply need a give-and-take relationship.
And they chose to be your friend. If you drink beer, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend. If you smoke pot, that might have influenced their decision to be your friend. If you are a thrice-divorced degenerate, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend. Given all of these things, they want to be your friend.
Friends don’t judge friends, which leads right into…
2. If you are friends with a pastor, they don’t want to judge you.
I don’t spend my day telling myself to not judge. I don’t struggle with wanting to see you for all your faults and making mental judgements of your soul. I’ve never once saw someone sinning and thought, “My, it would feel good to mentally condemn that person to Hell, but the Bible tells me not to!”
I don’t want to judge you. I know that we are all sinful, and I’ve got plenty of sins on my own heart that deserve me being condemned. Only self-righteous jerks take pleasure in judging and building themselves up by tearing others down; that’s just as true in the Christian world as it is in the secular.
3. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that being pastor is their job.
Doctors, nurses, computer techs, mechanics, chefs, beauticians, and almost any other job that serves people understand this. No, we don’t have a time clock that we punch, and that emergency phone call may force us to run out of the building like it’s on fire, but when I’m around you, I’m not working. I’m not looking for ways to proselytize to you, I’m not going to try to convert you, I’m not going to pull out a Bible in the middle of a beer and pull the whole “Relevant and Relatable Pastor” spiel.
I want to drink beer and talk about how horrible the Vikings game was and commiserate about how much I hate Wings even though I love the Beatles and that the Rolling Stones are just awful in my mind. I don’t want to pastor to you any more than you want to do your job for me while we drink beer. I just want to be your friend.
4. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that they are always faithful.
I’ve been friends with a multitude of atheists in my life, and some of them have been my best friends. I had at least one atheist stand up for me at my wedding. Maybe I just don’t make friends easily enough, but some of the best people I have met don’t believe in God.
But I don’t pretend to have a weak faith when I am around them for their sake.* My wedding revolved around God, not around us. I pray frequently. I bow my head when we film games at the Catholic high school. I have a relationship with God no matter where I am.This has been a struggle with previous friendships. I don’t want to try to convert you – at least not while I’m relaxing on your couch or on a bar stool – but I will continue to be a Christian while I relax. I make choices for myself as a Christian, and I will do or not do things because of that, but I’m not judging you because of my choices and I’m not doing these things as an example of what I think you should do. I’m doing them because of my relationship with God, not my relationship with you.
5. If you are friends with a pastor, please relax around them.
I need to relax. I’m on call always, my sermon is never out of my mind, there is always something that I could be doing, the work is never done. I need to relax.
I won’t relax if you are constantly tense around me. I need a friend, I need a two-way relationship, I need a beer buddy, and you being nervous to relax around me is not going to help me with any of those things.
Remember everything above, and then chill out.
Hopefully this isn’t just rambling. Hopefully tomorrow when I read this again, I don’t shriek in horror at what I put out there. Hopefully reconciliation is possible.
* I did that once with a girl I was dating. Failed miserably.