I am having a fire sale on craigslist and one email I received attempted to manipulate the price by stating he was a campus pastor. Basically he was implying that I should feel sorry for the vocation he selected and give him a break. After all ministers don’t have money, right?
Well I called him on it. And to be honest, I have tried to play this card myself a few times. If you are in ministry chances are so have you.
I believe years ago it was even listed on license plates and clergy were given special treatment. Times have changed and even though many of the old school leaders want to bring the respect and protocol back, it is not going to happen. Actually I somewhat agree it should come back yet talking down to people will never bring respect back. I have seen firsthand a pastor alienate people by chastising them for not having military like protocol when addressing him. Some real truth for you. People don’t respect ministers and chastising them won’t bring that respect back. It just separates you more. We are in a new era and the religious and rigid views of yesteryear are long gone. Right or wrong they are gone forever!
This is where we are today. A few years back I was in a coffee house in Hollywood with a pastor friend of mine. A guy asked him what he did for a living. My friend gladly said he is a pastor thinking this is going to open a door. The guy then responded “so you like little boys?”
It is not the peoples fault. It is ours. We created this. The office of clergy, or reverend, or pastor, or bishop, or whatever title you want to give yourself, is no longer respected. And can you blame people?
I am not referring to the major highly publicized immoral failures. I am talking about how as Christians we are known to be cheap. Just ask any wait staff and they’ll tell you we’re horrible tippers. Plus, we try and manipulate people in the hopes of getting a reduced rate on a sale. There is more, you fill in the blank. We are jerks, liars, cheats, manipulators, and freaks!
10 years ago I was riding in the passenger seat of a brand new SUV crawling down Sunset Blvd. The driver was the son of one of the most famous pastors of our time. It was a nice day and we had the windows down just moving slowly in “parking lot” LA traffic. All of a sudden a LAPD motorcycle officer was parked on the side of the road only a few feet from my door. We were fast approaching and neither of us had our seat belts on. The cop was looking right at us so it would have been too obvious to quickly buckle up, so I simply opted to smile and say “hello officer”. “Hello”, he returned and followed with “pullover”, which we did. Now at the time I really was a poor minister. My income was $25 a week. The driver, son of a very famous high profile celebrity pastor, tried to talk his way out of the ticket by telling the officer how we feed the homeless and do the work of the Lord. That we don’t have much money because ministers that follow Jesus are poor. With registration in hand the officer asked if this was a new SUV. The driver said yes. The officer handed him the ticket and walked away. Of course, I honestly did not have the money for a $200 ticket and I had to go to court to request community service. If you have never enjoyed the LA court system or community services it is a treat.
I am guilty, too! Right now I am calling around for apartments. I sometimes “slip” and say “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I have a good job and I work for a church”. As soon as those words come out of my mouth I backtrack. First I say that I am not religious. There are still people standing on the street corners with bullhorns yelling at people. You wouldn’t want that person in your building would ya? Then I usually say something like “ya I know working for a church does not guarantee I will be honest – but I really am”. Each and every time I try and play the juice card of my profession I regret it. And yes you can take that both ways. I regret saying it, and I regret what I do, because people don’t think the church is all that anymore.
Here is the deal and please forgive my candor. We have to change! The only way this will ever change is if we start living right and doing right – always! Face it; the church has a bad rep! We have a huge PR issue and it is because we have a big character issue.
I also strongly recommend if you are in church leadership you go outside of the circle of people you know and ask those in the community about your church. What you hear may shock you. It is normal to always be around the same people and usually most of those people are going to tell us what we want to hear. You need to hear the truth. Actually, being outside looking in has been a great experience for me. While I was employed at my last church I had a completely unrealistic understanding of what the community really thought about us. I now know how important it is to seek the truth and that means being open and vulnerable, which is not easy. The real truth usually hurts!
I don’t have the answers but here is a thought. I have witnessed some horrible, just horrible character shortcomings in Christians and the church. Real change comes from within. Please, do what is right even when others don’t – always. Please, put others before your own wants and needs – always. Please be completely honest – always, and please stop manipulating people. Please, stop being secretive . If it is not a surprise birthday party and you are being covert it is probably not of God. Be real with people – always! Please, have healthy, open and honest communication with everyone – always.
It won’t happen overnight, yet if we all try to be better people and treat everyone with respect, grace and love; we may be able to change public opinion.
Btw, the campus pastor did come and buy what I had for sale. I didn’t reduce the price but I gave him another $100 worth of stuff for free.