November 24, 2017, 10:48 pm
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A pastor by any other name

People ought to avoid the temptation of being enamored with the title, “Pastor,” and all the real or imagined prestige attached to it. 

Because in reality, a pastor is no better, no holier, no more enlightened, than anyone  who helps others become the kind of people God wants them to be. 

In fact, a pastor can be on the precipice of destruction -- without his even knowing it. He’s just like any other person who might have a godly facade or a photoshopped demeanor  -- but is, in reality, living a double life. 

Jesus had the most scathing, blistering words reserved only for the Pharisees. Isn’t that intriguing? This “holy hypocrite” was at the top of His list of most despicable sinners. God’s holy wrath was unreservedly released on them, more than the displeasure he showed for adulterers or fornicators, or greedy little men like Zacchaeus. 

I guess it’s because the Pharisees pretended to be holy, while the rest of the garden-variety sinners did not. Masquerading as a horribly holy person was, in Jesus’ estimation, tantamount to being a “whited sepulcher” filled with worms and foul, rotting flesh beneath its pristine exterior. Hence, any priest or pastor -- exposed for doing something clandestinely evil -- is one of the worst sinners of all because they hide their sins behind a facade of righteousness. Apparently, Jesus hates fakers and phonies. 

No wonder the world is teeming with people who have no respect for the church. There are just too many hypocrites carrying titles within its hallowed confines. 

Of course, there are pastors who are what they’re supposed to be: humble, kind, compassionate, honest and principled; not concerned at all about money, fame, or the size and reach of their congregation. But these are few and far between. Because the hard truth is, their own ego is the most relentless, shrewdest, most invincible beast that any pastor has to wrestle with. 

I didn’t like it when my husband was going to be called a pastor. Well, I had a low opinion of pastors in the first place! You see, since I was a child, I saw how pastors would  often visit my mom -- always asking for money. 

My mom funded the construction of a wall around this little church in her province. It never got finished, by the way. Yet the pastor kept coming back for more money. So I had this strong childhood aversion to pastors. I was suspicious of them. 

Imagine my horror when, one day, I was told that my husband was going to be called a “pastor”! Goodness. I didn’t want people to think that my husband was going to ask them for money every time he saw them! 

On the contrary, we had already gotten used to spending our personal funds, for decades, to feed and host the 20+ people, their yayas and children, who would go to our house every Friday night for dinner and Bible studies. While there was this loose kind of potluck arrangement, we still prepared food for the 25-30 people who came to our house every week because we couldn’t rely on our guests to bring enough food. 

Most of them came straight from work or were financially challenged, so we understood their situation. Through our businesses, God generously provided extra funds for those weekly dinners, so we didn’t think anything of it. And surprisingly, our house help didn’t complain -- even if they had to work till 1 A.M.   on those nights -- washing all the dinnerware, silverware, pots and pans. We didn’t charge our guests or the church a single centavo. And we never wanted any of our church mates to call my husband a “pastor,” either. It just wasn’t in our plans. 

So I asked my husband, “Can’t we just stick to calling each other by our first names, like when we started? Why do you have to be called a pastor? We’re just ordinary people serving God. Why can’t we just stay that way -- no titles. Especially not ‘pastor’?” 

But things change. The church was growing, though not a huge church by normal standards. We needed an organizational structure to undergird a growing congregation. So what had to be, had to be. 

However, to this day, I’m thankful to God that I never had a fascination for the title “pastor,” even if I know that it’s a much-coveted title these days, in some places, in some churches. 

Just as an aside, but definitely an important one: There are some men who love to be called “pastor” even if officially, they’re not pastors of their church. Personally I think this is wrong. Of course, we Christians know that in a broad sense, when we minister to others, we’re all pastors. But when you allow people to call you “pastor” because they think you’re part of a church’s regular staff, it’s wrong. It’s misrepresenting yourself. 

Anyway, back to our topic -- I think the minute I start relishing the fact that my husband is called a “pastor” is the time I should do a fast heart check -- and maybe take a sabbatical from being a “pastor’s wife.” Something that I’m still not comfortable with. 

Why? Well, because living in a goldfish bowl wasn’t exactly in my bucket list. It’s definitely not the kind of life I envisioned for myself and our children. Thankfully, our kids survived church scrutiny in their teenage years, and are now all married adults. 

The life of a pastor isn’t exactly relaxing or pleasant -- both for the pastor and his family. But there are lazy, spoiled pastors who just coast along, pretend they’re working hard -- and get away with it. Well, because they’re are no sales quotas or measurable targets that must be met!

But thank God, we probably have more committed, diligent, and conscientious pastors than lazy ones. Unfortunately, though, some have suffered strokes or meltdowns from overwork. 

If you’re a hard-working pastor, work can be extremely taxing, with people expecting all sorts of things from you, at all times of the day. 

One time, we had to rush off at midnight to disentangle a feuding couple from each other’s deathly grip. They were already throwing dangerous utensils at each other. I’m thinking now -- goodness gracious, wasn’t that a job for the cops?!! And yet there we were, putting our lives and limbs at risk. Thankfully, that violent marriage was saved. And God deserves all the credit. We were just his designated “midnight referees.” I still marvel at how we survived that evening... 

That night, if my husband had stayed in his cushy executive job in this big real estate firm, we would’ve still been sound asleep, waking up eight hours later to the sweet aroma of coffee, Baguio Country Club longganiza and fried eggs! We would’ve gotten out of bed so refreshed
and excited to face the day! I would’ve been getting my clothes ready for my lunch date with friends (since I didn’t have to work), and our driver would’ve been whistling as he washed our cars in the garage. All would’ve been right in our snug, efficiently-run little world!  

Instead, we went home at 4am, all strung-out, bedraggled, looking like something pitiful that the cat dragged home. The other thing is this -- when we counsel people, we do it for free. Most of the time, we even foot the bill when we counsel people in restaurants or coffee shops. No,

I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that not all pastors ask for money. Why, some of them will even pay for your lunch/dinner, while giving you free mentoring or counseling, or looking for a job for you or your kids! You name it -- a pastor wears many hats. That’s how it’s been for my husband. 

Ergo I’m not at all surprised that in the roster of the most stressful jobs in the world, “pastor” is in the top three! Maybe “drug lord” is number one. Perish the comparison. 

So. At the end of the day, am I whining, miserable, or distraught that my husband has been a “pastor” for the past 100 years? (Ok, just kidding!) No I’m not. I consider it a God-given gift, privilege, and PROTECTION for my husband to be serving in this capacity. Who knows what kind of foolishness some of us in the family might be embroiled in, if my husband didn’t choose to be a pastor? (Haha, my kids might not appreciate that joke!) 

What I’m really saying, again, is this -- please do not be enamored with the title “pastor.” It doesn’t put you a notch above everyone else. 

Serve if you will, as one. But don’t be a Pharisee. Don’t preen about it. Or it can be the death of you.
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