Around 25 years ago I was asked to do pulpit supply just one Sunday in SW OK. We drove out to the church, arriving just before Sunday School. I said I’d just sit in the empty nursery at the back of the sanctuary and collect my thoughts for the message rather than sit in the sanctuary for the adult class.
However, I could hear what was being said in the class. The teacher was talking about versions of the Bible and how he could never be a part of a church that used anything but a KJV. Everyone seemed to be in agreement. There I sat with my NIV in my lap preparing to preach the only sermon I would ever preach there.
I didn’t want to stir anything up, so I slipped down to the church basement where the only other class, the teens, were meeting. I looked in several empty rooms, sure that there’d be an old KJV laying around somewhere. No luck.
Back upstairs, I could see that there was a pastor’s study off the platform and I guessed that there would be a Bible there.
The adult class ran just a bit long and, since everyone was already in the sanctuary by then, they wanted to get right to the service. I said I’d like to step into the pastor’s study for just a second. Some folks gave me a strange look, wondering what I needed to do that for after having been praying in the nursery for all of Sunday School.
In the study, there were several nearly empty bookshelves, but I didn’t see a Bible. Then, as they were starting the music for the service, I spotted a stack of a few rag-tag Bibles. I grabbed the one that looked the most presentable and hurried to my assigned spot on the platform.
I opened the Bible.
It was written in Chinese.
(During the offering I retrieved one of the more ragged looking Bibles – it was KJV.)
In my 35+ years of ministry I’ve had many good friends who weren’t clergy. In fact, while I’ve had lots of good friends who are pastors, most of my best friends (golfing, fishing buddies) have been laymen. One thing that has helped that relationship is that they thought of me as a friend and not as a pastor. That isn’t to say we never interacted at that level, but there was a sense of mutuality about it.
However, I’ve known some good men with whom I couldn’t have that level of friendship because they could never forget that I was a pastor. We could be right in the middle of laughing about something and they’d say, “I can’t believe a pastor would think that’s funny.” When I hear something like that I reevaluate my relationship with that person. They aren’t ready to be a real “friend” to the pastor. I adjust things so I can treat them as a person in need of a pastor. I guess you’d say I stop being “one of the guys” in a group of Christian friends and move back to the pastor position so I can minister to them the best I am able.
In fact, I think wanting to “be friends” with “the pastor” is almost self defeating. If someone wants to be friends with me, a person with whom they have something in common (like fishing for bass or hiking) that’s one thing. If they want to be friends with “the pastor” well, that carries with it, at least in my way of thinking, considerable baggage. After all, I don’t think to myself, “I’d like to be friends with ‘the doctor’ or with ‘the policeman.'” Rather, I view them as people and not vocations.
This from the Reflecting God: Devotions for Holy Living devotional for Easter:
If you have a hallelujah anywhere in the depths of your being, it must be looking for an exit sign right now. –W.E. McCumber
The occupied cross is the symbol of God’s love for us.
The empty cross is our symbol of resurrection and hope.
The carried cross is the mark of our continued sacrifice and commitment to Jesus.
Luke 14:27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.