These Boots are Made for Preaching

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Revelation 21:9

Ellsworth looked down at my feet after hearing me preach for the first time and said, “A man who isn’t afraid to wear cowboy boots in the pulpit is a man I can trust.” I glanced at my feet and then to his. His boots were black. He was a deacon in my first pastorate. He taught me about being a pastor and it had nothing to do with footwear.

I remember sitting with him and drinking coffee in silence. I counted the tick of the clock on the wall, thirty metrical ticks between sentences. Ellsworth slurped his Folgers and stared out the window. We never talked much, but this is where I learned the most important lesson in being a pastor. He never complimented a sermon, he never challenged my theology, he never asked me for council and he never encouraged me. The closest he ever came was after church one Sunday he said, “Preacher, God rarely gets in a hurry.”

After three and a half years I moved to a different state and changed shoes.

Aside from the obvious list that you might learn in seminary like: holding confidences, faithful to the creeds, be prepared to preach, stay away from the finances, don’t exaggerate too much in sermons, keep your lust at a disguisable level—there is another way to measure trust. It is deeper. It goes unseen but not unknown.

Congregants can smell a restless pastor like polar bears smell seal pups. They may not be able to articulate the feeling they get from the aroma of a pastor on the move, but they know not to put their full weight on him. When he aches for a larger platform, a bigger name, a more dynamic city, a different climate, or even a ‘do-over’ he fails in his most holy sacrament: being present.

Something happens between the soul of a congregation and the soul of a pastor that is not unlike the connection between a husband and wife at the most intimate level. A husband who is easily distracted by a pretty girl from being present with his wife is a husband not worthy of trust, whether that girl is physically present or tucked away under the mattress in his mind.

My wife, Lynette, comes alive when I serve her. And she can tell when I am serving her to get something from her and when I serve her because I adore her. What’s more, when I power up on her she may submit, but a little of her soul dies inside and she is less human. Her soul diminishes.

I imagine a frown crease the brow of my Lord when he sees how I treat my bride, and sadly, how I treat his.

When a pastor rides his church to accomplish his goals under the guise of advancing the Kingdom, something of the bride of Christ shrinks and shrivels even while she is growing as an organization. She is becoming less like Jesus and more like the pastor. But when the pastor has found his place in the belovedness of the divine Groom, the bride responds by walking through her community with the soft sound of sandaled feet.

And that is the best footwear—ever.

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness with my friends and sons.
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7 Responses to These Boots are Made for Preaching

  1. jp says:

    can you write about congregations who do not make the connection or is it all the fault of the pastor?

    • Joe Chambers says:

      I’m not exactly sure what your question means. I am a pastor. I feel most comfortable speaking to my tribe. I realize the congregation is filled with sinners…but I am a pastor and a huge sinner. So, I figure I am on safer ground speaking the people like me.

      • jp says:

        Thank you for your reply! I love your article.
        You write about the connection between congregation and pastor as a marriage and that the congregation can “smell” if a pastor is disconnected. But what if, the congregation doesn’t make the connection with a pastor, even if the pastor has no plans to leave? Have you heard of that ever happening? Where does the fault lie-with the pastor?
        Hope that makes more sense!

      • jp says:

        Thank you for your reply! I love your article.
        You write about the connection between congregation and pastor as a marriage and that the congregation can “smell” if a pastor is disconnected. But what if, the congregation doesn’t make the connection with a pastor, even if the pastor has no plans to leave? Have you heard of that ever happening? Where does the fault lie-with the pastor?
        Hope that makes more sense! I too am a sinner and pastor

      • jp says:

        If you would be so kind, would you please email me directly. Thank you!

  2. Winn Collier says:

    I like you and how you see the world. I also like your boot-wearing, Folgers drinking deacon.

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