I am writing two blogs at the same time about how a pastor should treat their church and how the church might treat her pastor. You read the other one by clicking here.
…show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life… 1 Peter 3:8
What does it mean to honor someone? How do I honor you?
In ancient writings, something of honor was something of substance (literally, heavy), valuable, costly, even priceless. Homer said, “The greater the cost of the gift, the more the honor…”
Not only does it signify something or someone who is a priceless treasure, but it is also used for someone who occupies a highly respected position in our lives, someone high on our priority list.
Twenty-odd years ago, I was reading a book about relationships and it casually mentioned that if you want to know if your wife feels loved by you that you should ask her and if she feels safe or is upset enough to tell you the truth she will tell you. It went on to say that it doesn’t matter how good a job you think you are doing in demonstrating love …it only matters how she feels.
So, I closed the book and looked across the way towards my wife of 16 years confident as a pastor and a marriage counselor that if anyone in the wide world felt love be someone it would be Lynette Jean Chambers, I asked “Nette, do you feel loved by me and if so in what ways?”
With no hesitation she put down a crosstitch needle and pattern she was working on, looked me in the eye like someone had just thrown a slow pitch over the plate. Like she had been waiting for 10 years for me to ask that question…she unflinchingly said…”NO!” and then went back to her stupid crosstich.
“What?” I stammered? “Are you serious?”
She said, “It is true. There are any number of people that are loved more by you than me.”
I was gut-punched. My fantasy bubble of being a good lover had gone down like the Hindenburg. And it started me on a long journey to change the way I treated my wife, the bride of my youth. I would not fear asking that question today.
Understanding that the most important human covenant relationship I have is with the bride of my youth, may I draw an analogy from this relationship as it relates to ministry? The longer I serve as a pastor the more I see resemblances between the relationship between a pastor and the church to be similar to the relationship between a husband and a wife.
They both have chosen one another in a loving and hopeful relationship. They both dream of a bright future together. I might imagine fruit of their covenant relationship populating another daughter church or individuals passing through the waters of baptism.
I wonder if, over time, a church can feel unloved by her pastor. I wonder if she can feel that other interests are more important to him than she is. I wonder if she can feel used or taken advantage of. I wonder if she can begin to believe that she exists to further the pastor’ career but not actually share in a life-giving and vital relationship in the community in which they both live.
If I were to ask my church if she felt loved by me, her pastor, what she might say? I wonder if she feels safe. I wonder if she feels valued. I wonder if she feels protected. I wonder if she feels respected.
- How do I treat my church on an average day?
- Am I using her to try to satisfy some spiritual pathology?
- Do I honor and respect the bride of Christ?
- How do I talk about her to other pastors?
- Do I talk down to her?
- Do I manipulate her?
- Do I power up on her?
- Do I hide from her?
- Does she know that after my family she is my “top priority”?
- Do I communicate this with both words and actions?
If you are a pastor, would you fear asking your church those questions? If so, you can change that. It won’t be easy or quick…but it is doable.
I realize that I am living in an age where pastors sell their souls for a bowl of success-porridge, and by doing so they sacrifice their families on the altar of that insecurity. But that is a perversion of God’s intent. If I love Jesus well, if I am at rest in my identity as the beloved of God, my wife will feel treasured and honored in proportion to my sense of that belovedness.
And so will Jesus’ wife.