When you tell someone that you are a pastor–or that you are going to be a pastor–the person usually responds in one of two ways:
1. By telling you all her problems.
2. By frantically replaying the conversation in her head to see what curse words or incriminating details she let slip.
(Or, if the someone is a cute boy who has been flirting with you at work, he will immediately cease and desist, then act weird when you and your new boyfriend see him at symphony concerts, not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.)
There’s just something about Identified Religious Leaders (as we say in the seminary) that makes people a little uncomfortable. When Mike and I were planning our wedding, the photographers and DJs and florists we met always asked us how we met (at church) and what we did (go to school to be a professor and a pastor). Then, they responded like this:
1. “My grandma’s a Lutheran. My girlfriend and I got married on a Wednesday because she was pregnant–whoops!–and we were in a hurry.”
2. “Oh . . . well, we believe in God, but we don’t go to church much. And sometimes we swear.”
(Or, charmingly: “Oh, I’m Lutheran, too! I was on the call committee that chose our new pastor! Do you know her?” And I do. And she is great.)
Guess what? We hired the non-churchgoing, swearing photographers, and the pregnant-girlfriend-having DJ, and the Lutheran florist. Because we were actually interested in their skills as photographers and DJs and florists, not the state of their souls or the cleanliness of their language.
(Pro Tip: They were all awesome, and if I remembered their names I would recommend them to all you Milwaukee brides and grooms.)
So, when the conversation at a recent church council meeting lingered overly long on the subject of the planter in front of the church building, and I told a story about a long council meeting at another church (lo these many years ago) where I heard all about what color the newsletter cover should be, I was delighted to hear these words come out of one council member’s mouth:
“And now you’re hearing about shit and dirt,” he said.
We all laughed. No one looked at me nervously. No one whispered, “Not in front of the pastor!” It was no big thing.
Truly, I was thrilled.
Now, I’m not saying you should curse a blue streak at the next pastor you see. But if you do meet a pastor, or have a pastor, try to relax and be yourself.
And if being yourself includes some colorful language, God can handle it, and so can the pastor.
What’s the best (or worst) reaction you’ve gotten when you tell someone who you are or what you do?