Easy with Silence

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 responds to me serving her.  When I serve her she comes alive.  When I power up on her she may submit, but a little of her soul dies inside and she is less human.  She is less than God’s intention when He dreamed her up before time.

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

When, through a surge of testosterone, 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 bosom of Jesus and can relax, the bride responds and when she moves through her community you hear the soft sound of sandaled feet.

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3 thoughts on “Easy with Silence

  1. Wow you nailed that one. So the bride becomes disenchanted not with Jesus perhaps but with those who stand in his place here on earth. It is hard to trust again after you have been used.

  2. I gave up cowboy boots a long time ago,there all show no go.They shorten your tendons and squeeze your toes.And then you two step like the urban cowboy in them to the we hours of the night to be cool with the lady’s, your feet are barking like dogs.But then you trade them in for combat boots and then the real pain starts,because your tendons shortened from the cowboy boots.You realize the squeeze of the cowboy boots were nothing compared to running 2 miles on a sand track in combat boots with two stress fractures and a stride like your ankles are chained together with a foot long chain.This sends you into what is called extreme prayer and brings the cool urban cowboy to his knees balling like a child as you cross the finish line with 2 seconds to spare.”Thank you God you
    did it”.I didn’t miss a single Sunday at Church in boot camp, he carried me that day by his grace and changed a cowboy into a man. I know this journal is not about cowboy boots but how many different views can be told by the different shoes we wear on our walk of life.

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