Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rubble University: Part IV, Find a Pond

I come caffeinated, but Sunday was always a double-shot and that's how most church members experienced me -honestly, at my best.  I wore my sharpest clothes, even ironed them.  I tucked in my shirt and strapped a belt on to boot.  I'd decorate my feet with some shinny, slick shoes (smooth enough for moonwalking). Not only did I don the right "uni" I also sported the best smile I could muster.  A few minutes before leaving my office, I stood in front of myself delivering a pep-talk, "Okay!  You are going to go out there and meet people.  Some of them you won't remember their names, but smile, hug necks, shake hands...listen carefully for name hints.  And you, Brain, remember!  Remember facts, stories, illnesses, relatives, favorite foods, and prayer needs.  You can do this!"  Out I'd go into the mass of people giving it my all.  All of this, the uniform, the smile, and the engagement was merely a warm-up for the 25-35 minutes where I stood in front of the congregation and spoke passionately about my Jesus.

Not that I was insincere, but Sunday Morning Charlton often created a false perception - that the Sunday Morning Charlton was the everyday Charlton.  As if I woke up every morning with a smile, singing "How Great Is Our God" as I rolled out of bed into the Tebow position passionately interceding for Tina's Grandmother's sick Booboo Baby miniature Schnauzer while finding time to stop on the way to work to baptize runners jogging around the park pond, "Here is water, why shouldn't you be baptized?!"  People form perceptions based off data intake and the information at the disposal to the majority of Church members was Sunday Morning Charlton. That often begged one of two responses.  On one hand, some members placed me on an undeserving pedestal - saw and listened to me with rose-tinted glasses. On the other hand, others viewed me with skepticism and perhaps cynicism. "What's he up to?  What is his agenda? I'll be watching him!" 

This creates a Fish Bowl, where the congregation peers into your life, where you feel observed and analyzed with greater scrutiny than others, where you think twice about what you wear to the store on a Saturday morning because you never know who you might see, where you cannot just go to a church Super Bowl party as Charlton but feel forced to attend as Sunday Morning Charlton.  Although the Fish Bowl is magnified by your own mind (no one thinks about you that much) there is some truth to it. Don't get me wrong, most preachers/ministers enjoy aspects of the Fish Bowl, but it is a love- hate relationship. There is part of you that wants everyone to think that you ARE closer to God, more like Jesus, more patient, kind, gentle and spirit-filled than other Christians." As a result you feel pressure (some legit and some self-induced) to keep throttling at Sunday Morning Charlton speed. On the other hand, you desire to vomit all of it out, to stand behind the pulpit as Charlton, to say, "This is me! Take it or leave it!"  You have a love-hate relationship with the Fish Bowl.

If you always live in the Fish Bowl you will lose your mind!  You will be unable to relax, to breathe, or to be human. It will exhaust you. Say "hello" to burnout. Because, when you look in the mirror you know you yell at your kids, you belittle your spouse, you throw temper tantrums in traffic, you pick television over prayer and bible study, you avoid certain people from the congregation, you neglect to do the good you should do, you harbor bitterness, you gossip, you decide to buy bigger instead of giving grander, you get jealous of more successful churches, you...and it stands in tension with Sunday Morning Charlton.  The Fish Bowl intensifies the tension because you fear it will expose everyday Charlton and that everyday Charlton will disappoint the members who have placed you on a pedestal and prove the naysayers right.

That is why, preachers, you need to find a pond, a group of people who you do not impress and who you feel no pressure to impress, a group of people who know your junk, a group of people with whom you are not in competition, a group of people with whom you can laugh and play, a group of people who make fun of you, a group of people who really know you and love you anyway.  Do you have a pond?  If not, find one.

Thanks Matt Clark for always being a pond...we laugh!

[Every church I have had the honor to serve taught me so much, but regarding this topic, the Grants Church of Christ did an amazing job of inviting me into the pond and minimizing the Fish Bowl.  Thanks, dear friends!]

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