Come Down From Your Ivory Tower, Pastor!

If there is one thing I can’t stand – and to be honest there are a lot of things I can’t stand, but I am working on that – it’s these holier-than-thou clergy who live in not-so-ivory towers of isolationism in some absolutely moronic attempt to keep themselves above reproach. Of course, a lot of them really aren’t above reproach. Behind closed doors they are patronizing prostitutes of all stripes (Jimmy Swaggert and Ted Haggard), stealing from their flock (Jim Bakker), sleeping with their secretary (Bakker), and engaging in a host of other less than admirable behavior.

In fact, if your pastor isn’t willing to walk into any establishment in town for fear it will defile him or her, I have to ask what sort of credible ministry they are engaging in. One very intentional part of my ministry is to go where clergy don’t go. Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, tattoo shops, piercing places – in fact, I intentionally go places where other clergy wouldn’t go (or would go only incognito) because I believe that any God worth worshiping cannot possibly be afraid to have God’s representatives go into places to meet people where they work and live. If a life of faith is worth living, then it is worth taking some risks to live it authentically. We are told in the Bible that God wants all people to come to him. That doesn’t mean that we are called to sit passively by and wait for people to come to us.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ means that the world is a sacred place. When we as human beings start trying to separate the world into sacred and profane, we deny the reality of the incarnation. My colleague and I, both wearing clericals, took my foster daughter to a piercing shop today because she had lost her tongue ring. I don’t believe that the workers knew what to make of two priest in their shop. I told them not to worry, that we weren’t like all the other boys. After a while we were actually having a good time, relaxed and laughing. Imagine, priests who came not to judge, but to enter into relationship and to love! As we left, I joked with them that I knew they were going to tell this story. One of them said, “probably.” What could be better than that?

Tell your pastor to get out of his or her office. Better yet, have them relocate it to a public place where they aren’t “supposed” to be. Be careful though – they might accidentally do some real ministry! If they do that, God only knows who might show up – but isn’t that the point? Or are you more comfortable in a country club church? The problem is that the notion of a country club church is an oxymoron. Either your church is a place where all are welcome or it isn’t a church. If you are avoiding welcoming all people by running an isolationist church by keeping your pastor in his or her ivory tower, maybe you should tear the tower down and move pastor’s office to the nearest coffee shop. The only alternative to doing that is to change your sign from “church” to “country club.”

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