Here’s the section I want to address:
I’m wondering about something.
Maybe there’s someone out there reading this who has been a member of Capitol Hill Baptist and who would have a better handle on this than I do. But it seems to me that SGM has some very unique and very specific ideas about what “pastoral care” looks like.
In fact, SGM’s concept of “pastoral care” is something I’d say sets SGM apart from churches in “normal” Christianity.
In normal Christianity, the role of pastor is just not infused with so much weight, so much authority, and so much importance in a believer’s life. Yes, if you go to a “normal” church, you will eventually come to know and have some type of relationship with your pastor. But it typically will be more of a casual partnership of equals, and on an “as-needed” basis – which usually means when you have some sort of serious need. In “normal” churches, people typically don’t see their pastor as some sort of conglomeration of authoritative guru and father figure. In “normal” churches, people typically don’t involve their pastors in the daily business of their lives. “Normal” pastors would think it odd if a church member came to them to seek out their input on everyday life decisions like whether or not to move to a different city. “Normal” pastors would NEVER think it was their place to weigh in on a member’s use of psychiatric drugs.
In “normal” churches, you go to your pastor if you have a really serious and pressing spiritual need. But otherwise, your pastor is not all up in your business, confronting you on your personal sins with some weird assumption that God has given him special sin-sniffing insights into what’s going on in your heart.
In my life, I’ve had both “normal” and not so normal pastors. Pastors I’ve loved and pastors that have for various reasons felt like they have betrayed me; often, one will go from one extreme to another. More than anything, I’m reminded that pastors are chosen by a church to be “first amongst equals”, chosen to guide and lead a united church body. They aren’t necessarily divinely appointed, infallible, etc.
The idea of having a “normal” pastor appeals to me. My last pastor very much fit under the authoritaritive, father-figure, guru role; also, don’t forget, I really like the guy and still do. Yet people would come to him for advice on anything. Example: he would give out business advice to anyone despite having not worked in business in over 30 years. He would definitively define who and what people are, whether it was true or not (and often, such as in the case of him telling me that I “don’t know how to work hard”, a fact that the majority of people in my life would deny, including many godly people, would then become true by virtue of the thought or idea being planted…I do not work as hard now as I used to, a regret). One of the awakening moments for me (I believe Spirit ordained) that led to me parting ways with the church was realizing that he was in fact utterly wrong on something but he was still speaking authoritatively, “man of God voice” per se, or at least “Holy Spirit given divine insight, therefore, TRUTH”. And it wasn’t one of those diffences of opinion or point of view or lack of all the information things; it was stark, very black and white, very, “wow…you are wrong, yet you still think you are right, and probably won’t or can’t admit to being wrong.”
I have this idea in my head of this perfect church setting: typically set in the English or Irish countryside, the church gathering on Sunday for worship, and then breaking apart to live life the rest of the week, seeing each other around town or at social gatherings, the pastor being just another man amongst everyone, who prepares his sermon each week, delivers it, and then goes and hangs with the guys the rest of the week. Utter fantasy born of late night British television, I realize it, but that rustic, down to earth, sensible, rational Christianity appeals to me. And I’m sure would be utter death to others.
How do I want to relate to my pastor the rest of my life? Hopefully as the man who leads the church I’m in, but whom I don’t have to vet my life through. I will walk out of any church where the pastors has too much power or authority or influence. He’s just a man, chances are just as corrupt and sinful as you are. If he appears too perfect, he probably isn’t. He has opinions and views, ones that may differ from the church or not, but in all majors unity. What is heard from the pulpit is not necessarily truth, but can be aspects of truth. There is room for disagreement. There can be consensus just as easily. Pride will not be an issue.
Do I want my pastor to be my friend? No, not necessarily. But I want to be friendly with him.