At the Willow Creek Arts Conference, I found this article in a sample copy of collide magazine (May/June 2008 issue). I would just link to the article, but I could not find the article on the site (maybe there is time delay between print and web? Or not everything gets on web? Or is only available to logged-in/subscribed users?
Anyway, here is the article:
A Mixed Tape: The Ego Has Spoken
by Matthew Paul Turner
The following story is true and occurred a few years prior to the invention of YouTube.
When I was living back east, a friend of mine begged me to be in her church’s Mother’s Day skit. Even though I didn’t attend her church – a monstrosity that boasted a million members and had like 65 services – I agreed to “star” in the three-and-a-half minute dramatic illustration. When I arrived at the church on the day of the performance, my friend (I’ll call her Sherry) was hysterical.
“We have a huge problem.” Sherry wiped a tear from her eye. “Pastor came into church this morning and demanded that we cut 30 seconds out of the play.”
“What?” I yelped. “We’ve been practicing this thing for weeks. How in the world does he expect us to change it now? The first service starts in 15 minutes. It’s impossible.”
Sherry shrugged her shoulders. “None of that matters, Matthew. If I don’t cut 30 seconds out of the skit, I could lose my job. So, can we please just try?”
At the time, I thought Sherry was probably overreacting. But that changed a few minutes later when, as the two of us were busy editing, Sherry’s pastor came storming into the choir room. He was a short, stout man with a booming voice. “Have you made the edits?”
“Yes, sir,” she said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to get it done.”
“Sherry, I need you to be sure,” he said, looking at her the same way I imagined Napoleon might have looked at one of his subjects. “If this skit goes longer than three minutes during the first service, I will cut it out of the next three services. It’s not like we need to have a skit. So make it happen.”
I stood there a little shocked. While I was quite aware that many pastors have egos bigger than their church’s steeples, and that the problem has been around since Constantine first made it legal for men to boast about God in the public square, it was still difficult to watch this pastor throw his weight around.
Thankfully, for the sake of Sherry’s job and her pastor’s blood pressure, we did cut 30 seconds out of the skit. But that didn’t satisfy him. In between the first and second services, I watched as the worship leader, the stage manager, and the sound director scoured over the church’s order of service. “Pastor just came in here demanding that we cut one minute from the service.”
The three of them looked worriedly at each other. Then, the sound guy piped up, “Guys, I can’t do this anymore. Seriously, I work at AOL during the week. My job is high pressure. But I feel more stress and frustration volunteering at church on Sunday than I do Monday through Friday working at AOL. I think there’s something wrong with this picture.”
I walked into that church with a great deal of respect for that particular pastor, but I’ll be honest, I left thinking he was an egotistical jerk. Now, I admit that my judgment was quick and potentially unfair, mostly because I didn’t know the man, and as a layperson, I didn’t have a clue about all of the politics, logistics, and drama that a pastor endures when putting a service together for thousands of people. But I’m inclined to think that some pastors, after their attendance, influence, and salaries grow, forget what it’s like being the church employee who makes $22,000 a year or the volunteer who is “serving the Lord” for free.
Lately I’ve been hearing lots of stories like the one I just told, stories about pastors who have book deals, YouTube followings, and the “fastest growing” churches in postmodern cities like Seattle, but who behind the scenes are as prideful as peacocks and have the people skills of political science majors. Most of the time these stories come from regular people who are simply trying to serve God with their talents, but often feel less-than-valued under the leadership of a pastor who seemingly has an ego that far surpasses the size of his blog’s readership.
It’s true; I might be unaware of all that a minister’s job entails, but I’ve met a good number of pastors in my lifetime. Without fail, the ones I admire the most make people – not the service, the sermon, or their personal status – the most important part of their job description.
Not a sermon – just a thought.
I guess my take home from this article is, as leaders, are we doing our best to help people serve? Are we making them feel appreciated? Or are we overly-critical or demanding? We have a responsibility to see that the body is taught and encouraged to serve to the best of their ability. I hope we don’t get in the way of that too often!
Much of the rest of the magazine talked about helping foster an environment of trust between “artists” and “teachers”/”pastors”. These two groups are not in direct competition, but certainly their goals and emphases are not always the same. There needs to be give-and-take from both sides. And having an environment of mutual respect and involvement is always the best track to a long-lasting and healthy relationship that pays back in lives won and lives changed.
And that’s the real goal for every believer.