As much as I loved my education, both undergraduate and graduate school, that’s not really where I learned to be a pastor. I look at my traditional education as theological training, not the place I learned to pastor. I learned to pastor by watching my dad, Pastor Joe. When people think of a pastor today they often think of one of two people – the white-collared single guy or the Jesus rock star presenting the gospel like a flashy 80’s concert. Both get smoke. The former calls it incense, the latter calls it haze. I actually like both. However, as you move out of the big city and head into small communities, there is another type of pastor that becomes more prominent. They don’t make much money, wear hipster clothes, or have Twitter accounts. They are, well, normal. They wear clothes from Walmart and drive used cars.
My dad is that type of pastor, and my knowledge of what it means to be a pastor is heavily influenced by him. He loves his people, he loves the community. I have many memories of him compassionately praying early Sunday morning at the altar for people by name. I visited the hospital with him more times than I can count. As a kid, I would watch my dad look into tear-filled eyes and encourage people facing terminal illness or the loss of a loved one. Those people loved him, and he loved them. I would listen to my dad passionately practice sermons on Saturday nights. He really did write and give his very best to those that attended the churches he worked in. He wasn’t on mission to be famous, but to participate in life with people. To him, being a pastor looks less like a shrewd CEO and more like a loving spiritual counselor. To him, what makes church great isn’t as much the quality of the rock show, but the health of the family. Dad loves knowing people, and people love knowing Dad. If you were to ask him why it’s worth it, he would simply say something like this: “I’m just trying to love people like Jesus would.” Today, I get to be a pastor. The truth is I am still learning. I’m not sure I have figured it out, but I know this. As I grow older I want to be a pastor like my dad. Loving Jesus, loving people, loving the community.