Friday, November 21, 2008

Too Accessible?

Titus chapter 1 and First Timothy chapter 3 give the qualifications for a pastor. I believe we have many examples in Scripture of how a pastor should/should not act. Being a pastor now for 4 1/2 years has taught me so much. One thing I keep realizing about myself is how much I do not know. Having said that:

I grew up in a Christian home. My father and mother have always served in full time ministry since the day I took my first breath. My mother has taught school and my father has served as a dean of students for a Baptist college, an assistant pastor, a youth pastor, a principal, a music pastor, and of course pastoring a church. My grandfather has pastored for over 50 years, and my uncle has pastored most of my life time. I have had the privilege of learning much about pastoring before ever walking in those actual shoes.

One thing I couldn't learn then and am working on now is how accessible a pastor should be. While I know a pastor is to love and be given to hospitality (generous to guests), I struggle in finding a balance of how accessible to be.

Neither my grandfather, uncle (at the time of my rearing), nor father while serving as pastors had cell phones, email, facebook, texting and office hours like we have today. I still remember being told "not to answer the phone" at my grandfather's house as he listened to see who was calling by their message on the answering machine. I remember Tuesdays being my grandfather's day off and with the exceptions of funerals, it truly was his day going to church that day, no answering the phone, if cell phones would have been around-it would have been turned off that day. He was, for that 24 hours "inaccessible." Criticize we may, but he has pastored the same church for over 50 years...not many can say that.

Point is, are we too accessible today as pastors? With the exception of sleeping hours (and there are many times that too is broken up), I can estimate that there is probably not 2 hours that ever goes by that a phone call (church, home, cell), text, email, or IM is not coming my way. Are we too accessible?

Now one would argue: what wonderful ways technology has provided that we can build stronger relationships with our flocks. I will not argue and have used such avenues to do just that. I do praise God for technology. I am glad I can call my missionaries, email my missionaries, or text them at any given moment. I get multiple emails each week by my cherished folks at our church, and I love giving counsel, praying with them in their requests, and laughing at their jokes. I think it is wonderful that our young people can send an email to their pastor and know they will get a response. But are we too accessible?

Familiarity brings with it a lack of respect and reverence. People are much more bolder with typed words than spoken. I have received emails with language and criticism contained in them that I know would have not been orally spoken to me much less my father or grandfather. Ladies and girls, who we would never meet alone in our offices are sending texts, emails, or instant messages to our pastors everyday. Slang words, boldness in rebellion, and open criticisms flood the forums, blogs, and community sites on the internet. What happened to respect for God's Word? God's House? and God's Man?

I am careful to post these thoughts for several reasons:
1. I am seeking the proper balance
2. I want to have an open door to all who feel I can be of any Biblical assistance
3. I enjoy hospitality and do not want to cause others to feel they cannot or are not welcome to come to me.
4. I do NOT want to seem like some arrogant man who cannot be touched with the problems of others as this is direct contrast to our Lord's example.

It just seems to me, that in today's world there is a lack of reverence and respect for the pastor. He has become just 'one of the guys.' While it is certain, that even the best of men is still man at best, there is to be an honor and reverence to the position ordained of God. The pastor is to be spending more time praying and ministering of the word than emailing and chatting and IMing and texting and answering his cell phone every 30 minutes. At least my grandfather had the 30 minutes silent while driving to and from church and visits.

What is the answer? Not real sure. And pastors surely can turn off their phones, turn off the computer, and not respond to emails and texts...but then what does the sender think? There are way too many intimate opportunites provided by technology that pastors should beware of. My greatest concern is the lack of respect and honor and open criticism especially from youth that is welcomed via these technologies.

I remember my first day working on staff at Cozaddale Baptist Temple in 1994. I was given a pager (cell phones were not the thing yet), and people could page me with a call back number and I would get off the road and find a pay phone and return their call (sorry about the run-on sentence mom). I felt like I hit the big time...well...did I?