Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Michael J. Brooks
It happened twice lately and on the same day when I was innocently identified as a preacher.
I walked into a funeral home, and the director asked, “Are you the minister?” I said I was a minister but not the minister that day for that funeral. She said, “Oh, I knew you were a preacher.”
I was puzzled a bit since I was “out of uniform” with an open collar shirt and a sports jacket.
The same day I visited a local rehabilitation facility when the nurse came in. Elliott introduced me as his pastor, and she laughingly said, “I knew you were a pastor. My father is an Episcopalian rector, and both of you give off the same airs.”
I hope the “airs” were fragrant!
This reminded me of the late John Bisagno, who joked his most oft-spoken reply when someone asked if he were a minister was, “No, I just haven’t been feeling well lately.”
Then he got serious and told pastors in his convention audience, “Don’t go around acting like a preacher.”
I think I understand this admonition since I’ve seen some ill-advised preacher behavior.
One pastor lamented from the pulpit how poor he was and that his wife hadn’t had a new dress in some time. I’m not sure how accurate this was, but his comments served only to embarrass the congregation.
A friend told me about another pastor we knew who told my friend he’d asked a lady in his church for money since he knew she’d received an inheritance.
“And she wrote me a check,” he proudly told my friend.
And legions of pastors have asked for ministerial discounts at local businesses.
An occupational hazard for ministers is we may feel entitled since most people treat us kindly and defer to us. And we can mix our personal opinion with scripture, and our congregants think we speak from Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, because we have flexibility of schedule, we’re either the hardest working or the least engaged in the workforce.
Surely there’s a better way.
If we’re struggling financially, we ought to have a private “checkbook to checkbook” talk with the finance team rather than broadcasting this from the sacred desk. If we conjecture, we ought to declare as the Apostle Paul did, “I say this, and not of the Lord.” If people give us things, we ought to be gracious in receiving them but never demand or expect favors.
An agent told me once that ministers are pretty good insurance risks since we only have two sins: we work too hard and we eat too much! True enough. Most pastors are committed servants of God.
We just shouldn’t go around acting like a preacher.
Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.