Question for preachers and worship leaders: how often do you tell the people you lead that God makes them enough? How often – especially if you come from the Reform tradition – do you tell them about their inadequacy but how the Spirit will work within them and make them enough?
I do this often, bordering on weekly. Maybe I do not use so many words, but I do it essentially every Sunday.
I have started to struggle with this idea. I do not want to imply I disbelieve in this whole process of the Spirit empowering us beyond ourselves, but I keep finding myself inherently “not enough.” I do not even know how to describe it, but I keep running into things in my life and ministry that require me to “be more” of whatever that situation require:
- I am not woke enough. I do not march, I do not protest, I do not do enough of the things our “thought leaders” and “prophets” demand all clergy do. No one would confuse me for an activist pastor.
- I am not apolitical enough. I have lost members for speaking out against child separation already and I had a member refuse to talk to me after my last sermon.
- I am not tall enough. Thank God I have a powerful voice.
- I am not hip enough. I lead a liturgical service with standard movements, and I feel comfortable and empowered there.
- I am not traditional enough. I cannot just use the Book of Common Worship; I must change the language, make it inclusive, and soften it. I try to be playful in the liturgy, making it less formal and more relaxed, which means people who grew up with the traditional liturgy get lost sometimes – especially those who struggle with hearing.
And continue ad infinitum. I could go on for days about the ways the world and leaders on our faith have implied – both directly and generically applying to me – that I am not enough. God did not make me enough for…anything, it seems. I can have a good ministry but even then, it feels as if I should feel shame over how I do not do something enough.
I feel this demand to fit into a label to find any sort of community or acceptable ministry. My pastoral ministry feels irrelevant to everything because we now live in a time of overt evil that demands constant, constant attention.
Wil Willimon told the Festival of Homiletics that pastors care too much about pastoral care and too little about their prophetic voice. John Pavlovitz told people to leave their churches if their pastors did too little to speak out against the evils of today.
I lost members to this already. I have to walk a tightrope of prophecy while also needing my members to not hate me before I show up at the ER, the surgery ward, or the funeral home. I can only speak so loudly, but the thought leaders demand loud and constant voices, implying we can only be true to Christ if we march with our signs at every opportunity.
I am not enough, and I keep running into that fact. Hell, I am not enough of anything to even find community here – not liberal enough, not conservative enough, not heteronormative enough, not queer enough, not political enough, not apolitical enough, not nerdy enough, not geeky enough, not dumb enough, not confident enough, not humble enough, not weird enough, not normal enough, not anything enough. I have no strong labels, making me feel like the world sees me as personification of Revelation 3:16: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
I know I bring severe feelings of inadequacy and inferiority to this, but I want to know: how do the rest of you preachers and worship leaders know you are enough? I know God chose me for this work and called me – the Spirit has made my ministries too effective to doubt – but how do I shake this feeling?
Is it just the Age of Polarization and Trump? Is it a thing about Urban Ministry I did not understand coming in? Am I actually not enough and just did not realize it before?
I did not write this for sympathy. Yes, I will own existential pain drives this a bit, but I also find myself angry. When someone says my parishioners should leave my church if I do not do something but leave that something vague, and no one can tell me how much I must do to not deserve my church dying, what should I do? How much is enough for the prophets and thought leaders?
I take exception to a call to exodus without so much as a sliver of guidance for the pastors you threaten with exodus. I take exception to condemning ministries without a conversation about the day-to-day of solo pastoral ministry and trying to help struggling churches find their way in the world that includes more than protesting – like care, fellowship, discipleship, and teaching.
I just wish I was enough. The Spirit gave me a pastoral heart and a strong voice, but that is not enough, so it seems.
Anyone else? Am I alone here? Or are other pastors starting to feel it? And please, for all that is holy, I did not write this for someone to patronize me and softly tell me, “You are enough, it’s just tough.” I want to know:
Am I alone in feeling that I cannot possibly be enough in 2019, or are other pastors feeling it, too?