I recently had two thoughts.
Thought 1: I have grown weary of “thought leaders” and famous pastors. Nothing new – I rant about that all the time – but they keep getting shoved in my face. One, in particular, has “Stuff That Needs To Be Said” at the top of his website. I also have pastor friends and colleagues who have started calling themselves “prophet” without disdain and bitterness in their mouths, a la Biblical prophets.
I decided to start discounting everything written by someone who calls themselves a prophet and everything written by people who have no humility. Did I make a healthy or good decision? Maybe, maybe not, but I just cannot do it anymore. No one has exclusive knowledge of the will of God and no prophet wants the job – just ask Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.
Thought 2: I idolize Fred Rogers. Literally have a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood coffee mug sitting right beside me. (Nora got it for me, and it features Fred switching from blazer to cardigan if you fill it with hot liquid. I love it and will drink “church coffee” sometimes just to use it.) I want my pastoral ministry to mirror and mimic his television ministry in terms of love, vulnerability, authenticity, and intentionality. I do a thing – I think we all do – where I look at my ministry and I compare it to my exemplar, in this case Fred Rogers.
Guess how I see myself stacking up? I am a grumpy, curmudgeonly pastor for 33 years old; Fred certainly was not. I certainly do not live up to the image of Fred Rogers, even if I wear the cardigan and have a warmth of curmudgeonly attitude.
I will always fall short of the example of a man lifted to be about a quarter of a step below Jesus, especially since my ministry will always look radically different than his and I have responsibilities I think he would have struggled with given his attitudes and personality.
Breath Break: As I got to this point, this wonderful song started going through the headphones. Prepare yourself for the Early-00’s music video goodness!
I realized, in a moment of clarity, both thoughts come from the same coin. Humans have this problem with deifying other humans. We lift people to god-status and allow them to direct us as if they have a special link to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Oddly, but unsurprisingly, the people we place in those ivory towers tend to benefit – richly – from our deification of them.
But what about people like Fred Rogers? Yes, he got to do something amazing for his entire career and had people to support him, but he wanted almost nothing to do with the fame it gave him. Should we not try to live up to his standard?
We forget that everyone is fallen and sinful, even those we lift as great. I bet, if we had a conversation with Joanne and his sons, we might see a man, lovely and wonderful, but just as flawed and broken as the rest of us. And, if he had the humility I believe he had, he would want nothing more than for us to be the best versions of ourselves, not a version of ourselves that matches him.
In my younger years, I had a wise attitude – even if it came from a place of hostility and arrogance – that I would have no heroes. Every human fails us, and, if we cannot live up to the example of another human, we do not know the fullness of their humanity. Yet, as I grew up, matured in faith, and became good at a ministry, I decided to cast idols in the forms of humans instead of being the best version of myself.
I did this with a pastor and author, recently, and I had a friend very aggressively destroy that idol – from personal experience – for me. I forgot how much I value humility and lifting other voices in my colleagues, and I wonder why I could not see the absence of those things in my idols. (I know why I idolized this person – and I still think they did something I want to learn from – but these things mean to much more to me than success.)
And again, the ones who will not fail us as idols want nothing more than for none of us to idolize them. True prophets do not want the role of prophecy – and give all honor to God.
No more heroes, just good people we learn from and see as human – flawed and loving all the same.
No idea if this makes sense – and this is a first draft – but I recently made myself a promise that I would write and blog more, and they can’t all be zingers. Thus, I published…