Titles. We’re obsessed with them. We scratch and claw to gain them in our careers. We need them to define roles. We use them to define others and others use them to define who or what we are. Be it “Mister”, “Doctor”, “Executive Vice-President”, or “Director of Mental Model Practice,” each title is loaded with expectation of what they do or who they are. And the owners of those titles demand that those titles be acknowledged.

I bring this up because people often wonder what role I have at the church plant.

Both within and without, all people clearly know is that somehow I’m involved in the leadership of The Dwelling Place. Speaking of the need to define, people often ask me what kind of church denomination are we. Sometimes I get cute and refer to us as “post-Protestant” because we draw on a lot of church traditions (and we realize that it is possible for people to disagree on a few things and still be one body without feeling the need to break into a new denomination). The other term we like to throw out is that we’re a missional church. But these are new titles, which require an explanation (which we like because it also means that people have to listen to what we’re about without any preconceived baggage).

I guess you could call me “pastor” or “elder”, but I doubt I would answer. I could do a job, do it well, and people would have no problem with it. However, slap a title on it and then it’s whoa, whoa, whoa: “Where’s his degree from?” “How’s his Greek and Hebrew?” “What’s he doing hanging out ‘there’?” “Why does he talk like that?” “Look at the people he’s hanging out with.” People have funny ideas about what pastors are and who they should be. Put simply, a pastor is a shepherd. I do some of that: I love my people, I guide when I can, watch over them, do some teaching, all the while knowing that I am no better than any of them and am just as much a work in progress as they are. Then there’s the issue of what people do to pastors.

“The Ideal Pastor: is always casual but never underdressed–is warm and friendly but not too familiar–is humorous but not funny–calls on his members but is never out of the office–is an expository preacher but always preaches on the family–is profound but comprehensible– condemns sin but is always positive–has a family of ordinary people who never sin–has two eyes, one brown and the other blue!” –R. Kent Hughes

People have a way of viewing pastors as if they’re (paid to be) super Christians. We put them on pedestals, in effect often making them our personal popes. Their words speak with authority into people’s lives. You know what? This attitude makes it hard for pastors to have friends or relax and hang out. They are criticized if they show their humanness. They are under constant scrutiny. Don’t get me wrong, too often, pastors buy into it too and feed it. The pedestals have power. Pastors want their words to speak with authority into people’s lives.

Pastors are supposed to do and be all things: teachers, preachers, prophets, administrators. We forget that they’re human, too. No better or worse than us, walking along side us, trying to figure out this spirituality thing. They’re just paid to read, study, and think about it more. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a pastor of a church (well, that’s not entirely true: you could pay me enough to do just about anything).

The average pastor is caught in the crossfire of constant evaluation. He is like the coach in a high-powered football program. It is win or leave. Everyone I know in ministry is under this kind of fire, most often from critics within their own congregation … It is this kind of integrity that I fear is too often missing in many successful ministers these days. Integrity is best understood as wholeness, soundness, uprightness and sheer uncommon honesty.” –John Armstrong

In the final analysis, that ain’t me. You might not have gathered this, but as a horror writer, I prove to be a little too much for many “churched” folk. I don’t look like people’s idea of a pastor or elder. Heck, half the time when I step back and observe my antics and see who I hang out with, if I didn’t know me I’d be tempted to say “Man, he needs Jesus.” I don’t, and don’t plan to, draw a check from the church or else someone would have to explain me. And, if I were to be completely honest, I don’t think I’d want the pressure of the title. I know me and my character, I certainly couldn’t live up to it. I am well aware of my own humanness. People need to get comfortable with the idea of mystery and let me do what I do. Titleless.

Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.