The Faster Pastor

bivocational-pastor A pastor friend of mine once had an interesting hobby. He drove racecars. At one point he actually held the title of “Faster Pastor.” It seems the track officials sponsored a race for a couple of years that pitted the town’s pastors against each other. I can’t even imagine. I know I’d never allow some preacher to race my car (no offense against preachers, but I just know them too well).

I’m also amazed at that because many people seem to think pastors can’t do anything but preach. I remember once when one of the laity in from a congregation I was serving came to the parsonage to do some work. He was a fine carpenter and did a great job.

“I wasn’t always a pastor.”

While he was there, he needed a certain tool and was going to run home to get it. I told him he didn’t have to go anywhere because I had one. He was shocked and exclaimed, “I didn’t know pastors had tools!” My retort was quick and simple. I said, “I wasn’t always a pastor.”

The perception of pastors, in general, is rather shallow. Most people think we’re one-dimensional. I suppose there are a few preachers out there who actually are, but not many. In fact, most parsons I have met are multi-talented.

bivocational_mI know pastors who are great musicians and singers. Others are good teachers. I’ve met some who are very accomplished mechanics, opticians, counselors, baseball players, heavy equipment operators, and even funeral directors (several of those, in fact).

“Jesus was a carpenter…”

A lot of preachers are accomplished writers, businessmen and women, farmers, accountants, life coaches, and military leaders. This comes as a surprise to many people. It really shouldn’t be. Jesus was a carpenter for most of his life.

I’m not exactly sure why we’ve come to see clergy types as milquetoast, theological nerds. The fact is, however, that seems to be the general consensus.

It appears as though that stereotype is going to come quickly to an end. It’s inevitable. The church is headed in a direction that will dictate a whole new view of the clergy.

As the number of clerics continues to wane and congregational sizes diminish, the church is soon going to find herself in a situation where bi-vocational preachers will be a necessity. There are a lot of us already.

jesus-carpenterFrankly, I see this as a good thing in many respects. As this trend continues to grow, the laity will, out of necessity, take on a greater role in ministry. Clergy will find themselves on more of an equal footing with the laity. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the term, clergy, disappears from our daily lexicon.

It’s really too bad that the church had to begin falling apart before we recognized our plight. Still, the Lord often uses difficulties to put us back on the right pathway. After all, the church really began to experience explosive growth when she was under persecution. It looks like he’s letting us off easy this time.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Sick as a Dog

let-sleeping-dogs-lie-1 I’m publishing this blog a day late because I’m a tad under the weather (as they say). I went away with my lovely bride for a long anniversary weekend and brought back a nasty cold. I can’t remember the last time I had one of these, but I hope I don’t get another anytime soon.

In moments like these, I simply like to use the old phrase, “I’m as sick as a dog.” While I’ve used that phrase hundreds of times over the years, I have to say I can’t remember ever seeing a sick dog. I suppose that’s due to the fact that I don’t have one (a dog, I mean). It makes me wonder how sick dogs get (also, where did that phrase come from?).

I checked a concordance, and it doesn’t seem to have come from the Bible. Since a lot of sayings come from Scripture, I thought it might. I did find some other interesting facts, however. For example, dogs get a lot of bad press from the Bible.

More than one person in Scripture is referred to as a “dead dog.” This term, from the context, appears to be a way of demeaning someone. A guy by the name of Mephibosheth even called himself by that term. He used it as a form of self-deprecation. I have to say, however, if I had a name like Mephibosheth, I might actually consider “dead dog” as an upgrade.sick-dog

You’d be hard pressed to find a verse of Scripture that showed dogs in a good light. They’re usually depicted as scavengers cleaning up the carcasses of evil people. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

There is one verse that’s somewhat related to being as sick as a dog. You can find it in Proverbs 26:11. It says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” I’ve never found this to be the most uplifting passage in the Bible. In fact, it kind of makes me sick to read it. I certainly wouldn’t meditate upon it too much. Once you picture that in your mind, it becomes very hard to un-see.

Here’s another one from Ecclesiastes 9:4. “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!” I guess that’s a tad more positive, but not much.

Even the prophets couldn’t resist using dog analogies. Isaiah 56:10 has this to say. “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” I know people like that.

I decided to move to the New Testament. sick-as-a-dog-636I figured Jesus would have something positive to say about man’s best friend. No such luck. He just continued with the Old Testament onslaught. When speaking about a certain beggar, he said, “Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:21) Well, at least now I know why dogs get so sick.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Returning to Square One

square-one-mississauga-2 In my last blog, I spoke of how the church was transformed when the citizens of the Roman Empire generally accepted Christianity. After the Emperor himself was converted, most everyone else followed suit.

Prior to that, one could get you trouble by merely saying, “Jesus is Lord.” The common greeting was, “Caesar is Lord.” Two lords were not cool.

Romans were used to being told what to do. They were good at following the leader. Everything happened from the top down.

This attitude and practice quickly trickled into the church. Follow-the-leader became the byword there as well. Eventually, elders, pastors, and bishops were venerated. They were like royalty. The church hasn’t been the same since.

“We hire professional clergy…”

In today’s church, we hire professional clergy to preach to us, tell us what the Bible says, and lead us in the way we should go. A thorough reading of the New Testament reveals a much different kind of gathering.

When the church began, it was informal and intimate. Each congregation was more of a family than a corporation. Clergy were not CEOs. There was a deep understanding that all her members were a priesthood of believers. Everyone played a part, had a believesay, and pulled their weight.

I may be romanticizing it a bit, but not much. When the clergy became a special class, we lost a lot. Over the centuries, it’s only gotten worse. These days, we don’t know any other way. It seems normal and practical.

When we strayed from our roots, we developed a chain of command. That may sound harsh, but that was our model. We were more benevolent than tyrannical, but our new hierarchy was strengthened by our willingness to allow someone else to do it—whatever it happened to be at the time.

Where does the power lie?

I’m sure this sounds strange coming from a man who has been a hired gun for over thirty-five years. There was a time when I thought it was right and good that people like me should lead. We do need leaders. But we’ve got to realize that leading is not the same as calling all the shots.

It’s not simply that clergy types have usurped all the power (although that has certainly been the case in many instances). Over the years, much of the laity has willingly ceded their ministerial responsibilities and calling. The result is a sharp contrast between the laity and clergy. It has become an “us and them” situation.

romansOne would be hard pressed to read Scripture and find such a distinction. Yet, we do. I think this is a result of reading the Bible through our twenty-first-century blinders. It’s all we know, so it’s all we see.

The church is God’s instrument on this earth to share the good news. These days we seem to be more interested in simply preserving what we have.

We need to get back to square one. It won’t be easy to return there from here, but we need to make a strong attempt to do so.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]