Monday, July 02, 2007

The Acceptable Outsider

I've been reading Erwin Raphael McManus' An Unstoppable Force, in which he made the following statement:

In our present context, most pastors are, at best, welcome guests.
They are what sociologists might call "the acceptable outsider."

This quote has stuck with me, because it runs true. Especially in the UMC, where pastors are moved (the average stay in the West Ohio Conference is five years), the built-in system keeps pastors as outsiders. I even had a former pastor tell me not to get too close to members of the congregation, because (among other things) it gets hard when you have to move.

I had a lot of talks with one of the guys at my last church about being an "outsider" - we would get together for Monday Night Football weekly, and when he first invited me, I thought it was a "polite" invitation (meaning, "oh, he heard us talking about it; we have to invite him now"), and, in fact, when I first went, I couldn't find them (I didn't know there were two rooms in the place where they had gone, and when I didn't find them in the first room, I left).

It turned out that he was originally an outsider - that his group of best friends was originally his wife's friendship circle, but they had accepted him as one of the guys. They did a pretty good job of accepting me as one of the guys as well. Unless, of course, the "grey beards" showed up for MNF. Then I was back in the "pastor" role again.
Which is a hard thing. I do like being "Pastor Brian" to an extent. I have a calling and I like the ability I have to show the guys on the basketball court or the soccer field that being a pastor doesn't make me any different from them.
But if, just by my calling and carreer, I wasn't already the "outsider," would I have to dispel those myths at all?


Patti said...

I wish we could keep pastors longer. We're on our 3rd one in 11 years. It so disruptive.

Dri said...

What you say is so true. (My hubby is over at A Mutt's Monastery and I found your blog through a comment you posted on his.)

Being a pastor can be a lonely life and calling even though you are surrounded by people constantly.

Weird phenomenon if you ask me.