Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Quote

I just finished a wonderful little book by Phillip Gulley entitled Home to Harmony. This is one of my favorite quotes from the book (p. 177), which aptly sums up so much of church life, pastor and church member alike.
When I became pastor, it was Dale Hinshaw who called to say it would be my job to shovel the walk and spread the salt. I told him I hadn't gone to seminary so I could shovel snow. That was when he quoted from the book of James that faith without works is dead. Dale Hinshaw knew just enough Scripture to be annoying but not enough to be transformed.


Bernard Shuford said...

I think I need some context here.

Tony said...

I found this quote profound for several reasons.

(1) I thought it caught the attitude of a small church pastor who does not really want to be a servant where that attitude is what is genuinely successful in small churches.

(2) I thought it caught the attitude of an average church member who is always looking for someone else to do what needs to be done; even shovel a walk.

(3) I thought it caught the attitude of most folks toward Scripture, that Scripture is simply a rule book and nothing more.

Those were kind of my thoughts there.

Bernard Shuford said...

I wasn't sure if you were agreeing with him or what :) It didn't sound like a thing you would agree with.

If a church expects the pastor to shovel snow, they should tell him BEFORE they hire him.

If they tell him, and he takes the job, then he should shovel snow.

If they didn't tell him but are decent and polite about it, he should shovel snow.

If they didn't tell him but are hateful about it, he should sit down for extended discussions. It's simply an employee-employer relationship problem, at that point, just like folks like me have to deal with. Communication is key.

If shoveling snow interferes with a pastors' other duties or his family, the church should figure out a way for somebody else to do it.

There's a good middle ground, and I agree with your three points.

I just can't excuse the "I didn't go to seminary to shovel snow" attitude. That left me wondering about the context, both in your mind and in the book.

Tony said...

No, I certainly do not agree with the "I didn't go to seminary for this..." attitude.

Nevertheless, I don't think it should be beneath a pastor to do menial tasks like shovel snow and be under the impression that somebody else ought to be doing it. I am all for a good relationship between pastor and people. :)

Sorry about making you wonder.

Bernard Shuford said...

Neither do I think that it should BE the pastor's job. The only justification is when he lives next door and all his parishioners live far away except for the little old ladies. In that case, he's probably the best choice. Other than that, no way.

Satan screws up EVERYBODY's life on Sunday morning, and it's worse for pastors, I'm sure. If a church can do something - anything - to lessen the stress on the pastor on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, they should be VERY willing.

Tony said...

The only justification... Well, or if he just WANTS to do it. Charlie Simpson would fall into this category.

Satan screws up... Oh yes. I do not remember a time where we, the pastor's family, was on time for church.

Karma Shuford said...

(hint - *little* books don't have at least 177 pages)


That said, "forcing" (even by means of "guilt") someone to serve God doesn't result in true service. And, sadly, it does reflect the attitude of a lot of church members --

The preacher is here to serve US. We pay him, and therefore, he is to do our bidding and be at our beck and call.

The flip side is that sometimes preachers can become a bit, how shall I say it, lofty. Their purpose is holier and more divine than anyone else in the building.

Hopefully, never the twain shall meet, BUT it does, and inevitably, it isn't pretty. :(

How sad it is that there is a disconnect between pastor and congregation. It is not a matter of who is to do what, or even who is to serve whom, but rather "How can we serve Jesus." In order to get to that point, there has to be a big ole' dose of humility, and, frankly, I don't like being humbled (and I've never met anyone who would admit to enjoying it, either).

Tony said...

This book is very easy to read and is written along the same vein as Jan Karon's Mitford series.

The preacher is here to serve US. Very good point. Some pastors believe vice versa, that the congregation is there to serve him and do his bidding. "Don't get involved in this program and I will be very disappointed!"

I don't like the attitude that the preacher does whatever we dadgone tell him to do, though. That wears on one quickly and can drain all the life out of a calling. That said, ministry HAS to be self-directed and if a pastor is not self-motivated, ministry CAN be one of the cushiest jobs around, if he lets it be that way.
The insulated types seem to get away with this fairly easily.

The church body as a whole probably could use a good dose of humility. :)

Bernard Shuford said...

Just a third party clarification, here...

"The preacher is here to serve US. We pay him, and therefore, he is to do our bidding and be at our beck and call. "

I'm pretty sure she was describing an attitude that she does not agree with, rather than stating her own opinion.

We're all supposed to be serving Jesus, let's face it. This, just as a piece of collateral information, is one of the unfortunate effects of pastors being "employed" by the church. "Employment" is something that is supposed to be governed by state laws, accepted industry practices, etc., but churches aren't legally accountable for the way they interact with pastors in way too many cases. Thus, "Christian service" gets really confused with "employment".

To really get a grip on this snow shoveling issue, we've got to get all Catholic, IMO. The priest of a parish church WAS the staff. He literally was the primary caretaker of the building, because there was nobody else (small parishes). He was "paid" by the church in Rome, and EVERYTHING relative to the church was his duty. Still true today for a lot of missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant. That mentality became attached to "the pastor" and never really went away when pastors became full time employees. Years ago, churches just supported pastors in whatever way they could, not as employees. Many small churches STILL work this way, violating tax laws and employment practices left and right, because they would never DREAM of paying someone to preach, but they'll pay them for other stuff as a way of compensation. A lot of churches "pay for travel" or donate "gas money" because it would be bothersome to them to pay someone for "preaching", as they feel that would be a form of bribery.

As a result, a LOT of people feel that pastors need to do something to earn their keep. (The idea being that preaching is a call from God and no man should try to reward someone for doing what God told them to do. It's valid, I'm just not sure how to work it all out.)

The point is that the CULTURE around a particular church dictates what the parishioners expect of the pastor, and there is all too often no formal documentation of those expectations, because they vary from person to person.

So what I'm getting at here is that "pastoring" has terribly different connotations to different people. Somehow pulling it all to a good understanding is crucial.

Karma Shuford said...

Yea, I was describing a general attitude, not a personal opinion.

My personal opinion is that we are all in it together. Yes, the pastor serves me, BUT, I am also to serve him, and the person next to me on the pew, and the visitor I've never met before, and the guy driving by, and the lady in the convenience store, etc.

I am to serve you because Christ commands it, not because of the position you hold.

Does that make sense?

Tony said...

OK, I didn't read well. I agree with you both, and like you Bernard, I have a tough time working all of that out.

There are two sides to this coin, and maybe a few more. On one side is a friend who has often claimed "they pay ME to get to have this much FUN!" and by that he means preaching. I can't fault him for his zeal and love of preaching, but there is much more to it than JUST preaching.

There is that overall attitude of service that just gets overwhelmed by the whole idea of "servant leadership," which I am not very fond of. Bridging that dichotomy between "pastor as servant" and "pastor as leader" is terribly difficult and too many people and pastors have been hurt by that system. The pastor "leads by serving," "the pastor is the chief servant," etc. I think that attitude misses the big point you both have made, we all serve EACH OTHER.

On the other side of the coin, I believe there is merit in paying a pastor and NOT paying a pastor. I think both positions can be substantiated Scripturally and neither side can boast that they know what is best for the church. If we believe individual autonomy before the Lord and by extension, for the church, then it is purely up to the church whether or not they pay a pastor or not.

Both ecclesiologies are valid, in my opinion. In a sense, church members still support their pastors in numerous ways, beyond salary. Many realize that if they do have a full time pastor, then they compensate in other ways, which may include a meal once a week, a clothing allowance, or honorariums quietly slipped to the pastor. Even some megachurches provide a car for their pastor. Most churches realize they don't pay their pastors a "livable wage." Some expect him to "get by;" others take the initiative to provide in other ways.

I don't think there is anything wrong with that; when it evolves into an attitude of entitlement by the pastor and a sense of duty for the people, then all the wires aren't properly connected.

Given Sam Gardner, the pastor in Home to Harmony, I think he should have just shoveled the walk.

Steve Sensenig said...

So let me understand -- the guy you quoted is fictional, right? I really, really hope so.

Tony said...

Affirmative. :)

Bernard Shuford said...

That "fictional" part escaped me.

Anonymous said...

I will have to put that book on my "to read" list. I know many people that take part of a scripture or quote and use just the part that makes it work for them. Ya have to laugh sometimes the way they twist things around.

I think a pastor should show through various ways he is not beyond doing anything that needs to be done, but as a church we should realize the pastors talents can be used for better things than shoveling snow, and we should not tie him down with things like that.

But when know you a Pastor WOULD sweep or clean if needed, then you respect him and want to do what you can do to free him to help the best way he can.

Karma Shuford said...

"but as a church we should realize the pastors talents can be used for better things than shoveling snow"

Not just his talents, but his time. Should he be de-icing the sidewalk, or ministering to the family with the loved on in the hospital? If it is just before a service, should he be shoveling/cleaning/maintaining (as in maintenance work) or preparing his heart and mind for what he is getting ready to do?

And, you last paragraph is true as well. But, it is probably true of anyone. I see how my sister in law truly serves anyone at anytime and it encourages, and frankly, teaches, me how, because it is NOT something that comes naturally for me. It is not that I don't want to help in anyway I can, I just don't want to be an imposition or intrusive, and it often keeps me from just doing.

Tony said...


Hi, welcome to the blog! I'm glad you're here. People tend to use Scripture pretty selectively and that was one of the reasons that quote stood out to me. Dale Hinshaw obviously is only familiar with the parts of Scripture that benefit him most.

And I agree with your latter assessment of effective pastoral ministry. Thanks for you comment! Please stop by again.


We're all growing, aren't we? I know I am. (By leaps and bounds lately it seems.)