Higher Standards for Leaders? (And a request for help.)

Part 1:  the big picture

One part of our current Christianity -- all the way from the conservative extreme to the progressive extreme -- is our divide between "professional Christian" and "layperson".  We use a few chosen scripture passages to justify our expectations of "leaders", and then ignore the weight of the whole of scripture that calls ALL of us to a life wholly centered on following Jesus.

I believe that we scapegoat our leaders:  we sublimate our own guilt (about the ways we ignore what really matters for things that don't really matter in the long run) by fixating on the example they live out in front of us, whether good or bad.   This creates strong emotional and social pressures for a perfect act on the part of our leaders and their families, and they are trapped (in their need to act like they are already perfected in their maturity in every area of living) by the threat of their 200 to 5000 bosses firing them if the truth of their humanity slips out.

Imagine if we did this to our kids as they grew:  instead of cheering the toddler who takes two steps and tumbles, we lectured him on his failure in continuing to balance.  Instead of praising the second-grader who stands at the plate and hits a foul ball after her first two misses at coach pitch, we rant about how bad she is.  Instead of praising the 15 year old who finds the guts to ask his first crush to walk with him to the park, we critique his approach and give him pointers on the right way to do it?

The truth is that we are all learning and growing in our ability to manage life at every stage.  We get past college age and learn how to manage work and relationships and money without parental supervision.  We keep growing in our abilities to discern and make choices that play out well for ourselves and others.  We fine-tune our map of reality, and we fine-tune the skills to respond in the best way to reality.  This is as true for pastors as for carpenters, and as true for writers and speakers and administrators as for accountants and engineers and lawyers.

If we can give grace to pastors and allow them to be human -- that is, to be seeking to practice what they preach in ways that get closer and closer to the mark, rather than requiring them to pretend to have been reborn fully matured -- we can learn to extend that same grace to ourselves, and be able to encourage ourselves and each other to keep up that "long obedience in the same direction".

The emotional, religious, financial, and social systems that we perpetuate create chaos for us all, as they lock pastors and their families in a space where they can't grow in the ways God intended, and lock us in a space where we have an excuse to lose faith as we see their stunted examples.

Part 2:  Money

Our current economy has divided us into entrenched Tea Party and Progressive stances, and we see those divisions play out in our churches in ways that add to the pressures on pastors and their families.  The elderly conservative trustees know how they made ends meet as they went through various life stages, and project that truth onto a screen that covers up the differences in the economy from the realities of the decades of their lives.  Pastors are saddled with expectations that don't match the reality of their costs of living, and compensation that doesn't allow them to cover necessities, let alone plan well or avoid consumer debt. Attempting to explain the reality of their situation simply pits against them those who are convinced that there is a way to live in the past.

We most frequently hear stories of "fallen pastors" who have stumbled into sexual or romantic improprieties, but the reality is that financial "bad stewardship" is even more prevalent, because of the dynamics I've outlined above.  Financial problems are common in our economy, and we create financial problems for our pastors, and we put them in situations were they cannot be honest about their situations without fear of falling off their required pedestals and losing not only their job but also their ability to get the next job in the only thing they are educated to do.

Part 3:  My Friend

I have a friend who is a pastor and who needs to remain publicly anonymous.  He can receive direct donations, though -- so if you are able and inclined to give toward his need, please contact me and I will give you his contact information.  Here is his story, in his own words:
"We are a ministry family in danger of losing our home. We fell behind on the payments this summer but received a forbearance that is about to end. The forbearance stated that the arrearage had to be cleared up by September 30. After that, they will not accept a partial
payment. The entire arrearage must be paid in full, and foreclosure proceedings could start at any time. We truly believe God led us to this pastorate and to this house. It is well-suited to our child's special needs as well as those of the rest of our family. We pray that your compassion will help to save it. 

We started falling behind last spring. One of our children is disabled and much of this child's care is not covered under insurance. We arrived at this current pastorate in the hole already due to the care associated with our child's disability. Each payday, I chase the overdrafts: much of each paycheck just goes to fill the "hole" created by starting the previous pay period in the hole. I am very ashamed to say I have turned to high-interest finance companies and even payday loans to try to fill that hole, which only means less money each paycheck to live on.

If a number of compassionate people can help just a little bit each, I can pay off the arrearage on the house and fill in the "negative" in the bank account so that I could start each month with a clean slate instead of trying to "fill the hole" each time.

Why have I waited so long? Shame. And I've been hoping and praying that something would come along. My family does not have the means to help, or I would go there first. If you can help us, I would be most appreciative."
Again, these words are from a friend who is a pastor and who needs to remain publicly anonymous.  He can receive direct donations, though -- so if you are able and inclined to give toward his need, please contact me and I will give you his contact information. 

The total he needs to be brought current is $5K; so many small gifts really could do it!