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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pastors and People #3

Rock Star vs. Pastor Observation #1

Continuing with the Pastor as Rock Star conversation : : :

For starters, congregations don’t want pastors to possess nice things—not too nice anyway. Cool clothes, nice cars, and eating at fancy restaurants may garner too much attention.

A few years ago, we needed a reliable car. We saved our money until we scraped up $2,000.00. My wife and I agreed we would not spend more than what we had saved and we would not finance a vehicle because we couldn’t take on a car payment. We hunted for months. 

One day, we stumbled upon a yard sale where a car with a For Sale sign was parked in the driveway. We didn’t stop to look at the car—it was out of our league. It was the bike rack leaning against the garage that caught our eye. But, truth be told, I loved the car. It was a white Mercedes sedan with incredible wheels. It had leather interior and what looked to be an incredible sound system. 

I starred at the car for a couple of minutes. Even though it was an older model Benz, I guessed it was probably about three times as much as I could afford. I walked away. No big deal.

I ventured over to the bike rack.

As I was doing some measurements in my head and guessing if it would fit on top of my minivan, the owner of the house came outside. I recognized him from church. Mike had been attending our church for quite some time but I had never been to his home. “Looking for anything in particular pastor John?” I told him I thought the bike rack may fit my van but I wasn’t sure.

He told me it would probably work for the van but it really worked nicely on top of the Benz. “I saw you checking out the car from inside my house,” Mike said. I chuckled and told him the only thing I could afford on this particular day was the bike rack. “Well, you can just take the bike rack,” he said with a smile.

There was friendly banter back and forth and I walked away with a free bike rack.

As I was pulling away, Mike ran after me waving his arms. “You may think this is really weird,” he said, “but I feel like God wants me to ask you if you could afford $2,000.00 for the car.” My heart jumped up to my throat. “It has to be worth quite a bit more than that, Mike.” “Yes, it is worth more but, I have the gift of giving,” he said with a wink. I told him that strangely enough I have the gift of receiving.

We chuckled and he told me to take it for a spin.

I loved it. It was a cruiser. I drove it home for the kids to see. They told me it was “pimp.” I learned yet another re-lexiconing of popular vernacular and understood that “pimp” meant they approved and not that it looked like something Huggy Bear would drive (Ummm, that’s a Starsky and Hutch reference).

Mike signed over the title the next morning and I had three times the car I thought I would have for my measly budget.

Then the mocking began.

I was accused of having a televangelist ministry on the side. People halfway jokingly said things like, “maybe we should rethink how much we tithe if this is where our money goes.” I saw the stares. Some of the stares came from people driving $40,000.00 SUV’s. It had nothing to do with what I actually paid for the car that got people riled up. It was the appearance of decadence and their perception of how I spend my money (and how much money I make) that bothered them. 

The car served me well for years. I ended up selling it to a friend for less money than I could have sold it for. I figured it was time to pass on the blessing to someone who needed it more than I did at the time. Mike’s giving spirit, a comfortable and reliable vehicle, and the opportunity to help a friend in return will go down in my book as one of the biggest blessings that has ever happened to me.

Sadly, many people will never hear this story and will live with the idea that one of their pastors is either doing something shoddy, is a poor steward of his resources, gets paid too much money, or just plain did not get the memo about the pastoral vow of poverty.

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