I talk about the Wall every time I teach a Bible study. I bring it up frequently with lay members of church (non-churchworkers). I see it in passing conversations with acquaintances. What is it? Whenever Travis & I encounter new people in our lives, at some point the question of occupation gets raised. He shares that he’s a pastor, or I share that I’m a pastor’s wife. Suddenly, the Wall is there. People shift their conversation. They tense up. They are less willing to let down the guard. In fact, the Wall is their guard.
It doesn’t always happen. In fact, my husband has a knack for helping people let down their guard and just conversing with them. He’s kinda goofy and somehow his personality ends up putting people at ease and even surprises them that he’s a pastor. But I see it a lot in our passing conversations with neighbors. We haven’t gotten to know many of them, and I think some of that is because of the whole pastor thing. We leave our house at 7:30 am on Sundays. When we return early afternoon, many of our neighbors have not yet been out (this is apparent from the snow-covered cars and lack of tracks in their driveways this time of year). So our lives are very different.
It’s okay, though. I expect there to be a wall. It’s difficult for it to not be there. We’re not able to get to know coworkers or friends outside of the context of church. It’s too much a part of our lives. But here’s the reason I talk about the Wall with other Christians: they don’t experience it the way we do.
Other Christians have the opportunity to get to know people and share their faith on a different level than we can. Sure, we can tell people about our faith, but they expect it and they aren’t always interested in hearing it. We are more effective when we share our faith with those on the inside, already among the believers, as a way of encouraging them to minister to others. They, in turn, get to share their faith with non-believers every day. And while some may argue that they aren’t doing that, I would say that they are in their everyday lives (hopefully). Maybe it’s in their way of treating others. Maybe it’s in their smiles. Maybe it’s a kind gesture or an offer to pray for someone’s needs. Proximity enables someone to witness in a way that we can’t always, because the Wall keeps us from getting as close as a non-clergy Christian can. And it’s okay. Our job is to help people to witness. That is the most important thing that anyone working for the church can do.
bethany actually said:
You know what? This post makes me very glad that I had the good fortune to grow up knowing my pastor and his family so very well. My mom was good friends with both our pastor and his wife, and my brother and I were about the same ages as their kids and were good friends with them too. So we spent a lot of time around the pastor and his family when we weren’t in church. We had dinner at their house, we went to the park with them, we just spent time with them as friends. I saw Pastor as a real person with a family and a life, as a sports fan and lover of music, not just the shepherd of a flock. Therefore to me, someone being a pastor is just another job—a specialized one, for sure, like being a policeman or a doctor—but when I find out someone is a pastor I don’t think the Wall thing happens with me. In fact, I’ve known so many pastors and have been really good friends with quite a few, that finding out someone is a pastor (or a pastor’s wife) makes me assume I’ll have a lot in common with them, and more inclined to like them and want to be friends with them!
I know I am probably very much in the minority that way. But I’m glad I am, because I am sure you and Travis need people like me in your lives from time to time! 🙂
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