Friday, June 22, 2007

Clergy Parking

This post partly inspired by Bob Franquiz's post (at his wonderful blog, which you should check out...and buy both his books) where I found this "reserved parking" sign) sign.

As a pastor, I have always demanded a special parking space at the churches I have pastored; a space which reflects my status and privilege.

That is, I purposely park as far away as possible from the building.

I have never allowed well-meaning trustees or people to arrange a "reserved for pastor" executive parking spot.

This is not at all to judge pastors and churches with "reserved" parking spaces close to the facility for top's just that I can't do it.

And I do wonder if it is what JWD, in light of Matthew 23, for example:

7They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'
8-10"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
11-12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

And I love, and fear, Douglas Wilson's devastating commentary on that Scripture:

"In the old days, this had to be accomplished by means of respectful titles like "Rev." But nowadays, in these egalitarian times, the attitude of spiritual conceit has had to be a a little more creative,and a pastor shows his prowess in humility by asking people to call him "Joe". Behind the scenes, he is a fierce, hard-driving CEO,and reads those CEO magazines, and acts like a CEO on airplanes, right down to ogling the flight attendant in first class. But out in front of the congregation, sitting on that stool, fitted out in a Mr. Rogers cardigan, he is open, transparent,and shares the
struggles of his heart--the struggles of a simple guy...named Joe. He is about as deep as a wet spot on the pavement.

-Douglas Wilson,
A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking...p. 36

I usually boycott clergy spaces at hospitals as well, though if there is no other space, I'll do it.

Though I still can't imagine Jesus doing it.

I don't think I'm Jesus. It's just that I don't think I am anybody special. And why should I have the best parking space, when my job description says I am the least if the least, the servant of all...

Of course this stuff backfires. Sometimes when you explain this peculiar and countercultural habit to people, they think you're really spiritual for such a "radical" move an "sacrificial" leadership , and tempt you to be proud of your humility.

It cam also be misunderstood. When our current church was meeting at a school...I habitually parked at one of the farthest (the absolute farthest would have been too obvious) parking spaces in the lot. It couldn't not do it.I can walk. Let others )especially first-timers) have the closer spots. I do not want special parking privileges just because I am the pastor. Well, actually, again...actually I I do but I want the one biblically congruent with my status:

one pretty far out.

One well meaning saint finally said something like, " I know why you park at the end of the lot. You're trying to say, this entire lot should be full. You're trying to remind us that we're not big enough yet with all these empty spaces between your car and everyone else's . You are claiming by your prophetic act that this is on its way to becoming a megachurch ."

Uh, no.

But if I ever get one (against my will), I do want a special parking spot.

At the house church a mile away.


I was glad to find upon a quick googling that others have wrestled with this issue,especially the insidious"proud of my humility" temptation. See Ken Pierpoint.

I found this:

Kathy Turnbole, chair of BOOM, shared in her report about a church where they couldn't get people to stop parking in the pastor's parking spot. So they posted a sign that read, "If you park here, you preach here." She challenged us to "Preach where you are parked."

Needless to say, I would have handled that differently.

I also think nonChristian neighbors have a right to feel like this:

as for the parking situation, it carries on over around the corner onto Catharine street as well. sometimes I just wanna pick up and move that cement block " Pastor Parking" sign that lies in front of the church. (link)

There's a good chance that's exactly what Jesus would do.

"All we have to do is go low. We don't have to worry about getting up"
(Brian Dodd,
"Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul", 146)

"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant "(Henri Nouwen (148)


  1. Good post Dave. I linked to this one today.

  2. Amber

    Great to hear from you,

    Look forward to visiting your church sometime...i'll park far away(:


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!