Published in The Fresno Bee, Valley Voices column 7/11/09 (online here):
"Some Confessions from a Christian Pastor"
by Dave Wainscott
Dave Wainscott is pastor of Third Day Fresno, adjunct Bible instructor in Fresno Pacific University’s Degree Completion Program and professor of ministry for Latin American Bible Institute’s Sanger Campus.
I have a confession you may be surprised to hear from a Christian pastor:
And two words you may have assumed we clergy-types never utter:
No, no need to “google” my name to find the scoop on a scandal of the kind all too frequent among preachers and televangelists. If that were the case, you would have already found my name on another page of today’s Fresno Bee.
But I am sorry, and I do hereby repent, of an equally scandalous situation:
I am aware that sometimes I…sometimes we clergy… can inadvertently (and I fear, even intentionally) communicate that we are holier than thou; that we only care about you if you attend our church, believe in Jesus right down to our denomination’s footnotes in doctrine, or voted a certain party line on a particular proposition.
And it’s ridiculous that I haven’t publicly repented sooner.
Please forgive me.
You are my neighbor.
I have been a bad example of a Good Samaritan.
I need you more than you need me.
Even if--especially if --you are not of my tribe, tongue…..or faith.
"Pastor, can you come over right away?," came the voice over the phone. "I have a terrible confession to make!" I took the trip across town, puzzling to myself, "What in the world is she going to confess? She’s a sweet older saint! What did she do, accidentally swat a mosquito, and now she needs to confess being a murderer?" When I arrived, she sat me down and spilled it out; right to the point:
"I am an occasional atheist!”
I did not laugh, for I was privileged to be priest-pastor in a holy moment, but took and shook her hand….signifying that I, too, belonged to that club (humanity). All have sinned. As if occasional doubt was a sin! I see it more as a signpost of honesty and humility.
I confess church has not always honored those twin virtues.
Forgive me…us… for any sermon title, Fresno Bee column, political yard sign, brochure on your doorstep, that led you to believe that we pastors believe we are perfect, and you must be, too.
If you have attended the church I am privileged to pastor, and I made you feel like a number instead of a neighbor; I take the blame and shame.
We too are only human. But we are also required to treat and greet you as if you were more than.
I want to let one more secret out.
I just returned from a citywide pastors meeting. As usual, men and women of different denominations and various races were there. Mega-churches and micro-churches were represented. The movers and shakers were there, seated next to faithful bivocational pastors you have never heard of, but should have.
No, we weren’t plotting creative ways to be annoying to our city; of arrogantly projecting our morality onto the unbelieving masses of our citizens, of bullhorning and shoehorning you into conversion.
We weren’t even planning new means of getting you to darken the doors of the church.
We were repenting.
For ways we have let you, our city, and our God, down.
For times we have not proactively loved our neighbor, no matter which side of the tracks you live on; no matter which side of Blackstone and Shaw you stand with signs.
I reveal all this, not to brag on us; but to let you know that, though we have not arrived, we are on the way.
I must add two words for not letting you know sooner: