My 5-year-old, Caleb, is convinced God has called him to be a superhero. Equipped with many costumes, capes, power shields and laser zappers, he is in constant training to be an unconventional superhero by combining the power of Superman, the cunning of Spiderman and the spiritual insight of BibleMan as he battles crime, sin and all forms of spinach. When unsupervised, he bounds from chair to couch to his futon mini-recliner singing "Our God Is an Awesome God." He holds his BibleMan sword in one hand and a Larry-Boy action figure in the other. God had quite a finale in mind when He gave us Caleb, the youngest of four sons.
Being a pastor has sparked the superhero in me lately, though you'll never see me in a cape and tights; very few pastors can get away with that, even in the most innovative churches. But I tend to respond to ministry situations with super-heroic leaps and bounds. And no wonder: The rules for pastoring these days can be easily confused with the universal rules for being a superhero.
I suppose every pastor would like to be a SuperRev, but unlike superheroes, SuperRevs are not licensed by Marvel Comics. They aren't equipped with a Kung Fu grip and accessories that are sold separately. They are just regular guys on a mission from God. Still most of us, at one time or another, are tempted to attain SuperRev status. And standing right beside us are SuperFams.
To many in the church, SuperRev's family should have few needs and always be ready to sacrifice time, energy and fun for the sake of the SuperCall. Now that I'm a pastor, my wife has to remind me every now and then of two very important things: I'm not SuperRev, and we aren't SuperFam.
In fact if we plan to succeed at this task of ministry, we must recognize that SuperRev is an overblown myth that robs the one true, omnipotent God of the glory that is His alone.
I used to think that if I wasn't on the spot to save the day or to provide the answers, the work just wouldn't get done. Lately though, I've been amazed at how God works when I'm not around. At first I was a little bit hurt that things went so smoothly without me. Then I realized that my SuperRev persona was limiting the ability of others to grow and become active leaders. As long as SuperRev roams the region, who needs to step up and become a spiritual leader or personal witness? Finally, I understood how important it was for me to trash the cape I hid under the pulpit and pitch the super-spiritual mask I kept tucked in my Bible between Habakkuk and Zephaniah.
I'm also realizing that my family is more than a band of trusted sidekicks, like Batman's Robin, The Tick's Arthur or Larry-Boy's Bob the Tomato, ready to follow me into danger zones. Instead, they are my greatest ministry assignment. If I totally botch a church task, I'll conclude that I'm a human just like every other pastor (including Billy Graham, T.D. Jakes and Chuck Swindoll). But if I fail at home, I will sabotage everything that God has called me to do.
Saying no is a big part of the equation. Did you ever see the cartoon episode where Captain America delegates the task of whisking the 5-year-old kid from certain doom in the Niagara Falls? Course not! (They never made it.) That would've totally blown his image. A superhero has never said no to someone in need. Yet many pastors assume this tragic mind-set. We assume the identities of the seemingly heroic "YesMen," aware of every quick-change phone booth in town and commissioned to save the day.
Frequently, I remember that saying no to an important meeting so that I can meet the needs of an attention-deprived son or my lonesome wife actually empowers the church.
As I mature through experience, failures, pain and small triumphs, God shows me I can't be the generic answer to every need (Matthew 11:29-30); when I am weak God gets the credit and glory He is due (2 Corinthians 12:9); and keeping the passion in my marriage will do more for my church than a thousand sermons (Ephesians 5:28).
These are just a few concepts I'm trying to keep in mind as I serve. I am a pastor-in-progress as God transforms me from a wannabe Super Rev to a servant leader and family man.
So from now on I'm leaving the thunder, the X-ray vision and supersonic speed to Him and the capes and costumes to my 5-year-old, even though I do think it would be cool to live in a cave and have a rocket-powered car.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.