Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minister as Professional

I spent some time at the dentist this morning and it helped crystallise a dilemma that I have. Is the minister a 'professional'? My dentist is. She is smartly dressed in a customised dentist's uniform and calls me Mrs Hillebrand. She offers me expert advice and treatment. Her manner is what we call professional.
Part of me itches to be a minister like she is a dentist. But if I am honest with myself, this is because she has a barrier between herself and me. The relationship is strictly professional. The relationship is not personal. I relate to the dentist, not to the human being.
How much easier it would be to keep that barrier at church. To be the expert theologian and church manager/ leader. To wear a uniform that sets me apart. To do only what is in a job description. To separate myself from the pain and politics.
I think we are very confused in our expectations of ministers. We want the professional and separate, but we also want the fellow human being, the fellow traveller on the spiritual journey.
The dentist does not want my advice about treating my teeth - we don't have 'every member dentistry' like we have 'every member ministry'. And perhaps it is this that is the tipping point. We choose between an elite minister and the facilitator of community ministry.


Steve Hayes said...

I once shared a room at the YMCA in Pietermaritzburg with a fellow student in theology. He told me that he was going to be a professional minister in a certain denomination, and had it all planned what he would do -- his diary, his time management, how people would make appointments to see him and so on.

Later I heard from someone who knew him that he had become just such a minister. I asked this person who knew him to pass on my greetings, but the professional minister was not happy with that, and made it clear that he did not want me to pay him a visit (with or without an appointment) because he thought my proximity would be an embarrassment to him, because I was banned at the time.

I heard that soon after that he left the ministry of that denomination. I suspect that his ministerial vocation was actually living out the ambitions of a parent. When we shared a room he had no Christian faith that i could discern. For him "professional" meant "just a job".

Jenny Hillebrand said...

It seems that there are too ministers just as you describe. I hope that when I start seeing ministry as just a job I have the courage and conviction to quit!