Armchair Pastoring is not Pastoring

I was a teenager and my first car needed new spark plug wires.  My father--an experienced mechanic--attempted to provide me with some guidance.  "Don't take all the wires off at the same time;" he warned me, "Take one wire off and replace it before moving on to the next one."  But when I looked at the new wires for my car his guidance seemed a bit silly.  They were each a different length so it seemed obvious to me which wire would run to each plug.  Dealing with one wire at a time seemed like a hassle because the wires were clipped together and the old wires were getting in the way of the new wires.  So I went against my father's sound advice and took all the old wires off at the same time and tossed them aside.

At this point any mechanic reading this knows exactly what I did wrong.   The mechanic knows what obviously I didn't.

Each wire was a different length--that much was simple enough.  But what I didn't know is which wire needed to go on which post of the distributor cap (pictured above).  It turns out the location is critical because there is a part that spins inside and sends a perfectly timed charge to the correct wire so the plug that needs to fire has spark.  Without getting this right, the car won't run.  Yet I had no idea which wire went where.  My arrogance bested me.  I didn't know what a distributor cap was, let alone what it does and how it works.  I made a great deal of assumptions about my abilities as well as my father's experience based on my brief observation of a package of blue wires.

Had I heeded my father's advice, I would have removed only one wire from the distributor cap, knowing exactly which wire went where.  Instead, I invited a learning lesson from the school of hard knox.  Clearly, I had not known better.  Obviously, I could have saved myself a great deal of heartache if I had only humbled myself and listened to my father.  He had done this before, maybe many times.  And he understood how the distributor cap functioned.  (Once I had a better understanding of the full function of these motor parts, maybe I could have been in a place to determine if I could effectively deviate from his way; but not before I had a better understanding.)

As I am now serving as the lead pastor of a new church plant (Redeeming Life Church),  I see that I may have acted like the young boy with car troubles.  I served on staff under older, wiser pastors.  In my previous ministry roles, I would be like that guy sitting in the armchair telling the quarterback how to do his job better.  I would observe something and assume I understood all the details.  Now that I am elbow-deep in engine grease, I see that maybe I didn't have a full understanding of the situation.  Maybe my armchair perspective of my pastor's leadership was missing a great deal of information.

How many times did I think to myself, "If I were doing this, I would. . . "?  Not having the perspective of my pastor, I didn't really see the best course of action.  (I often wonder how the armchair quarterback would feel if he had a few 350lb linemen coming after him.  Would he act the same way the quarterback did?  Probably.) Being afforded that perspective now, I am starting to see why my pastors did the things they did, in the way they did them.  "Oh. . ."  I find myself saying fairly often.  Like a young dad feeling like he needs to call his own father and apologize, I often feel I need to say, "I'm sorry" to the wise pastors who have gotten me to this place.   Being out on the field is different that directing from the armchair; I see that now.

Fortunately, these older, wiser pastors are still helping me with my journey.  I can still go to them often and ask questions.  And having a little better perspective, hopefully I won't pull all the wires off the distributor cap too often.  For that, I'm thankful.

*Photo by Taran Rampersad is registered under a Creative Commons License.