Clergy: when was the last time you thought to yourself, “If only I could be more like Pastor B or Pastor S? Then I’d have more members/greater attendance/higher giving levels/etc.” For many of us, I can imagine this has crossed our minds at some point in the recent future.
Hmmm… Wouldn’t this be considered coveting?
Re-reading the Ten Commandments reminds us of the taboo of coveting. Exodus 20:17 states “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Granted, we don’t covet many donkeys these days. Yes, some people covet their neighbor’s spouse or significant other (think Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”). Otherwise, coveting is still part of our culture and who we are. Coveting is competition and to be and have the best. Our advertising driven culture feeds on our tendency to covet. We want bigger houses, fancier cars and the most up-to-date electronic toys. We can’t keep up with the Joneses. We become depressed as we see our lives aren’t in the exact place we planned five or ten years earlier.
And, for those of us who are clergy, coveting begins to bubble within us when we see the success of our fellow pastors.
Coveting in any part of our lives can lead us away from being present in this very moment. It can distract us from the call of God.
What if we realize that we are called to this place for this time and embrace the satisfaction with our current pastorates? What if we took some time to remember that it is God who calls us and that quantitative success isn’t everything? I’m sure this is difficult for some. (NOTE: I’m not advocating for pastors who are being abused in their current setting to remain in their position. No one deserves to feel abused in any situation.)
Clergy friends and church leaders – maybe all of us are called to create some new commandments for ourselves. This is not to clarify us as “sinners,” but to break old patterns of unhealthy thinking.
10 Commandments of Pastoral Coveting
1. I shall not covet another pastor’s church size or worship attendance.
2. I shall not covet another pastor’s gifts and creativity.
3. I shall not covet another pastor’s energy levels.
4. I shall not covet another pastor’s ability to bring in new members or visitors.
5. I shall not covet another pastor’s successful attempts at leading their churches to such-and-such status (i.e. Open and Affirming, Just Peace).
6. I shall not covet another pastor’s compensation package.
7. I shall not covet another church’s location.
8. I shall not covet the number of volunteers my neighbor’s church has.
9. I shall not covet another church’s programs.
10. I shall not covet the size of another church’s youth program or Sunday School.
Reasons why churches grow or programs succeed is more than just the pastor who inspires or creates them. Sometimes it has to do with the location of the church or the context of your community.
Furthermore, chances are there’s another pastor out there who covets what you have. But none of us are perfect. None of us were bestowed every single gift. That’s not how it works. That’s not how God created humans and, specifically, clergy. We are not messiahs of churches nor are we fully to blame for failed programs. We are only asked to try out best and love others the way we want to be loved.
May we find ways to work together instead of working in competition with one another. The more we encourage each other in acknowledging our gifts and cheer each other on as we grow from our mistakes, the stronger we can create God’s kingdom.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month to all clergy!