Have you ever tried to catch a butterfly?
A butterfly is elusive. So is chasing after the elusive prize of being liked by all.
M. Craig Barnes has written a very helpful and encouraging book, The Pastor As Minor Poet . This book can be encouraging to any minister (regardless of this person’s specific role) who works in congregational ministry. So many ministers today are confused about their own identity as a minister. Far too often, the competing identities only leave the minister confused and bewildered. Pastoral ministry is then reduced to what Stanley Hauerwas calls, “a quivering mass of availability.” This self-identity is often rooted in the desperate chase after an elusive prize, the quest to be liked.
Barnes describes what he often sees in the Doctor of Ministry students in the seminary where he teaches:
All of them have been at it long enough to collect wounds, and many have not healed well. Some of the wounds came from the congregation. Some were self-inflicted. For too long many have been dancing on the borders of total burnout, trying to fulfill the contradictory expectations of the congregation and their own expectations about success. None of them wants to be remembered as the pastor who was there when the church closed its doors. So they are compelled to succeed, which means they have to do something to keep people coming in those doors. But here’s the rub: Whenever they succeed in meeting the expectations of either the older parishioners or the desired visitors, pastors feel deep in their souls that they are simply con artists. They hate having to be whatever is necessary to keep the old guard reassured and the seekers enticed. They learn to be strong but sensitive, profound but playful, prophetic but consensus-building, always available with an open door but always in touch with the sacred — whatever is necessary to engender approval, no matter how inherently inconsistent, all for the elusive prize of being liked. (p. 11)
What is your own experience with chasing to be liked? How can this serve to damage a person’s ministry?