Category Archives: Pastoring

Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

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Do Not Support PBA

My wife watches our youngest granddaughter 4 days a week.  The little one is 10 months old and enjoys watching Mother Goose Club.

Over. And over. And over, again.

What the heck, she’s adorable and it is all about her, anyway.

What does this have to do with this “PBA” mentioned in the title?

I will tell you with the story of the Three Little Kittens.  Hearing the several renditions of this old nursery rhyme made both me and my wife consider something about the story.

You know these kittens…the ones who lost their mittens.  The story has to do with PBA. What is this “PBA”?  I will get to that.  Now, let’s remind ourselves of the old story.

Basics of Three Little Kittens

It goes like this…they lost their mittens, mother calls them ‘naughty kittens’ and they are notthreekittens allowed any pie.  I am not sure what kind of pie…looked like some kind of fruit, to me. My cats don’t care for fruit. As for mittens – cats have no thumbs. Maybe they were really baby tube socks.

I digress.

Then, the little kittens find their mittens and their very pleased mother gives them pie. Problem here, is, they wore the mittens while eating the pie.  They, thus, soiled said mittens, which rendered them as ‘naughty kittens’, once again.

Can’t threaten them with no pie…too late for that.

This has a big problem, though…Mom served them the pie. Did she not notice the mittens?  Well, whatever.

The little creeps decided they would wash their mittens.  This pleased Mother Dear, once again.  With that, she noted she smelled a rat nearby.  Okay, now kids.  Don’t wear your mittens while mauling that rat.  It will only start all over again.

By this point, you are wondering what this PBA is all about.  Enough with these ignorant kittens.

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

Often, people are approved or disapproved based on their performance.  Performance Based Approval is a serious issue within the Church.  How we act, what we say, what we do or don’t do, what we wear, how we talk, etc., etc.  There is more about pleasing others than there is in knowing that the Father is pleased with us.

The Father always approves of us.  While I am pretty sure He is not so thrilled when we act contrary to His design or desire for us, He approves of us.

Parents…don’t you approve of your kids?  Sure, they can be loud, disobedient, wall-coloring, sass-mouthed, fight-picking, booger-eating vermin.  But, really…you totally approve of them.  Not the booger part, just them.  How much more does the Father approve of all of us?

In the Church, people are graded.  How much they serve, what they do, how loudly they praise or how often they raise hands during worship.  How we conduct ourselves determines whether we can head up a ministry or even serve in one, or in some churches, where we get to sit.  Sure, there are things that we need to be wise about concerning certain issues.  But, too many are put into some sort of confines of man-made rules.

Look who Jesus chose as His twelve.  Judas was overly concerned about money, Peter was headstrong and had issues with Gentiles, James and John wanted to one-up each other and there was certainly a good share of argumentative questioning and doubt to go around.  Jesus also ministered to countless people who had nothing to do with Him after they were healed, taught or fed.

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

Maybe we just need to get over ourselves or get off of our high horses.

God’s approval is not based on our performance.  Why do we demand certain performance in order to approve of anyone?

What this breeds, most often, is behavior modification.  People will act and talk in certain ways around their fellow Christians, whom they want to be approved by.  They can’t be themselves, they can’t have a bad day, they can’t have a hole in their jeans which are frowned upon for wearing in the first place.  They have to sing with a certain amount of apparent excitement, talk like life is one big victory, be sure to give tithes and offerings, have near perfect children, perfect hair and never be late to service.

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

Love and grace have no performance demands for approval.  Say “No!”, to Performance Based Approval.

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

He Said…What?!

I am one who believes that I can confront someone when the issue is more serious than who the person is I need to confront.  This includes pastors.

Going back more than 8 years ago, there was an interesting set of circumstances between our pastor, one of the youth leaders and our son.  It all started when our, then, pastor was passing by an area grocery store and “sensed in his spirit” my son working there.

He mentioned it to our son and got this other young man, Chuck, in on it and decided that our son should apply for a job at this store.  Our son was about 15, at the time, so he was a minor and not a licensed driver.

When our son told us about this, we told him it was not possible, as the distance and traffic would cause us over an hour worth of driving him back and forth.  The following youth meeting, the pastor and Chuck decided that Chuck could take our son out there to apply.

I called the pastor the following night – a Saturday – and firmly let him know my disgust over this whole thing.  I was angry.

“Who do you guys think you are making decisions for my son?”, I started, with a small amount of volume and obvious anger.  As we talked, I calmed down and explained that it was impractical for our son to work two towns over through dense traffic.

Then, Sunday came.  The pastor met me as we were walking in. “Can I see you guys after service?”

I had no idea what it was about.  I didn’t even consider it was about the discussion the night before.  Not only did I calm down during that discussion, but I apologized for being so animated.

This was the first of two definite “ambush” meetings.  My wife and I met the pastor and his wife and one of the other pastors and his wife in a classroom after service.  The senior pastor started with me, right off.

“The way you spoke to me last night was rude and disrespectful.”

Well, I was upset, but I believed I had reason to be.  I did remind him that, if he recalled, I did calm down through the conversation and made a quick apology for my emoted verbage.  He went on with, “I hope no one in your family was in hearing shot.”  I assured him I was alone in a room when I called.  Then, he said something that floors me to this day…

“You offended the office of the Pastor.”

Really?  Is that really a thing?

When you are cornered with such a barrage of accusations, unless you are quick on your feet, you simply apologize and wait for the smoke to clear.  Even though I apologized, it was more for pacification.  I knew I was not wrong.  After all, his actions concerning my son were technically a usurpation of the parents.

He made the decision and told our son he should apply to that store and Chuck would take him.  The parents were told afterward.

That don’t fly with me.

Parent “outranks” pastor.  Our children were given to us…we were responsible for them. No one can override that.  Pastor or not…you get between us and our kids, I just might let you hear about it.

As for that disrespecting the office thing…this is a load of crap.  It does not hold up scripturally nor by any definition of what a pastor is.

Do I have a point?  Let’s see if I can make sense of this.

First, the hierarchy that has been established in church leadership is mostly  counterfeit. What has been dubbed the 5-Fold Ministry is not what some teachings declare.  It has become a list of levels of hierarchy and this is not suggested, at all.  Pastors have become bosses, presidents, be-all and end-all, first and last word and overly revered for what should be a serving position (and no…”pulpit ministry” is not serving).

Second, parents are the parents.  No one should usurp parental authority.  No one.  As parents, we need to live up to the responsibility and not let others dictate what our kids do or where they go.  This does not mean we should not listen to good parenting advice or suggestions concerning our kids.  It means no one else makes ultimate decisions for our kids.

I have a few stories from those days, which I might share as I go.  This is not to expose what went on (church name deliberately not mentioned), but to share what I learned in the process.

sunsteepleAs the Church, we need to start emptying our heads of the doctrines that have been taught for centuries and spend time with the Lord and in scripture.  We need to challenge the age-old doctrines which either do no good or even do more harm than good.  So many of these doctrines hold people back from their full potential, by placing them in a servile status. The very idea of clergy and laity has nothing to do with any possible scriptural instructions or even suggestions.

I believe the Church can move forward into greater things if we ditch the levels of hierarchy and realize that, regardless of the authority given, we are all the same level of servant.  We need more people doing what needs to be done and less “leaders” teaching us how to be good Christians.

Maybe church gatherings should be more about planning and organizing how to practically love one another and our neighbors.

Maybe pastors should not tell people where to go or how to serve, but serve first and perhaps others will join in.

Maybe we should stop being so lazy, relying on leaders to tell us what to do and seek the Lord ourselves and go forward in what He has for us.

Well, it seems like I stretched this one out, a tad.  But, that incident was one of the ones that started me on a journey to seek out some reality.

Some might call me a heretic.  Fine.  I can handle being accused of challenging orthodoxy – especially when so much of it has little or nothing to do with scripture.

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