and spread the phenomenal news that there is life, hope and forgiveness because God loves us and has reached out to us through Jesus Christ. I have the privilege of seeing the lonely, desperate, floundering and angry brought into an authentic community full of hope, wisdom and peace. I have seen marriages on the edge of divorce moved to a place of health and renewed passion.
Right now, I am leading a group of people who want to bring tangible change to our community. We want others to look at Fayetteville and see that God has made a difference here through social justice, advancement of the arts, education and reconciliation.
The church I lead is building a new facility in Gray’s Creek where we hope to shape the growing community by providing a place of fellowship and service that truly affects the lives of the families that live there. I am shaken to the core when I think of the lives I have already seen changed with new hope, new health, new community and new direction. I am humbled to have a front row seat to God’s work in the everyday lives of his people. I’ve never been a part of anything this big, this amazing, this meaningful and this eternal before.
So, why do I sometimes hate being a pastor? It’s not the work. It’s not participating with God in the miraculous things He is doing. It’s not the ups and downs that come with journeying through my parishioners’ great joys and deep sorrows. I love all of that. What I hate is the stereotype.
I am writing this article while sitting in Rude Awakening on Hay Street. Before I sat down to write, I had a great conversation with one of the employees here about the music scene in Fayetteville, the vibe of Hay Street and the complexities of social life in the military. We even talked for awhile about piercings and tattoos. Then I could feel us moving to the dreaded question: “So, what do you do?” This is when I hate being a pastor.
If I come right out and say the “p” word then I am immediately stereotyped as the stodgy, judgmental, out-of-touch, old-before-my-time guy who must listen to bad music, wear bad suits and bash anyone who drinks beer. There is no way I could be any fun or simply have a conversation without an ulterior motive. All of a sudden, the person feels they cannot relate to me anymore. Any meaningful conversation is over.
Jesus talked with stuffy, puffed-up religious people, the shunned and outcast prostitutes, and everyone in between. They were all intrigued by him in some way, and many found new life in what he had to say. Instead of running away, they were drawn to him. He rebelled against cultural norms, was unconventional and would blow people’s minds with the sheer depth of his words. The conversations must have been amazing.
I’m sad that my profession has represented him so poorly that we have become the very things Jesus disliked – fake, out of touch, uncaring and separated from reality. When people hear “pastor,” they think they have me figured out and don’t like what they know about people like me. So how do I introduce them to the real Jesus who will blow their minds? Sometimes the biggest obstacle in introducing people to this amazing Jesus is that I bear the name “Christian,” and even worse, “pastor.”
I don’t know about other pastors out there, but listen, if you see me out, buy me a beer, and I’ll drink it with you. Let’s talk music. Let’s talk about combating injustice. Let’s talk about football. Sure, I hope with all my heart you will come to know this Jesus I know. I think he is different from what you think, and you would be intrigued by what you would find. But I’m not going to ram him down your throat. Maybe, when we hang out, we can break down some stereotypes together … I don’t know.
But do me a favor – just don’t call me pastor or reverend or something. If I’m drinking coffee, just call me Dan.
The Rev. Dan Alger is pastor of The Church of the Apostles in Hope Mills and can be reached at email@example.com.