For 25 years I was a pastor.
A pastor is not a guru. Some people think their pastor is a guru. I suspect a few people in the churches I served may have thought I was a guru. Not very many, though. Most people in the churches I served thought I was just a nice guy. A few thought I was a pain in the ass.
Some pastors want people in their churches to think of them as gurus. They’re wrong. Pastors are not gurus. Most gurus aren’t gurus either.
I was the pastor that got called in when churches were going to hell in a handbasket. If your church got me, you were in rough shape.
I was the guy they sent to the churches that were either on the verge of closing or had been blown up or were blowing themselves up.
They sent me to the church where the previous pastor had his picture of being escorted out of the parsonage in handcuffs on the front page of the newspaper. He had been arrested for having child porn on his computer.
They sent me to the church where the previous pastor had taken half the congregation with him down the street to start a new congregation.
They sent me to the church where the previous pastor had been fired and the congregation was fighting like cats and dogs over whether he was wrongly terminated. There were lawsuits threatened, and one member had threatened to run the former pastor down with her pickup truck. The first interim pastor they had lasted 3 weeks.
They sent me to the congregation where a certain celebrity had been a member for many years, but he moved away and nobody came to the church any more to gawk. They had 13 members left.
In the clergy business, they have a name for what I did. They call people like me “afterpastors.” We are the clean-up. We go in when there is theological blood and guts everywhere and wade into the psychic residue of people who are dead and gone, and people who are just gone, and people who are gone but still meddling.
When an afterpastor goes into a church, it’s either to clean it up or shut it down, and you never know when you go in which it’s going to be. Somehow, over the course of 25 years, I managed to accumulate an 83% clean up record.
But 83% doesn’t make you a guru. It just wears you out.
The last church I cleaned up as best I could, and then I stayed there just over 7 years. It was the longest I’d ever stayed in one church. I knew when I started there that it was going to be my last one. There are some there who might tell you it was 7 years too long. Others write occasionally to tell me they wish I’d stayed longer.
Truth is, I couldn’t take it any more. I was wrung out. I retired.
I told everyone I was retiring like Michael Jordan. I’d just do whatever came up that seemed interesting. Maybe play baseball. Maybe model underwear. Whatever.
For a year after I finished I wrote a daily meditation, plus three on Sundays. It took that whole year and more to recover. I suppose I’m still recovering.
I used to say that every time I thought I’d seen everything something else would come up.
I’ve seen a lot. But not everything. I have a .833 average batting church clean-up.
That doesn’t qualify me as a guru of anything. Not by a long shot.
It’s a good thing you don’t have to be a guru, and you don’t have to be perfect to be happy.