We live in a world filled with experts.
Social media has given them a platform, and now they let us all know their opinions (even when we don’t ask for them).
Some of the experts we’re encountering are, in some regards, experts. They have a baseline of knowledge that supersedes the average person’s understanding of the subject matter.
When COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 started earlier this year, we came face to face with this reality! Many of us are familiar with colds and the flu virus, but navigating a pandemic with a brand new virus forced us to lean into healthcare workers’ opinions and perspectives.
There was a battery of social media posts from everyone who worked in the healthcare field, some caring and some somewhat mean-spirited, reminding us (those who do not work in the medical field) that we needed to heed the advice of the experts. As much as I’ve studied health issues (and that’s a lot), I’m not as educated as a Registered Nurse, a Respiratory Therapist, or indeed a Physician to discuss the effects of a new virus on our bodies. Their education and their experience have afforded them, as healthcare workers, unique expertise that those of us who do not work in that field do not possess.
This is true for teachers when it comes to our children. They understand the nuances of development and socialization in ways that we, as parents, may not. They know what it means to teach age-appropriate content, not just child-appropriate. They, because of their education and experience, have the expertise that they can bring.
Of course, not everyone sharing their opinion online is an expert. There are plenty of people who think they are experts when they are just opinionated.
The problem with opinions is that this:
The more familiar the experience, the more vast the opinions.
I noticed this when my wife became pregnant for the first time. So many people shared their opinions on pregnancy, childbirth, and raising kids. It’s a pervasive experience. Many of us have done it. We feel a sense of commonality but cannot see the difference between our situation and others. Much of what was shared in the form of “advice” and “opinions” had to deal with specific circumstances and little to do with broad pregnancy and childbirth experiences.
The church is no exception to this phenomenon.
Church is a pretty common experience. Many, many people have gone to church, if only for a while.
When you talk about church, there are a lot of opinions.
Just consider what we, as Pastors, have heard through this season as we’ve navigated a global pandemic:
“To slow the spread of this virus, we need you to stop meeting.”
“Pastor, You can’t halt in-person services. We need to stand for religious liberty.”
“You need to care for the most vulnerable among us by only have online services.”
“I’m tired of online services, it’s just not the same as in-person worship.”
“You can’t gather more than 10 people indoors, especially if you’re going to sing. That spreads the virus.”
“You want us to wear a mask? That’s infringing on my personal liberty.”
“I’m not coming to church unless we’re socially distanced, and all are wearing masks.”
“I’m not coming to church if we don’t do Children’s Ministry.”
“I don’t want my kids to be exposed to other kids who potentially have the virus.”
As I read through my social media feeds, I’m often reminded that because so many people have exposure to church, they have opinions about it, too. I’m continually seeing Pastors belittled, criticized, and mocked. Pastor’s decisions are challenged, their families are attacked, and their leadership is undermined. Why? It’s easy to feel like an expert when you’ve got some experience and an opinion.
During this past season, I’ve leaned into the real healthcare experts’ advice and expertise that I know. I’ve allowed their opinions to help inform our decisions. They’ve helped me understand and have guided my processing. I’ve forever grateful for them.
May I also submit, Pastors are experts, too.
Not every Pastor is an expert in organizational leadership. Not every Pastor has a trendy eye for design or crafts culturally-relevant sayings to post on social media. Not every Pastor is funny. Not every Pastor knows everything you know.
Pastors are experts, though. They are experts in Grace.
We are, often, the chief sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). We aren’t Pastors because we’re perfect. In so many ways, we aren’t. That doesn’t change our calling. We are called to lead you, teach you the Scriptures, and empower you to make an eternal difference.
The depths of our failures and the futility of our efforts have led us to our only end: the Grace of God. We have tried so many times, in vain, to make something happen, and we’ve failed. We have seen our brokenness face to face. We’ve had to share with you about faithfulness when we see our inward faithlessness. We’ve encouraged you to believe in your eternal purpose when we barely made it through the week carrying ours.
In the end, few things will be as important as the Grace of God.
We all need someone in our lives who has searched their lives, found themselves empty, and turned to God’s heart in the depth of His Scriptures to come to understand what we all need.
We need Jesus. As a Pastor and as a person, I’m an expert in knowing that.
Get yourself a Pastor. They won’t be perfect; no “expert” is. Lean into what they have to teach you. Trust God to speak through them, not because of how smart they are, or right they appear to be. Trust them because God uses imperfect men to shape our understanding of His perfection.