Bad Pastors are Like Bad Phlebotomists

Today, I learned that phlebotomists and nurses are like pastors, but it wasn’t a good lesson, or at least it wasn’t an easy lesson.

Photo on 4-6-15 at 7.03 PM #2This morning, someone tried to draw blood from the back of my hand. Not once, but three times. Not only did she miss, she went through the vein – beyond it – too deep, then fished around each time. I sat perfectly still through the painful process, and she accused me of moving, then in the next breath asked me to move my hand. Three hours later, I was still shaking. It has been difficult and painful to make a fist today. No you can’t touch the back of my hand right now, because it even hurts to softly run your fingers across my skin. Eventually, I had to go to the hospital (twice) to have the blood drawn, and there someone drew it easily.

I have never been difficult to draw blood from. In the previous 56 years, someone missed once in all that time. Yes, I hate needles, but today I learned to fear them – desperately fear them, because today I got hacked by a person who was NOT a novice RN. Some pastors are like bad nurses. They may have spent years doing their trade, but they have not mastered their art. There are some who can stick it too you, and leave you shaking for quite some time afterward.

I have been a pastor for almost 30 years, and in that time I have come to love the word “pastor.” It is the most relational word among the titles for the clergy. The title pastor carries the connotation of “shepherd” and “friend.” This insinuates a relational nature to our faith. The fact that Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity uses the title “pastor’ more commonly than any other title hints toward the relational nature of our faith. Yet, over the many years of pastoring, I have discovered that many “pastors” are not good people persons.

Many professional “pastors” offend people regularly, and do so under the assumption that the Gospel is offensive. Many of them are decent speakers, but terrible listeners. Some have no sense of the fine art of diplomacy, but need to have things done their way. Others jump to conclusions about people and people groups, instead of living by the motto of love, which “believes all things.” These pastors are not good students of the art of their profession. Rather, they are self-consumed with their importance, fearful of change, and lazy in learning basic people skills. As Americans, we often give these unskilled leaders a pass on the relational elements of the Christian faith, because we admire their stage presence, and we call that natural charisma (in our churchy vocabulary) “the anointing.”

I have seldom been impressed with the pulpit presence of a person, because it tells me little about the character of that person. A good sermon is only good for as long as it lasts, and once it is over, the pastor lives by his deeds, and his relationships. A pastor who is not good with people, is not a skilled pastor. They are like the nurse who can’t draw blood without drawing screams. If you see people are regularly getting stabbed, and then they leave shaking – something is wrong. Find another phlebotomist for your soul, and look for someone who has studied the art of being a friend.

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