Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Parking Perks for Pastors? Preposterous!
I tend to be pretty easy-going. I don't get too riled up very often (only when the Georgia Bulldogs football team enters the season #1, wins three straight games, and drops two spots in the polls).
But occasionally, I'll come across something that flies all over me. For example, when I come across an inconsistent message, or someone or something sending mixed signals about who they are or what they are about.
I refuse to name names here, but I went to a church earlier this week that I had never been to before. I had heard about it, and had seen the billboards, but really knew nothing more. And, I learned all I needed to know when I pulled into the parking lot.
Smack dab in front of the main (and only) entrance to the church was a parking spot labeled "pastors." So, being a pastor, I parked there - even though I knew the spot was "reserved" for the lead pastor of the church.
I immediately thought to myself, "If I was starting a church, and I wanted to completely alienate my congregation, and send them the message that the pastor is the VIP, I would put a Pastor Parking sign in the spot absolutely closest to the entrance."
Talk about mixed signals. As the leader of a church, a pastor should demonstrate humility through serving others and setting an example by placing others' interests before his own. By putting something as trivial as a reserved parking spot for pastors - literally front and center - the leaders of that congregation immediately have a "sacred cow" and an obstacle to reaching lost people.
You may be thinking, "Well, it's just a parking spot. The church just wants to honor its leader. No big deal." The problem is not the parking space itself. It's what people see and perceive. And, Jesus warned against this repeatedly when he met with the spiritual leaders of his time on earth:
"You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You love sitting at the head table at church dinners, love preening yourselves in the radiance of public flattery. Frauds! You're just like unmarked graves: People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under." Luke 11:43-44 (Message)
Are pastors with privileged parking frauds? Most of them probably are not. Nonetheless, the shepherd should be most concerned with the health of his flock. And their collective health can be compromised over something as silly and insignificant as a parking spot.
In the end, what good can come of it? Can more harm come from having a reserved parking spot, or not having one?
And, lest you think I am just ripping churches, I feel the very same way about privileged parking for corporate big wigs, or even Employees of the Month. Customers (and the "little people" in those companies) see these signs and immediately feel ambivalent - perhaps a loyalty or a respect for the organization or employer, but disdain for the privileged few.
Again, it's sending mixed signals. The church or corporation says, "You are the most important person to us...except when it comes to getting the best parking spots."
Ultimately, it's a heart issue. And, I am by no means perfect. Believe me, I want that primo parking spot at the mall or ball game, too. But, sometimes I'll catch myself being a little too selfish, and I'll choose to park further away, so someone else can be closer.
And, quite honestly, the feeling of giving up something for someone else is far greater than the temporary satisfaction of saving myself a few steps on my way in.