Earlier this week, I was recounting to a friend of mine about a past pastor of mine, who holds a dear place in my heart.  I told my friend that this pastor was supremely gifted in providing personal care in a lot of different kinds of situations, and my friend, remembering that our congregation is very ethnically and socio-economically diverse, brought up that aspect of this pastor's job, that he had to deal with lots of different kinds of people. 

It actually wasn't at all what I had in mind, although that is true: it takes a unique person to be able to be a pastor to people of all colors and classes.  What I had in mind, actually, was that this pastor presents himself in such a humble, genuine, and compassionate way that he opened himself up to being called on by so many people in need, many of whom might not have otherwise opened up but for his approachability.

Including me.  I told my friend that everybody hurts, but unfortunately not many churches and not many pastors are seen as safe places to express those hurts and get real help.  So it was a blessing to our congregation, to our community, and to me personally - I was counseled by this pastor through a very difficult season in my life, and have called on him countless other times when I was troubled - to have a pastor who was in fact a safe place to be broken and to ask for healing.

But even as I give out a little "praise God" yelp in remembrance of my pastor friend, I am discouraged by my previous point.  Everybody hurts, and we in the church know it's our job, even and especially through our own hurts, to administer comfort and healing and hope to others.  And yet, does the average person think to go to church because they are desperate for help? 

You might argue that the average person is dead to his sense of need for help, and you might be right, but let's put that point to the side for a moment.  What I'd like to state is that we as a church - not the building or the corporation but the body of believers - have failed to be that safe place that people think of when they are unraveling and need a place to be messy and get help in getting things worked out.  Not only are we not considered, but I have to think that for many people, church is the last place they'd want to go to.

We have to change this.  Kudos to my pastor friend for advancing the cause of approachability.  Whether it comes natural for us or not, let's all join in as well.

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