As a pastor, and a child of the streets of “Los Angeles”, I find a cultural clash occurring between various cultural expectations of the pastor as a role model in the evangelical community. There is the emerging pastor who maybe dresses down and expresses himself in a very accessible and common manner. The pastor is the normal Joe. The primary value is authenticity and his demeanor is intended to contradict the stereotype of the "good looking guy who has it all together" image of a by-gone era. To the emerging pastor, the key is to put your worst foot forward as opposed to your best foot. To show weakness and to use yourself as an example of weakness and spiritual neediness is central to the meta-message of the emerging pastor's approach to his place as a role model.
In fact, the key principle is that there is no difference between the emerging pastor’s public and private persona. This principle is intended to teach that we ought not to live in fear, but, instead, the church is to be a safe community where there are no hidden rules and hidden agendas. The church is to be first and foremost a “no condemnation zone”. The church is the safest place on earth to be open and honest about your struggles with sin.
Pastors are called to be safe to the most hurting people in our society. The addict and the deviant must know that this man understands the self loathing and the powerlessness one feels when they carry with them a history of shameful deeds. A polo shirt or a suit and tie doesn’t make the outcast feel safe and at home.
Salt and Light – Being Distinctive
It is an interesting thing that the emerging pastor is often criticized for being more concerned with Pop culture than being distinct and holy. But this is a misunderstanding of the values of the emerging community leaders. The meta-message behind being hip is not “look at me I’m hip” but that we do not believe that cultural distinctives are good barometers of heart holiness. Being distinct is not so much about cigarettes and secular music as generosity and hospitality. The emerging pastor has Weezer on his iPod and a homeless family in his living room. By contrast, the old model tended to maintain the home as a sanctuary and to consider keeping in step with Pop culture to be a sign of worldliness. In the new paradigm, being culturally hip is simply a way of saying that it is not cultural distinctiveness that is the proper barometer of holiness but honesty, love, compassion, and a mild temperament. Being culturally aware is simply a way of showing that the old standards are superficial. The world is in need not of the forms of religion but the power that can transform the affections.
To the uninitiated, this new set of values is easily mis-interpreted. The old wineskin cannot hold the new wine. When the two are combined (the old wineskin with the new wine) much confusion and misunderstanding can ensue. What is needed is for the emerging pastor and the old paradigm to find a place of conversation and dialogue. All parties must learn to submit our preferences at the feet of the Missional purposes of the God of Love and become a multi-cultural expression of love and tolerance to a world caught in the grips of fear and guilt and all the lonliness that comes from a life of hiding behind the mask of a self-imposed prison of false dignity.