“You don’t look like a pastor.” I’ve heard that line a few times in my life and I have to say I think it is stupid. Here’s why. It is almost always Christians/church goers that say it to me. A minister looking like or not looking like a pastor seems to matter more to people who regularly attend church than it does to those who don’t. Either they want their pastor to look like some stereotype or they don’t want their pastor to look like that stereotype or, the worst of both worlds, they want their pastor to look like the stereo type of the “anti-pastor” (a.k.a the cool/hipster pastor). All I know is that these externals don’t matter a lot because quite often the pastor who doesn’t look like the pastoral stereotype acts like an extreme version of that stereotype.
My friends who aren’t regular church attenders taught me this. They have never said to me, “you don’t look like a pastor,” but they have said to me “you don’t act like a pastor.” I consider this a huge compliment because what they usually mean is that they don’t feel judged or condemned by my presence. They don’t feel that they have to put on airs and act holy around me. Instead they can actually be their real shelves even if I might personally disagree with something they are doing or believe. They don’t feel that I am treating them like a project or a sermon illustration of how great I am at sharing my faith with others. They know I love them and will act on that love no matter what. In other words, I am not acting like the worst stereotypes of the pastors that they can think of and they like that.
I’ve heard this same “you don’t look like” statement used for pastor’s spouses (usually wives in Southern Baptist/Evangelical churches) and church buildings, often with some great pride. Always seems odd to me when it usually turns out they act just like the stereotype of a pastor’s spouse or a traditional church.
The church building version of this is often “we’re the church for people who don’t like church,” which usually just means “we don’t have pews” or “we have a bass player with facial hair.” If you actually want to be “the church for people who don’t like church” then try to actually do things differently. I don’t mean forsaking the central beliefs of Christianity, rather treat people different than they believe the church typically does. Value the thoughts and abilities of everyone in the church rather than celebritizing/deifying the lead pastor and worship team. Spend an inordinate amount of the church’s tithes and offerings outside of the church building rather than spending almost everything on your own church building, program, people, etc. Forgive to the point that regular church-people get worried that you might have gone too far. In other words, be different don’t just look different.
The pastor’s spouse version of “you don’t look like” seems to be “you don’t look as dowdy as I expect a pastor’s wife to look.” You want to actually not be like the worst stereotype of the pastor’s spouse? Be more of a servant than a taker? Be so busy taking care of other people’s needs that other people are worried that you never think of yourself. Or, my personal biggie, don’t expect everyone else to take care of your kids while you do something cool and un-pastor’s-wife like. I’ve met a few pastor’s spouses who loved people saying that they didn’t look like a pastor’s spouse and yet they were some of the most self-focused people I have ever known. Again I don’t care if you look like a pastor’s spouse stereotype or not. I care greatly if you act like that stereotype and I am greatly thrilled that Pamela doesn’t (I can brag on how wonderful my wife is all day folks).
I don’t remember any descriptions of Jesus’s physical appearance in the Bible. I take this to mean He probably looked pretty much like what people expected a rabbi to look like. I do know of tons of descriptions of His behavior that caught people off guard. In other words He didn’t act like what people expected a religious leader to act like. I want to be like Him.