I have a confession to make. I’ve never liked the movie What About Bob?
It must be because I identify with the therapist. I’m usually the person trying to be reasonable and calm, and I simply don’t know how to gracefully handle someone who doesn’t have it together (OK, I’d probably just tell him to go away). However, my former pastor and my in-laws, both prison ministers, had a very different reaction to that movie.
What About Bob? serves as a therapeutic exercise for them. They love it. Perhaps it’s a kind of revenge for all that has been asked of them over the years. There’s a line where Bob says, “I need! I need! I need!” and I think that’s a snapshot of what pastors face on a regular basis: people who constantly take from them.
The more I thought about Bob, the more I realized that the two of us have something in common.
I used to treasure meeting my pastor for breakfast. While my friends and I always opted for the Greek diners that served a mountain of eggs and potatoes for $3, he always met me at a crowded chain restaurant just off the Jersey Turnpike. It wasn’t my favorite atmosphere, but that didn’t matter. I had too many things I wanted to talk about.
I was trying to sort out my life. I had issues with my parents. I had a girlfriend who seemed to be marriage material. I had ministries where I needed counsel. I had decisions to make. I need! I need! I need!
I dumped all of this on my pastor. Sometimes I’d ask him about his life. I did care about him. However, the bulk of our time together was a one-way transaction where he helped me. When I remember those conversations, I distinctly remember him offering counsel for my problems—my needs.
After outing myself as more Bob than doctor, I began to rethink my approach to my pastors.
At our new church in Columbus, I try to regularly meet with as many people as I can in an attempt to get some relationships off the ground. I’m an introvert trying to be proactive and outgoing over a cup of tea or stomach-assaulting Sudanese food—the former being my preference.
The one thing I always try to do when I meet with a pastor is to ask one very simple question as soon as I can, “How can I pray for you?”
I never want to be Bob again. I never want to drain my pastors or anyone else for that matter. I want to have a mutually supporting relationship where we follow Jesus together. I don’t want to be spiritual dead weight on someone who may be having a particularly rough week.
We need. We need. We need to travel together, to never lean so heavily on one person that we forget God intended us to fly on our own.