Pastor as Father (2 of plenty)

The prospect of being a dad really makes you think about things.  Like names.  Names matter.  Somewhere I heard that your name is the most beautiful sound you know.  And why not?  We are the center of our own universe, right?  God knows our name... one of the deepest labels we have.

I'd love to hear how you got YOUR name (leave a comment) but I figured I could tell you how I got my names.

First, Jack is not short for anything.  It is really just Jack.  My Dad used to say that I was named after C.S. Lewis but I'm pretty sure my Mom's account is more meaningful: I was named after my Granddad (her father).  Jack Snow was a pretty awesome guy, as Godly Christian men go.  He won some kind of lifetime achievement award and the US Fish and Wildlife Department interviewed him.  You can find the transcript here.

Second, Marshall comes from my great-grandfather, Marshall Sylvanis Snow.  Also, my mom is Marsha so you can't tell me that is an accident.  I met him once that I can remember.  I think he died in 1989.

Third, since my Dad and his parents literally came over on a boat to the US from the Netherlands, I can count the number of people with the last name, Hinnen, that I'm closely related to.  It makes me unique and I love it.

Giving someone a name is no small feat.  I don't think it should be taken lightly although choosing a name for our daughter is giving me a false sense of control.  Should we use a family name?  Will she have to spell it for everyone?  Is it cool enough?  Classic enough?  Smart enough?

I try as a pastor to remember people's names.  It provides a window into their world and, whether they like it or not, tells me something about them.  I especially try to pronounce it like the person says it instead of projecting my own stuff onto people ("Har har har!  You got a funny name!").  But what if a person doesn't have a name yet?

There aren't people who don't have names.  There are just people whose names I haven't learned yet.  I'm looking forward to learning my daughter's name as well.

The previous "Pastor as Father" post is here.  This is part of an ongoing "Pastor as..." Series.  Being a pastor is always about the intersection between you, me, and God.  At least for my reality.

I may have to love them, but I sure don't like them.

I've heard Christians say (when talking about justice, grace, or being Christian) that you have to love someone but you don't have to like them. I can't pin down why this saying bothers me so I want to talk about it a bit. Don't get me wrong... I've used it before and certainly thought it before. But is it sound theological advice?

The short answer is no.

Imagine Jesus and some disciples sitting around watching the people coming in and out of the temple. Without a doubt they would have done what I do when passing people in the Atlanta airport. "Hey, look at that guy over there. You think he loves hair gel or what?"

If a disciple watched a Pharisee walk into the temple I bet one of the disciples would lean over to Jesus and say... "Hey Jesus... Look at that pompous jerk. I bet he spends more on his phylacteries than he has given to widows."  I bet Jesus would respond with the same fiery love he is known for. His response would affirm the disciple but challenge whether that attitude was loving. Imagine Jesus saying, "well you've spent more on casting lots so I'd be careful about judging anyone. Besides, he tries. Love him like I do, okay?" To which the disciple would probably have said the Aramaic equivalent of...

I may have to love them, but I don't have to like them (there is some variance between individuals - who we sometimes know - and groups, where we are often stereotyping).

Today I think this fundamentally undercuts Christians in their mission to love the world. It is saying you are willing to go only so far.  Could you imagine if that was God's attitude with us?  Could you imagine telling someone you really do love... I love you, but I don't have to like you. What!? It calls into question what you think love really is AND practically guarantees that you don't think favorably of you refer. It is the backhanded compliment that is more of a threat than affirmation of Gods mission. Its like saying, "you better be glad God is holding me back because I don't like you." It is filled with a lot of "you aren't good enough" which is then precise opposite of the live we learn and experience in Jesus Christ.

What is love?  Just ignoring someone or giving them the stink-eye across the room?  If so, then forget I ever said anything - apparently you do love them without liking them.  But I'm right - that isn't love.  Is love tolerating someone?  No.  People you really love - you like them.  I can guarantee that you can find redeemable qualities about anyone you love.  They are often what you back up that love with!  

Instead of threatening those we struggle with let's be honest about things. We use that phrase (I may have to love them, but I don't have to like them) to accept, defiantly, that we choose not to move any closer to them.  It is self-condemning as telling God no.  Trade out that phrase for this one:

I'm still learning how to love them.

or, if referring to a person,

I don't love them like I should, yet.  

At least this way the phrase places the reality of the situation firmly on the one speaking.  You not liking them is YOUR problem, not theirs.

People who often feel justified in how they feel (not liking) have some great reasons, I'm sure. But the truth is your inability to like someone is your problem and probably why you think God is somehow forcing you to love the person in the first place. Which comes first? Liking them or loving them? Pretty sure for us the lesser precedes the greater.  I hope we can do both.

Is there any hope?

I prayed today for peace between Israel and Hamas.  The person I prayed with said that the "other side" isn't interested in a truce or in peace.  They are only interested in the complete obliteration of their enemies.  When that is the case, this person said, there can be no peace.

Is that true?  Is the only possible outcome the destruction of one or the other?

Jesus knew a thing or two about facing impossible odds.  He also knew of what it was to face those who aren't interested in peace but strictly determined to destroy him.  Interestingly, his response was less negation of the threat and more of proving just how powerless they are to compromise God's plan for mending the world.

I don't mean either side in this quasi-eternal conflict must submit to death as Jesus did (the cross is A LOT less aquiescence than willful submission).  Instead, I only offer that as a Christian I must seek a third way... not flight.  Not fight.  The only path to redemption...salvation...justice... is a third way exemplified by Christ in the love he always responded in.

This isn't easy.  It certainly is risky when the "other side" simply desires your destruction.  But what we can't yet see (and accept on faith) and what the other side isn't aware of, is that a loving and miraculous God doesn't work like we do.  Destruction is not the only path to abundant life.

Pic is from here.  Also, this one is relevant.

Pastor as Automaton

Technology is great, yeah?  I read somewhere they it best serves its function when it simply enables a more fulfilling life while remaining completely innocuous OR is so essential that you can't imagine life without it.  Think anti-lock brakes for the former and Wi-Fi for the latter.  Lately, technology (specifically social media) and I have not been getting along.  It has forced me to reflect on my role as a pastor.  Am I trying to become innocuous to the communities I'm a part of?  Or so essential that those same communities can't imagine life without me?  Believe me - this isn't about you right now.  This is about me.*

I LOVE social media.  I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, blogger (obviously), Feedly,, youtube, snapchat, reddit, Hootsuite, Buzzsprout, Twitch, and most recently: tumblr.  Not an exhaustive list but all the ones that came to mind just now.  Sound like too much?  It is.  I've become an automaton.

Not convinced?  In an attempt to reign in the craziness and still stay accessible I've started using automation app and websites like and  Frankly?  It is too much.  Just looking over the last paragraph fills me with a deep sense of the amount of time I spend trying to look human and not actually being one.

Pastors should, by and large, be a part of the community but also not.  What I mean is that we are often called be prophets, counselors, preachers, teachers, evangelists, apostles.  To do that well means being in communities where we can help the Kingdom of God flourish.  But we must also be separate from them.  The challenge is not being a human automaton but a God automaton.  It is the Pentecost season, after all.  If I can't keep an eye towards the eschaton then I cease being human as I was intended to be!  In the past two weeks I've preached at Capstone UMC and Bluff Park UMC.  You can hear both sermons here and here, respectively.  Both sermons served as a reminder to myself as much as others that we should cease being human automatons and begin being Godly automatons.  I hope to do that as a Pastor.  Now to post this deep insightful thought into the internet in as many ways as possible...

My wife, doing yoga as the sun goes down in the Virgin Islands.

* - This is part of an ongoing "Pastor as..." Series.  Being a pastor is always about the intersection between you, me, and God.  At least for my reality.