From the Pastor’s Pen

Putting On Your Britches One Leg at a Time
by Reverend Ashley Helton

What was your relationship with your pastor like as a child, teenager, or young adult? What has it been like as you have grown as a disciple and been led, often weekly, by a person of the cloth? The lucky among us have experienced our pastors as real people who happen to be called to preach, teach and guide God’s children through life. Ministry thus far has shown me that most people have never been among the lucky. Perhaps this is because one of the biggest crimes committed by pastors over the last 100 years has been presenting themselves as untouchable, other-worldly and different from congregants.

I grew up in a home that always emphasized that we all get up in the morning and put our britches on the same way: one leg at a time. Also emphasized was the belief that it was unacceptable for a person, presumably me, to get too big for said britches. These lessons formed me into an adolescent who was never afraid to talk to or be friends with my teachers, pastors, coaches and leaders. Fortunately, I have carried that same life approach into adulthood and allow it to shape how I interact with others. Therefore, you might be able to imagine my shock, post-commissioning and ordination, when people began to treat me as the aforementioned “untouchable, other-worldly, and different.” “What in the world?” I thought. It was as if our Bishop had given me super-powers to intimidate, be the only person able to pray over meals and the ability to halt all conversation when I was introduced as somebody’s “pastor-friend.”

The rise of the Mega-Church Prosperity Gospel in the 20th Century has largely harmed the way humanity views American clergy people today. Understandably, pastors are often viewed as people not to be trusted. We (clergy) are the chief hypocrites. The biggest liars. The grandest sinners. The primary offenders. Surprisingly, the mistrust has not been born out of the hypocrisy, lies, sins or offenses; rather, mistrust has been born of clergy people’s lack of laying claim to our own humanity and therefore being the first to admit our own need for grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Therefore, let me be the first to tell you that Rev. Ashley Helton is not untouchable, other worldly or different from you (presumably non-ordained) folks. In fact, I’m willing to bet that we are much more alike than we are different. Despite being a pastor, I still have seasons of doubt in my discipleship; I continue to wrestle with how The Bible and personal experience work together, and I stand in daily need of God’s mercy on my soul. Furthermore, there are usually dirty dishes in my sink, my spouse and I get mad at each other, and I’m not immune to mumbling certain words under my breath when I stub my toe. I tell you all of this because I want to be the pastor that makes (or continues to make) you among the lucky. I want to right the wrongs of the pedestal-pastors of days gone by.

My heart’s desire is to live out my calling, right here, right now at Asbury by preaching, teaching and guiding God’s people. I believe that we get to do that when we acknowledge that we’re all from the same dirt, the same breath and we, too, put on our britches the same way every morning: one leg at a time.