I am currently reading through Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling. I read a statement today that I found to be a tremendous metaphor. Speaking of the pastor practicing more self-disclosure in preaching, he says:
You quit being a painting that they gaze at, and you start being a window to the One who is your and their hope.
I do not know if this metaphor is original with Tripp or not, but I find it very helpful. As I stopped and thought about this metaphor I think it really helps on two levels.
First, this is a helpful illustration of pastoral ministry because it puts the glory where it needs to be. With a painting the glory goes to the guy whose name is signed in the corner. When you look out the window the glory goes to the One whose fingerprints are all over that sunset (or at least it is more conducive to that). Such is pastoral ministry. At the end of sermons and other forms of ministry the glory does not belong in our hands. Any pastor worth his salt points elsewhere. This is the level that Tripp was using the illustration on.
Secondly, it keeps the pastor from being boring. Even the best paintings in the world are exhaustible. You can only gaze at a painting for so long before you get a tad bored and want to move on to something else; like perhaps looking out a window. Looking out the same window the scenery changes every day. It will look very similar from day to day but there will always be something new. If pastors are paintings they will be tapped out at the level of their own abilities and resources. But if pastors are merely pointers to the Lord they will be as inexhaustible as the One to whom they are pointing.
Perhaps the reason why some pastors no longer captivate is because they were always nothing more than a painting. They’ve been exhausted. The congregation knows everything about them. Not in a looking out the window and seeing the same tree type of familiarity but in a I’ve heard this illustration 700 times pastor type of disdain. Maybe this is why some pastors become like those travelling paintings that stay in one place for only a little while and then get loaded up on a van to go elsewhere. “I’m no longer useful here” might be code for “people have stared at this painting long enough”.
I want to be a window and not a painting.