May 242013

Reflections on the Modern Pastorate (or Autocorrect Could Get Me Fired)

Few things have changed the pastorate as much as the cell phone.

Fifty years ago the pastorate revolved around an office, a secretary and a phone. If someone needed the pastor, they would call and leave a message. The pastor would call the person back. In today’s world with Facebook, Twitter, and my blog on my cell phone, every church member who desires to friend or follow me has instant access through direct messaging.

While I can’t respond immediately, I can know immediately whatever they want me to know. It is a great gift (most of the time). It is a little odd when a church attender drunk-texts me in the middle of the night. While I take it as a sign that we are trying to reach the right people, I can only imagine their embarrassment the next day.

There are plenty of benefits with the cell phone, but it also brings plenty of danger to the modern pastorate.

Nothing terrifies me more than the thought of texting the wrong thing to the wrong person.

It’s not uncommon for me to be in multiple texting conversations at once and for at least one of them to be about a pretty serious topic (and for at least one of them to be about a pretty petty topic).

Imagine I’m texting my son’s teacher about my wife making a meeting while at the same time I’m texting someone whose wife is in surgery. “She’s not going to make it,” can mean two completely different things.

The other day I was in a restaurant and I saw the wife of a friend eating a dessert. I knew her husband was dieting so I texted him, “she’s cheating on you.” Before I sent it, I made sure it was headed to the right person and not someone who I was talking with regarding a marital issues.

When my wife found out she was pregnant with our son, she emailed me, “I think we’re pregnant.” The only problem is that she actually sent the email to her boss Kevin instead of her husband Kevin.

With small keys and big thumbs, texting is ripe with peril. On several occasions I have hit the “i” instead of the “o” while texting the word “shot.” That’s led to some interesting text messages to some people from their pastor. “I took a shot,” takes on a whole new meaning when the “o” is replaced with an “i.”

Of course autocorrect could get me fired. I once texted, “I love labias” when autocorrect changed the word “labels.” I don’t remember why I was sarcastically proclaiming my love for labels, but had that been a tweet I would now be in a different profession.

Thankfully people are pretty understanding and while they have high expectations, they don’t expect perfection. So if I ever tweet or Facebook something out of the ordinary, assume the best. If you are a church member and I ever strangely text you the message “you’re an idiot,” assume I meant it for one of my friends.