The Bechdel test is a corrective that was thought up by comic book writer Alison Bechdel. The Bechdel test is a simple question – does this story have two named female characters who are speaking to each other about something other than a man? The idea is that a story that doesn’t pass the test runs the risk of falling into some possibly unconscious misogynistic territory.
There are times in which I wonder if Lutheranism needs its own sort of Bechdel test — not necessarily about women (although I’m sure there are questions that could be asked there), but about people who are not pastors. Does the story of a church feature at least two people who are not pastors talking about something other than a pastor?
The story seems so common that it’s almost hackneyed: a Lutheran church has about 20 people showing up to a building with seating for 200 that used to be almost filled. How did they get there? Well, it’s not the only answer – but one of the answers is that they let the pastor be the center of their story. Their pastor was a great guy, but he couldn’t be the center of the story. I can’t be the center of the story. Jesus has to be.
The signs outside of our building say “A Jesus-Centered Community . . . ” No mention of pastor, just of Jesus and the community of gathered believers. (Why I finally let my name stand lower on those signs is another story for another day…) Our confessions (our doctrinal teachings as Lutherans) say that a pastor is a necessary part of that community, but they never go much further than that.
We’re Lutherans. We are people who believe that church is much more than buildings and pastors. We are a rebel movement of people who held on to the word of Scripture in the midst of church men who made themselves more than they ever should have been. Scripture talks about the Body of Christ and the priesthood of all believers much more than it talks about dudes like me. It talks about the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit even more.
This month has been deemed “Pastor Appreciation Month”. You will see internet memes on your social media feeds and you may even receive mailings that encourage you to appreciate your pastor. Ignore them. Instead, remember that your pastor is a Lutheran. Remember to make the story of Jesus central. Remember to make the gathered body of believers central. And in so doing, you will make this Lutheran pastor very happy.