by Gary J. Ellul
When you picture a pastor, what do you see?
My oldest daughter recently told me how surprised some of her friends were when they met me for the first time.
My daughter had told her friends I was a Lutheran pastor, but somehow my size and build didn’t fit their idea of what a pastor of a conservative church body was supposed to look like. One of her friends said the jacket I wore made me look like a biker. To his surprise, she said I was–and that I rode a real big bike. “He just shook his head and said pastors weren’t supposed to ride motorcycles,” she told me later.
When people think of a Lutheran pastor, motorcycle rider isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. For some in my congregation, it has taken a while to adjust to the idea that their pastor rides a motorcycle. But pastors are people, too, and we have interests and hobbies that actually do take us away from reading and studying. For some of us, that sometimes means hitting the open road with our wives saddled in behind us.
For me, riding my bike is a quiet time where phones and the problems of the world cannot affect me. Whether I am on the road to a hospital, a shut-in, or just gliding through the countryside, I am forced to focus on the road ahead and the drivers around me. But with the smell of the world in my nostrils and the sound of the wind in my ears, I am actually given time to ponder God’s Word. I can relax and let the readings for the week roll around in my head. The pieces of the puzzle–for example, all the information I have studied on the readings–fall into place, and I can find peace in the hectic world that we all live in.
As pastors, we live busy lives. At times, we live them in a frenzied state; at others, we are just harried from all that needs to get done and all that still hasn’t gotten done. Our calling is a 24/7, 52-weeks-a-year kind of job. Even if we adhere strictly to keeping a day off during the week, many of us, if a member calls and is in the hospital, will be suiting up and hitting the road. It is our job. It’s what we do. It is our calling from God.
This doesn’t mean we cannot sometimes merge our professional and personal lives. Discussing the pleasure and relaxation we gain from motorcycle riding, a pastor friend and fellow rider once said that, overall, we had a pretty good deal: We got to do what we loved doing, and we got paid mileage to do it. I couldn’t agree more.
When it comes to motorcycles, I am not alone. I have been surprised at how many pastors are also fellow riders. Even for me, my own preconceived ideas have blinded me.
I suspect the same is true of other hobbies and avocations. Pastors play golf; they bicycle, they sail, they fish. They play field sports and racquet sports, basketball and softball. They garden, and they ballroom dance.
What does a pastor look like? He looks like anyone else who is privileged to serve his Lord, to give Him honor and glory, and to enjoy the life that Christ came to give.
Editor’s note: Ellul, along with “the Wittenberg Riders,” is organizing the first annual Wittenberg Run, “a Lutheran motorcycle ride for pastors and laypeople,” Aug. 11–13 in Ellsworth, Kan. Ellul says the ride will be “a time to enjoy the hobby we love and a time to thank God for giving us the gift to be able to enjoy doing the job He has called us to do.” For more information about the ride, contact Ellul at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stpaulsjonesburg.com and click on “Wittenberg Riders.”