A really good television show about the life of a pastor or pastors: this is what I’d like to see. Rather than focus on the extremes (prosperity “Preachers of LA” or backwoods “Snake Salvation” handlers), my idea for the show would be much more mainstream.
I am a minister. I know ministers. I understand a lot of their world. Which is why I have often been disappointed by the way I see them depicted in film or television. The wimp. The fool. The crusading hate-filled hyper-fundamentalist. The hypocrite. The money-grubber. Not to mention the pervert. Stock characters all. There are ministers like this, certainly. But only a small minority. Most ministers are living rich and authentic lives in the everyday, serving in churches and doing the work they feel called to do in their local communities. Sometimes this approaches the sublime. Other days it is just complicated business. In all cases their lives are ripe with dramatic potential.
Lest anyone think that a local congregation is too stayed a locale for serious drama, remember that one of the most revered shows on television right now focuses on office work in the 1960s. Not exactly the stuff of heroic legend. The writing, characters, and the situations they find themselves in are what helps make Mad Men great. Here zombies need not apply. In the same way, the story of the local church and the drama of the pastoral vocation contain the seeds of a number of fascinating stories. Life, death, grief, joy, doubt, love, hate, sorrow: the ministerial world is not, despite what most people might think, boring.
I think that a show about the lives of ministers could be powerful and transformative. But it must be honest about the trials, temptations, and toil of the vocation. It must be a clear picture–in all its dangerous wonder and sometimes comedic inanity–of local congregational life. And, importantly, it must actually be able to depict how people of faith really act. No surface-level stuff here. I’m not asking for a puff piece here that only shows happy pseudo-perfect pastors. In addition to being boring, this would be fundamentally false.
What I’m asking for is a real picture of the kinds of men and women I went to seminary with and with whom I have served in ministry. People with great gifts, heart, quirks, flaws, varying personalities, and a deep yet sometimes confusing sense of call. Throw in the myriad people who are our congregation members (the possibilities for character choices here are endless…just ask any pastor) and you have the potential for a show that is as compelling as it honest. Not to mention its potential for humor.
While the entertainment world has rarely seemed too interested in this kind of program, I have some hope that the AMC‘s of today would consider just such a character study or ensemble piece as worthy of their artistic efforts. If done well, it could be embraced as a true successor to the dramas of Walter White or Don Draper. In any case, it is one of the things I’d like to see.