Tonto was always there for the dirty work.

Among the hazards of the ministerial role is one I have come to think of as the Lone Ranger syndrome. It is a problem that arises both from the expectations congregations often have of ministers, and from our own expectations regarding our work.

The characteristics of the Lone Ranger are disturbingly like those that congregations tend to expect of their ministers. He is brave, strong, wise, honest, virile, and he always rides off without waiting to be thanked.

He is also masked, a distant sort of authority figure, ultraclean in a white hat on a white horse. He never rolls in the dust or is humiliated in combat, never looks foolish or makes a mistake, and does not show negative emotions such as rage, despair, guilt, or sorrow. He is always cool, calm, and collected behind his mask. He is the leader, giving direction and expounding truth in an authoritative voice.

Unfortunately, congregations are not alone in harboring such expectations. We ministers tend to want to be Lone Rangers. After all, we have silver bullets unavailable to other fighters of evil. The Bible contains all truth necessary for salvation, and we are its interpreters. Jesus is the answer, and we are his representatives. Why should we not, then, expect to ride off into the sunset having righted wrong and conquered evil?

But frustration usually attends our attempts at Lone Ranger ministry. We use our silver bullets to defeat the world’s evil, and they do not work. We give the answers in preaching and teaching and counseling, but people do not respond. We work to solve problems, but evil persists. We are ineffective and disillusioned.

I find a comparison of the Lone Ranger to his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, helpful. ...

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