Tuesday, January 06, 2015

About Your Minister/Pastor

I have hesitated to write this blog because I thought too many might think I have depression issues. I can assure you that I am fine and still am willing and able to get up every day and face the tasks that lie before me. But each of the following are thoughts and feelings that I have had in the past (and maybe still face). This is to encourage you to encourage your minister. Often he stands alone...or at least he feels he's alone. It's good for you to think about things from his side of the pulpit.

1. Your concerns are his concerns. A minister hears many stories during the course of his week. He hears of a wayward child or husband. Sickness is something that becomes a concern to him--both physical and spiritual. People, politics, and problems enter his office daily. And when he goes home at night, not only is he dealing and feeling your concerns, he has to deal with the concerns of his own family.

2. He feels inadequate. Trying to proclaim the awesomeness of God, the love of His Son, and the work of the Spirit is a wonderful task for the preacher. But he feels as if he can't really communicate the true meaning of our Lord's greatness adequately. Try to describe how much God loves you to someone else. At the end of his sermons, he often prays a prayer of apology to God that he has fallen far short of the goal of trying to describe the depths of God Himself. He has to wholly depend on God to use his shortcomings and weakness and allow God to work in the hearts of the people who have just heard his message.
But secondly, he feels inadequate as a sinner to proclaim the message of salvation and grace. He knows that you look at him as somewhat of an ideal Christian man knowing full well that he sins and sins often. His humanity often is hidden behind a shroud of seeming invincibility. When his sins do show up publicly, he feels as if he has totally failed his God.

3. He reads to present something timely and valuable often at the expense of his own spiritual well-being. Every preacher has a list of books he wants to read to help him in his own spiritual walk. Often that reading list takes a back seat in order to read and study for a lesson that is pertinent to the congregation. It's not that he doesn't enjoy the study that he does for his sermons. It's just that he feels as if he's reading to prepare a sermon rather than reading to enhance his spiritual life. How he would love to just read for the sake of enjoyment.

4. Often his family has to wait on hinm because he's dealing with a particular church problem or issue. The phone will ring in the middle of a family meal. There is a meeting on Saturday and it's imperative that he's there. A member is struggling with a teen who has run away or has threatened them with physical harm, and you're called to come to defuse the situation. Many "emergencies" take away from good, solid family time.

5. He is often the target of criticism for anything from doctrine to sermon preparation to fashion (or lack thereof). It's difficult to please everyone. Don't believe me? Try to please everyone in your own family. Let alone a church of 100, 200, 300, or a thousand. Our society has become such an opinionated lot, we are many times brutal in our assessment of the minister.
"He speaks too long."
"He doesn't speak long enough."
"He was boring."
"Wasn't his sweater horrendous?"
"I wish he would dress up more."
"He has really gone off the deep end!"
Whatever happened to grace? Since when is worship about us? When will we learn that all things are to glorfy God?

6. I have already briefly alluded to this one, but remember that his call to ministry never ceases. Phone calls, texts, and other messages come at all hours of the day and night. Even deaths don't care about vacations.

7. Sunday is a taxing day, both emotionally and physically. The preacher has to be "on" his game. Optimistic. Fresh. Enlightening. By the end of the day on Sunday, after all the sermons have been preached, when all the meetings are over, when the classes have been taught, one of the last things he wants to do is to be with people. All wants to do is go to bed because by the time everything is done on Sunday evening, he is exhausted.

8. Finally, and once again I have touched on this already, he is human and has flaws. No one is more keenly aware of this than he is. He knows that when he preaches about lust or greed or envy or anything else, he also struggles with the same issues. In fact, many of the sermons, if not all of the sermons, are preached because HE needs them. At the end of the day, he is brutally cognizant of the fact that he, too, is a sinner in need of God's grace.

This may not be true of all ministers/pastors. Perhaps some of these apply and some don't. And I'm not trying to say that ministry is depressing and cruel and I discourage anyone to follow the path of ministry. In fact, it often is some of the most rewarding work you'll ever do. You have a front row seat. You see the births, the triumphs, the crossing over into glory, in addition to all the other things. So, the next time you see your preacher, tell him how much you love him and appreciate him. More importantly than anything, tell him personally that you are praying for him. Accept him as another person, another follower of Christ who is doing his best to be a disciple...just like you.

Dr. Jim White

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