Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Glimpse From the Other Side

"I should be a pastor because pastors only work for half a day on Sundays."

I think we have all heard this joke before and anyone who ever truly gets a glimpse of a pastor's life knows how far from the truth this is. I have only been in ministry for approximately 20 months, but during that time I feel as though I have gained some amazing perspective into the life of a pastor, albeit very little comparatively speaking. This "glimpse from the other side" has been eye opening and I feel that it would benefit all who read my blog to share a little of what I have observed about being a pastor. My observations are mainly from watching the the senior pastor I work with, myself, and a few other pastors whom I have got to know well enough to get a taste of what their life in ministry is like.

So, here are 11 things you probably do not know (but you should know) about your pastor.

1. He loves his job because he loves Jesus and he loves his people. He thinks about you between Sundays. He prays for you between Sundays. And he cares about your life between Sundays even if you rarely ever get a chance to talk with him one-on-one. He longs for your salvation and sanctification.
2. He has a hard time leaving "problems" at the office. When you are struggling in your life, having problems in your marriage, falling into sin, suffering, etc. your pastor carries your burdens. He thinks about you when he is eating dinner with his family. He lays awake at night praying for you. He literally weeps over you.
3. He does not get much intentional encouragement from his people. Yes, many of us make sure we tell him that his message was really good on Sundays, but when was the last time you sat down and wrote a note to your pastor thanking him for putting the countless hours of study, preparation, and prayer into being diligent in teaching God's Word, counseling, encouraging, praying for you and your family, calling to check up on you, putting in time, effort, and going through the sometimes pain of developing paid/lay staff to better shepherd the sheep.
4. He often times is aware of his mistakes and/or shortcomings. I know sometimes it makes us feel good or more spiritual or we think he'll be impressed by our acute awareness when we let him know that he misspoke a sentence or two in his message or that the lawn of the church needs to be mowed, or that there is a light out in one of the kids' rooms. And when do we usually mention these things? Sundays of course. Believe it or not this is not the best time to mention those things and he is usually not even the guy to talk to about them. Not to mention, this does not really impress him so much; it probably actually annoys him.
5. Part of his job is to feed his own soul. A pastor who is spending significant time in the Word and in prayer is going to be much more effective and faithful in the ministry. We should never make him feel like he is not using his time well by seeking to nourish his soul - it is perhaps the most important part of his job and should be encouraged to take that time during his day. Just because he is not running around to different meetings or doing administrative work does not mean he is not doing important work. His study time and prayer time are important work. He pours everything he has out into his people; he should be encouraged to seek to be nourished by Jesus.
6. He works with volunteers. This means he is often at the mercy of other people's schedules and dedication level. This is not only hard on him but on his family as well because he usually has a very fluid schedule. Also, he knows that if ministry leaders do not fulfill their commitment, he looks bad and he takes the heat. Therefore, it is not helpful when well-intended people enthusiastically say that they will do something and then do not follow through. That person may not think twice about it - "after all, I am just volunteering so I can stop any time I want." (Whether it is a church or anywhere else, it is not honoring to Christ to not fulfill our commitments. Actually, it is a sin to say we will do something and then not do it.) But, the pastor not only has to think twice about it, he has to pick up the pieces and bear the criticism. Usually he ends up having to carry out the job himself as well.
7. He and the Elders are God's appointed leaders over the church. They are responsible for the doctrine, discipline, and direction of the church. This means that they labor extremely hard to carry out God's purpose for the church. They spend a lot of time (away from their families usually), energy, emotion, and often tears laboring for Christ in this respect. Also, this means that they need to look at the big picture of where they feel God is leading the church and how best to accomplish its mission - making disciples of Jesus. Therefore, not every great ministry idea we float by the pastor is going to happen. This is not because our idea was bad (maybe it was) or that they don't like me, or that they don't value my input. It could mean that at that time my idea does not fit with where the church as a whole is or where it is going. Between the Elders, many ideas get shot down or majorly readjusted to fall in line with the vision of the church. Usually, it is not a matter of bad ideas or personal preferences, rather it is an issue of being good stewards of the resources and people God has entrusted to them.
8. One of his biggest thrills is someone who has a vision and passion for a ministry, frames it within the larger picture of the church, takes ownership of it, enthusiastically carries out that ministry, and even admist growing "success" keeps it within the lager vision of the church. He loves to see others lead and be fruitful!
9. He revels in the transforming power of the gospel on your life. Whether one has been a believer for years and they finally get victory over a life-long struggle or someone comes to faith in Christ, your pastor is overflowing with joy in the power of the cross.
10. His job is not to go around and sprinkling magic Jesus dust on every problem in our lives or in the church. His job is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry," (Eph. 4:12). This takes many different forms and happens through many different aveneues, but let's be clear - our pastor is not our own personal Holy Spirit.
11. His first responsibility is to be a disciple of Jesus. This is followed by being a good husband and good father then a good pastor. According to Scripture, being a good pastor is obviously dependent on these things (1 Tim. 3:4) , but it is fourth in priority.


Jeff Johnson said...

Thanks for the reminder!

I am remided of Paul's comment in 2 Corinthians 11. In verses 23-27 Paul describes the hardships he's faced: floggings, beatings, shipwreck, attempts on his life, prison, trials... And then in v28, he says, "And beyond all those is my burden from you." Paul had endured all that, but his greatest concern, the biggest burden of his soul, was for God's people.

That's a pastor's heart.

I praise God for the pastors he has placed and used in my life. What a gift good shepherds are from God.