A Pastor’s life

I’m not a pastor.  I never have been, and I probably never will be.  I have, however, lived, worked, and spent a lot of time hanging around a lot of different pastors.  The #1 thing I’ve learned is that if you want to talk to the pastor before the end of the service, chisel a note on the back of a golden tablet and drop it in the offering.  I’ve always thought it would be funny to see an usher carrying around an offering plate that weighed 30 lb.

Observations

  1. Pastors are people. I’ve talked to several pastors who seem to think they have to portray themselves as the perfect person to their congregation because the congregation expects them to be more than human.  Well, they are just as human as I and everyone else.  They often don’t hear God, they wonder if they are doing the right thing, they have insecurities and doubt, and they do the best they can.  Why do you think so many pastors fall?  Because our human desires are universal, and it’s hard to always keep it under control.  In theory, we’re supposed to give ourselves over to God — both our dreams and our failures and be open and honest about our lives with those around us.  Unfortunately, we are afraid to confess, and pastors even more so.  I propose that sets up the culture of failure we have today.
  2. Pastors started out in the ministry with ideals and great dreams and visions.  This seems universal.  No one becomes a pastor without high ideals and hopes.  Sadly, as pastors get into the ministry and start dealing with people, they sort of slip into a routine that “works.”  I believe most pastors still desire growth within the people they work with, but I think many are at least somewhat disillusioned with either watching people reject change or the change not really lasting in their life.  And that leads to statements like, “Yes, that would be awesome, but the people in my church would never go along with that.  We have to try to get there much, much more gradually.”
  3. Pastors treat the ministry like a job. Like the rest of us, they are usually overinvested/workaholic or blow time off because no one is really watching them.  This one bugs me.  There’s nothing about ministry in the Bible that makes me think “job,” but that’s the Christian culture we’ve created.  Because it is a job, the people paying the bills expect some demonstrable results for their money… they want to see # of salvations, amount of tithes growing yearly, office hours, etc.  Now there is increased administrative overhead to essentially run a church like a business.  I also think that because the financial security of the pastor rides on their constituents’ satisfaction with their performance/behavior in the church, they may not push the church as hard as it needs to be pushed.  What happens if the church responds negatively to what they say and they get fired?  I’ve had people tell me that “it’s easy for you to say the pastor should say X to the church because I’m not the one that would lose my job over it.”
  4. Pastors hear more complaints than the IRS. You think I’m making that up?  You should hang around a pastor for a few days.  It’ll be amazing the number of complaints he has to endure… from the quality of the music, to the sermon, to personal conflicts within the church, to people complaining about their lives, to people wanting him to go here or do this, to the bathrooms being dirty, to any other complaint about the church or something they need the pastor to do.  I honestly don’t know how they handle it.  I guess it’s no wonder that observations 2 and 3 are the way they are because they have to be able to deal with it somehow. It’s for this reason that I’ve never wanted to complain or express my frustration about my church to the pastor.  He already hears it enough from everywhere else, and I want to be a source of encouragement and strength rather than one more drag on his day.
  5. Pastors deal with more scrutiny than Tiger Woods. Can you imagine a world where everyone comments on everything you do?  “Are you sure he should be driving that car?”  “Did you hear what his son said last Sunday?”  “I’m not sure it’s a good idea that the pastor went out to lunch with that person.  What kind of example does that set?”  “Doesn’t he just think he’s better than everyone else?”  “Pastor has a TV like that?  I don’t even have a TV that nice.”  “Did you see the pastor hadn’t paid his taxes yet?” (actually happened in a small town that printed these things in the paper)
  6. Christians expect too much from their pastor and not enough from themselves. They ought to come up with a better name for the rule than 80/20… like Most Ya’ll Are Lazy Bums So Git MOVIN, but I guess that doesn’t make into a nice acronym like MOTIVATE.  Oh well.
  7. Through it all, pastors still go after God. This is the coolest thing.  Even after considering all of the above, almost all of the pastors I know still seek God personally and for and with their church.  They dream big things for the people in their church and want those people to grow stronger and closer to God.  They want more people to “get it” and go with God’s spirit.
  8. Pastors like to talk. 🙂

Thank you to all the pastors I have had and have let me be part of your lives.  Thank you for being part of mine.

I used to think that pastors weren’t really necessary and in fact, in my church ratings, the two highest rated churches were churches that had just hired new pastors but they hadn’t shown up yet.  They were effectively still pastorless but thriving.  I thought my church in Springfield after college did great during the year without a pastor, and I never really felt the desire everyone around me had to find a pastor.  However, I’ve recently come to realize leadership’s importance as I’ve watched a church I’ve been close to crumble because of poor pastoral leadership.  People make the church, but most of us are born followers, and leadership tends to make the church useful and help keep it in line.

So if you are a pastor out there, and you find yourself dipping into observations 2 and 3 more than 5, remember what it’s all about.  Take some risks for your church.  Push them further.  Seek God and encourage them to do the same.  Lead your church away from a self-centered life; resist those things and run toward God and his ways.  You know it isn’t about the numbers but the people.  Ride where faith takes you.  You have proved God over and over.  He won’t fail now.

Go for it.

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2 thoughts on “A Pastor’s life

  1. I don’t know of a better alternative to #3 because it is a job. With #5, pastors’ wives bear even more scrutiny than the pastors do. #6 is all too true.

    Regarding the necessity for a pastor, there are several reasons why they are important. For one, 90% of the work they do has almost nothing to do with what you see on a Sunday. Any pastorless church could pay someone to show up weekly to speak, but a pastor provides a lot of service beyond weekly services that the fill-in speaker probably won’t be able to fulfill. Another important purpose is something that you already mentioned. Pastors provide vision and leadership for the direction ministry in the church takes.

  2. I think most everything said here is dead-on. Basically, a lot of the weaknesses/shortcomings of pastoral leadership shouldn’t be put solely on the pastor, because the congregation really forces him/her to be that way. Yet, in the end, the pastor is the leader, and the responsibility of a leader is to do what’s right, regardless of the personal injury. That’s why it’s so tough to be a leader. I believe if pastors/leaders really start standing up, we might actually start to change the atmosphere/culture found in the local church. I could say more, but I’ll keep it brief!

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