Pastor’s gathering. SCOTT BARKLEY/Index
When I think about pastoring a church the question the Apostle Paul asked comes to mind, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 3:5). A lot of my friends are pastors, and most of my work is around pastors and churches. There are things that I know now that I didn’t know in 1992 when I went with great enthusiasm to be a pastor.
Pastors aren’t cattle.
I ran into a guy in the K-Mart in Statesboro, GA years ago. His pastor, one of my good friends was taking another church somewhere else in the state. He had served his congregation for 13 years. His pastorate was marked by growth, commitment, godliness, and innovation. The person I was talking with had been a deacon with this pastor through all those years. He said, “We’ll find another pastor. Pastors are like janitors. We’ll plug in another one.” My heart hurt. Maybe he was speaking out of his own hurt.
I watch how churches sometimes search for pastors and treat them in the process and afterward and I occasionally think they forget that this person is … well, a person.
Pastors are just regular people.
Pastors are just regular people who, at some point in time, decide that having an advanced degree and working for less than everyone else is okay with them. Just kidding. Sort of. Pastors are actually just people who decide that they are fine with relocating their families on average every 3.6 years. No really, pastors are just normal people who commit to the daily stress of having their families live under a microscope that hundreds of people are peering into. Pastors are just regular people who decide that they don’t mind having their vacations regularly interrupted by professional crises. Hehe. See where I’m going?
Pastors are just normal people whose employment is contingent on personal blamelessness. No pressure there. Pastors are just regular folks who may have to miss out on Christian community because they don’t get assimilated into the congregation they serve. No biggy. Who really needs friends? Pastors are just every day people who are called to make critical decisions that are guaranteed to make some people despise them. Who doesn’t enjoy that?
Pastors struggle with the meaning of success.
Pastors often struggle with separating their work performance from their sense of personal well being. The best pastors I know stay away from the comparison game. They don’t qualify their peers on the basis of “How many?” or, “How much?” My former pastor, Jeff Rollins, introduced a group of us pastors to Kent and Barbara Hughes’ book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. The Hughes wrote, “We found success in a small church that was not growing. We found success in the midst of what the world would call failure.” How did they accomplish this? They reset the markers in a way that were Biblical, not cultural or human. I highly recommend the book. It’s a great read.
Successful ministry partnerships are like marriage.
You don’t really know each other just from the courtship process. You only really find about each other once you make the plunge. You’re going to get on each other’s nerves at times. You have to dedicate yourself to each other anew every day. While there are times of high romance and great feelings, you will also have to get by on the grit of your will sometimes. You’re not perfect and neither are they. Hopefully you learn to turn your incompatibilities into teamwork. You have to choose to love them on their good days and bad and be glad that they are willing to do the same.
My friend Steve Foster shares this thought a lot on Facebook: “But God.” I only shared part of 2 Corinthians 3:5 earlier. The rest of it adds, “Our sufficiency is from God.” And that is a great reason for hope.