What Every Pastor Wants
A few weeks ago, my wife’s flatiron unexpectedly gave up the ghost. Like the good, dutiful husband I am, or at least attempt to be on my better days, I bought her a replacement flatiron which arrived in the mail later that week. Now, this process revealed two things to me. First, flatirons are outrageously expensive! I’m currently taking donations to help the bank account recover. Second, our society is tailored to our every whim.
After draining the checking account to purchase the flatiron, my email was suddenly inundated with unsolicited flatiron ads. Never mind the fact that I’ve only bought two flatirons in my life, both for my wife, and the fact that my hair isn’t even long enough to go through a flatiron! You’ve probably had similar experiences. What does this tell us about our society? It tells us that if we so much as consider spending money on something, our culture races to encourage us to continue shopping. Society is tailored to our wants and desires.
I get strange looks when I tell people what I do for a living. After all, I’m a 22-year-old, who probably looks 18 to most people, who pastors a church with an average Sunday morning attendance of approximately sixty people, though we’ve been lower than that of late. When I tell people my profession, some are elated to find a young pastor. Others are incredulous. Some respond by snarling, “they sure are starting them young nowadays.” Others are down-right hostile.
Whatever you may think of me or of other pastors, let’s agree on one thing: pastoring is extremely difficult. I’m not sure if other jobs require someone to be adept at so many divergent tasks; if so, I need someone to tell me how they do it, because I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
Pastoring is difficult for a multitude of reasons. For one, you have way too many irons in the fire at any given moment. During any given week, a pastor might have to prepare information and presentations for a business meeting, write three sermons, organize volunteers, make difficult visits to the hospital, call parents of kids who attend the church, have meetings with church members, worry about whether the church will meet its budget for the year, and wonder why a given church member—or more likely a group of church members—has inexplicably taken an undeserved hiatus from church. Furthermore, the pace is grueling. You can’t imagine the pressure to produce one hundred fifty Bible studies and sermons a year until you’ve done it, let alone trying to make them interesting, applicable, and relevant. And that’s just a small snippet of church work. May the Lord pity poor fools like myself who are concomitantly struggling through a rigorous graduate school schedule, work a second job, or run some other ministry organization.
But I don’t mean to complain; I love pastoring, especially the preaching and teaching part of the job. However, I don’t want to pretend that it’s easy either—it’s very difficult. One reason for the job’s difficulty is our cultural expectations. From the womb, we Americans are trained to be the prototypical, quintessential consumer. If it breaks, no fear, a new one can be purchased for a moderate price. If we want something, a simple swipe of the almighty debit card will satisfy our latest craving. If a church isn’t meeting my needs, then a different one will. If the pastor makes me mad, I’ll go somewhere else next Sunday.
Here’s my point, the pastor cannot do it all. He can’t make all the decisions, visit all the sick people, keep up with all the church members, organize all the programs, keep everyone happy, and preach ground-breaking, perennially pertinent sermons every week. He simply cannot do it, nor should he. While most pastors work extremely hard, all pastors desperately need help. Your pastor is not there to entertain you, serve you, or meet your needs. Though he will likely fill all of these roles from time to time, these aren’t his ultimate goal. His ultimate goal is to encourage people, yourself included, to serve Christ. One crucial aspect of him fulfilling this awesome requirement is for him to let you be disappointed in him and in the church from time to time. If you show up to church expecting it to be all about you, then I sincerely hope that you are woefully disappointed. The Church is to be organized around Christ, not around you and me and our petty preferences.
Here’s what every pastor worth having wishes: that you would own the church’s ministry. If you want to make your pastor’s day and help him keep his black hair a little bit longer, then I encourage you to step up in your church. If you’ve been gone for three weeks, then go back. If you’re upset because he hasn’t called you, get over it. It’s extremely difficult to remember who hasn’t been there in three weeks—especially if you weren’t consistent in the first place. If there’s a job that needs to be done, then volunteer. If you aren’t involved with any form of ministry, then get off the pew and jump in head-first.
And to the church members who have realized that church isn’t about them and are faithful despite numerous reasons not to be—thank you. You have no idea how precious people with thick skin and a can-do attitude are to a pastor. My church, like many others, stands upon the shoulders of a handful of volunteers who give of their time and possessions to make things operate. While pastors are recognized by the congregation as serving, mammoth acts of service are done behind the scene and are never seen. If you’re that person, know that your pastor looks up to you and is thankful for you in ways that are difficult to explain. I enjoin you—be ye faithful.