My entire adult life I have served the church; over 30 years now. For 23 of those years, I’ve been an ordained Presbyterian Pastor. I’ve had my share of successes and failures and served more than a handful of churches from very small to very large. There is one consistent throughout all these years and churches: There are always a handful of folks who make it their mission to make the pastor’s life miserable.
I’ve never quite figured out what motivates these folks because their reasons are as different as are the people. Some operate subversively, spreading rumors or raising doubt in others minds as to the effectiveness, abilities, morals, or intentions of the pastor. Others have no problem getting right in the pastor’s face, even in front of others. I’ve experienced both kinds and others who operated somewhere in between.
I found out that one of the elders at a church I served was standing at the coffee pot, handing folks a cup of coffee and saying, “Don’t you think Dr. Posehn is slipping a little in his effectiveness lately? Maybe he’s having problems at home . . .” Thankfully, one of the other elders confronted her and brought her to me so we could have a conversation about her concerns. Surprisingly, she wasn’t as interested as talking to me as she was to the folks at the coffee pot . . .
What these all have in common, whether they profess to be helping the pastor deal with areas needing improvement or to be looking out for the church’s best interest, is the desire to destroy the pastor. G. Lloyd Rediger wrote a book called “Clergy Killers” exposing how prevalent and how successful these folks are at their craft. How tragic is it that pastoral destruction by church folk is so prevalent that it is a topic of a book, and a bestseller at that!
Obviously, there are some bad pastors, and some pastors who are bad people – just watch the news for a while. But most of the pastors I know are wonderful people who work way too many hours – the ones I know average over 60 hours a week – for way to little pay – most pastors I know make less than rookie teachers and have at least a masters degree – with way too little appreciation.
Perhaps we ought to listen to the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians:
But for right now, I’m dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion in my work. You sent him to help me out; now I’m sending him to help you out . . . Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give. Remember the ministry to me that you started but weren’t able to complete? Well, in the process of finishing up that work, he put his life on the line and nearly died doing it. Philippians 2:25-30 (edited) The Message
Though most pastors don’t literally put their life on the line, they do make tremendous sacrifices for their congregations: They sacrifice time with their family, financial security, and a slew of benefits their congregants enjoy. They are there in times of joy and sorrow, no matter how much their children and spouse miss them. They do this because they received a calling from their God to serve His people.
Make a promise today to follow the encouragement of Paul: Go out of your way to support, encourage, be nice to, and generally celebrate your pastor. Find out when the last time somebody had a party for the pastor at your church and, after you get over feeling really bad, throw one for no reason other than to say thanks for all your pastor does.
I’m hoping to write a book one day called “Pastor Protectors” and I’d love for your story to be the first example . . .
Pressing on toward the goal . . .