Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It’s Hard to be a Pastor

In a post called Why I Won’t Call Myself a Preacher, former church of Christ pastor Dan Bouchelle talks about the difference in being an occasional speaker at a variety of churches and the hard work of being the vocational pastor at one church.
He said:
  • It is easy to deliver a few engaging sermons for many churches around the country. It is hard to preach engagingly and meaningfully to the same people every week for years.
  • It is easy to fly in and sound like an expert for 30 minutes and fly out. It is hard to love people through their every-day journeys all week long for years.
  • It is easy to give advice between plane rides and wash your hands. It is hard to actually lead a church through a massive transition in vision and character.
  • It is easy to talk about discipleship to people who never see you outside of a church building. It is hard to be a disciple who makes disciples with people who see you at the grocery store, ballgames, and watch you drive on their streets.
I know where Dan is coming from.

I have to keep putting off my own “pastor” label.

I serve as a missionary. Even so, my family and I have a church home in Brazil, Igreja Batista da Vitória. I am not the pastor, nor am I considered staff at the church.  I am called pastor much more than I am called by my own name. I do shepherd, but I serve mostly outside the church. I keep telling people, just call me “Estive.” (It sounds like Steve and is easier for Portuguese speakers to say. )

I am, however, the de-facto pulpit supply when the pastor is away. This means I get to preach a small series of three to four sermons every once in a while. My church always enjoys it and frequently asks me to preach more often. I am cautious about this. I always make it a point to affirm the pastor and direct the church toward his vision and leadership. I always share with the church how good it is to have him as my pastor.

It is very easy to make a pastor look bad or feel bad by dazzling a group with a good message or dynamic workshop. That just isn’t profitable for anyone. (Except the person with bad motives.)

Pastors need to be encouraged.

I remember once when I was serving in a large multi-staff church, the senior pastor had just resigned. Though there were still seven of us associate pastors on staff, the church thought it a wise idea to bring in guest preachers for the first several weeks. This would fill the pulpit until the next business meeting, when the church would call one of our associates pastors to serve as the interim pastor.

One of the supply preachers was a friendly man with a knack for telling a good story. He preached a simple and entertaining message with applications from the story of David and Goliath.  In the following weeks there was a bit of “talk” among a few of the church members that we should consider this guy to be our next pastor.

The church personnel committee and future pastor search committee saw beyond this, of course, and the church eventually called one of our associates as senior pastor. What I remember from this episode, though, was how the heaping praises for a guest preacher caused some on our staff to feel undervalued.

A common challenge.

This probably happens more than you think. Pastors do not perform well when they are discouraged. (Neither did the old testament prophets.) On the other hand, when they are appreciated, they tend to go the extra mile and a half. You can make a difference in what kind of pastor you have by the way you treat him.

This post is not the usual evangelism oriented material. It is just a reminder to encourage your pastor regularly. Pray for him. Pray with him. And, if you are brave enough and wise enough, become his friend. (I say wise enough, because some people foolishly think that the pastor is, or should be, on another level and separate from the rest. If you treat your pastor that way, both of you will suffer for it.)

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