Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
August 5, 2001
After half a century of serving as a pastor I can honestly say that very few days have ever been boring. Sermons maybe. But not my daily life. Even when my work is not very exciting, it is still not boring.
God has arranged it so that pastors have little time to become bored. From Monday morning until Saturday night the typical pastor has little time of his or her own. You might think that we stay busy seven days a week to prove to the skeptics that we really do work more than one day a week. But it is more than that.
Most of us really enjoy our work. We like to meet people. Pastors are "people persons." When we start out in the ministry we try hard to please everybody. Then, after a few years, we realize that is impossible. Giving up on that, we really come alive then. If you noticed a sudden huge smile on your pastorís face sometime in the past, it was probably because he finally gave up on trying to please everyone and decided to focus on pleasing God. The sheer joy of doing that is so real that it shows up in your face.
Actually if your pastor is still a "people pleaser," you may have observed that he seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. It may not be because he has a great burden for the lost. It may mean that he is simply exhausted. Pleasing people is hard work, and it takes some pastors years to realize that it is impossible. It will in fact grind you down and wear you out. My guess is that trying to please people is the number one reason for "burn out" in the ministry.
The light came on in my mind one day when it dawned on me that even God cannot please everybody. So if God canít, then why should I wear myself out trying. After all, God has nowhere in the Bible called pastors to "go into all the world and try to please everybody." That is not the Great Commission. That is the Great Headache. So the wise pastor will finally decide to do his best to love everybody and make a sincere effort to please God, even when that may displease some of his people.
In every church there are people who are hard to please. Do what you will; they will remain dissatisfied. Preach on hell and they will complain because you didnít preach about heaven. Preach about money and they will say that you are always begging for money. Preach about tithing and they will tell you that tithing is an Old Testament practice that doesnít apply to Christians. They never listen long enough to hear you say that the New Testament suggests an ever higher standing of giving tithing.
Bring in some new people and the complainers will gripe about your attracting "the wrong kind" of people to "our church." You may have noticed that the grumblers never speak about "Godís Church." They talk about their church, "our church." Truth is, some of these folks may even manage to keep God out of their church by not recognizing that after all it is His Church.
Pastors these days have quite a challenge trying to figure out which way to go with the music. Some like the great old hymns. Others prefer the new, lively choruses. Still others like them both and believe a blend is the solution. And others are scared to death that contemporary worship will rob the church of its precious traditions.
Actually the number one controversy in the church today is the question of what music to sing, and what instruments to use. And some churches are being torn apart by the debate. Pastors can be easily caught in the middle and find themselves wondering if they should have gotten a job as an undertaker. After all, the dead never argue with the undertaker. But, then, there is the family of the deceased...Perhaps being a pastor is not so bad after all.
And it is really the greatest life! Always interesting, always emotional, always demanding, always different. Routine it is not. We may be rejoicing in a hospital room with parents of a new baby one minute, and the next minute in the room with a dear man who is slowly dying. We go from joy to sadness in a matter of minutes.
What tests the pastorís mettle is the discontents who are always murmuring about the problems in the church. If they would spend half the time they devote to fussing to trying to help solve the problems, they would be happier and the church would too. But God calls pastors to love the grumblers too, and often our love can assist them in changing from a negative to a positive attitude. When this happens, both the pastor and the discontents can grow in grace, and that after all is what God wants.
Come what may, I would not swap my job for any other job in town. And I imagine most pastors feel the same way. Those I mean who have given up trying to please everybody.