I have been around pastors and other clergymen most of my life. Being a pastor is the best and the worst. Most of this depends on how the reviews come in on last week’s sermon. But people have lots of preconceived ideas and misconceptions about what it means to pastor a church.
Here are five truths your pastor would like you to know:
1. We don’t all look or sound like Billy Graham.
I think Dr. Graham is one of the coolest-looking preachers on earth, with his wool-white mane and one-of-a-kind voice. When he starts preaching, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as the Holy Spirit moves. There is only one Billy Graham, and he is indeed in a class by himself. The rest of us? We look a lot more like the man who comes to repossess your furniture or Fred Flintstone; there is not much in between. I didn’t go into ministry because of my looks but because of my heart. And even if my voice sounds like fingernails scratching on one of those old-fashioned things called a chalkboard, I want God to use me as His instrument. After all, He is the one who has called me to be a pastor.
2. A saint, I ain’t.
I don’t know where the idea of a perfect preacher came from, but it is out there, and it is real. We’re supposed to be 25 years old with 40 years of experience. We need to be as strong as Samson, as wise as Solomon and lead a sinless life like Jesus. But much like you, I’m just an imperfect person trying to do the perfect will of God. No one is more aware of their shortcomings than I am, and I’m reminded of this every time I look into the mirror of the Holy Scriptures. His calling comes only by God’s grace. And as imperfect as I am, He has still called me to be a pastor.
3. I don’t know everything about the Bible.
Yes, I have endured many years of schooling to learn as much as I could about God’s Word. But the more I study, the more I realize how little I know. I will be a lifelong learner of this Book. It is wider than the universe and deeper than eternity. The problem is that I am still grappling with the concept of “Jesus Loves Me.” How could a holy God despise sin so much yet love the sinner even more? So while many are discussing their favorite controversial Bible tidbit, I’m still trying to get my arms around the simplest truths. And yet God has called me to be a pastor.
4. I have the same struggles you do.
I hurt. I worry. I laugh. I get angry, depressed and frustrated, just as you do. My wife and I will have arguments on occasion. My children will sometimes disobey, and my dog will probably come over to your yard to do his business. And in the midst of all this, I’m trying to figure out how to make ends meet. When it comes to the struggles of this world, there is very little difference between you and me. But God has called me to be your pastor.
5. I only work one day a week.
You are right. I only work one day a week. I get up early in the morning, prepare two or three messages, make five hospital visits, pray for you and your grandmother, take care of all the correspondence in my inbox, count the offering and pay the bills. Then I have breakfast.
Seriously? I know there are some lazy preachers out there, but most of the pastors I know put in way more hours than the ones listed on their weekly schedule. The calls that come in when someone is struggling, being awakened in the middle of the night to pray over a situation, trying to meet the needs of the community and on and on. Most pastors are like icebergs: Much of what they do lies below the range of sight. I know this because God has called me to be a pastor.
To all my pastoral friends of the same calling, I want to encourage you with these words: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58, ESV).
So today, give your pastor a hug, write him a kind note (anything green put into that note will be much appreciated) and speak a word of encouragement—because God has called him to be your pastor.