I have some holy discontent this morning, so I need to vent.
Actually, I’ve had this holy discontent for a week after I went to a meeting with a bunch of pastors. Now, I have to admit that I know better than to go to meetings. As I’ve gotten older and my cPTSD has morphed a bit I find meetings to be places that really irritate me! So, my bad!
That said, I was really interested in the topic. The meeting was supposed to be about Generation Z and how we in the church (and me as a university adjunct) could connect with that generation. Well, that’s not really how the meeting played out which was a bit disappointing but okay.
I’m not going to bore you with the meeting details, but I will set up what set me off.
At one point the facilitator was talking about how badly church leaders are being treated by people – mostly in their own congregations. The context was the facilitator was talking about the culture wars going on now between the secular world and the faith.
A pastor in the group – 38 years in the business – pipes up and says he’s been treated worse in the past three years than the previous 35. Then he says that he’s tired of the “volley” which meant he was tired of the on-going war and not engaging in the fight.
That was all okay in my mind until the pastor said this: “I can tell pastors from non-pastors” and went on to explain how hard pastors have it compared to those of us in what is known as para-ministries – ministries outside the church.
Okay, that was too much for me to stay quiet. Again, I have to stop going to meetings!
While I was polite, I have a problem being too intense. It’s always been a weakness of mine – I’m just a REALLY intense person sometimes. So, I explained to the group that those of us in the para-ministries have just as many fights, are treated just as badly but that we’re excited to be in the fight! Then I stopped which I’m really proud of because I had SO MUCH MORE TO SAY!
And that’s what I’m going to do here because I think everyone in the faith needs to understand that we are not just called but COMMANDED to be in the fight and if we’re tired of the fight and don’t want to fight then it’s time for us to step down out of leadership and let someone else carry the banner.
Let me get this first point off my chest: Dear American Pastors – nobody is flogging you, scourging you, torturing you, or nailing you to a cross. Yeah, people are jerks and call you names, lie about you, abuse you, take advantage of you. But you are not persecuted! You are not going through anything that Paul and the other apostles went through spreading the Gospel across the Roman-Greco world.
Yeah, it’s hard but never forget what scripture says: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” (Matthew 5:11)
In other words, dear pastor friends, REJOICE! When you’re getting hammered because you stay true to the Gospel and the Word of God you are blessed by the Almighty!!! What more do you want?
The church is full of sick sinners who need a Savior. Of course they’re going to attack the pastor! It’s their nature! In the church – my church where I’ve known these folks for nearly two decades – people have lied about me, said that I said things I did not, have lied directly to me knowing full well I know the truth, have stolen from the church, have arranged for people outside the church to attack my reputation, have been angry at me for preaching the word, have been angry at me for the way I preach the word, have stopped talking to me because they don’t like me, have accused me of trying to be the senior pastor, and the list goes on and on and on.
Welcome to Christian leadership!
So, forgive me if I don’t join the pity party. I grew up with that great old saying, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” The worst we really go through as pastors (and while I’m not pastoring a church, I certainly have a flock I do pastor) is people being – well – people – lying cheating, stealing, abusing, and being generally mean-spirited fallen sinners. We’re not being arrested, stoned, physically abused, or any of the things Jesus and the apostles faced when they spread the Gospel throughout the world!
Here’s my second gripe with the pastor’s comment: There is a HUGE difference in backgrounds between those who pastor churches and those who do para-ministries which significantly affects our enthusiasm to fight the fight.
Now, here me out. This is more of a bell-curve than absolute, but my experience is that church pastors are folks who grew up in the church or had a church experience in high school or early college. Then they went to Bible college and then went to seminary and got their Master of Divinity and then began pastoring a church. All good stuff! Great flight path to lead a congregation and become a shepherd. Very much called by God to the job! No argument whatsoever with that path.
Para-ministry folks, on the other hand, are people (again, bell curve) who have had much more difficult and colorful backgrounds. Many did not grow up in the church and actually came from difficult or broken homes. Most didn’t go right into ministry after college if they went to college. Most had secular lives. In fact, most had sinful lives where they were holding the hand of the devil playing by the world’s hedonistic rules.
Then God called.
Jesus saved them from the muck they were in and called them to minister to those still stuck in that muck. Or as I preach, those of us who Jesus led out of the dark have a responsibility to go back into the dark and lead others out because Jesus showed us the way!
I agree with that pastor when he says he can tell the difference between a pastor and a non-pastor. I can too!
Pastors – again for the most part – are people who have not had a deep redemptive, regenerative, transformative experience with Jesus. They’ve not needed to be saved from a life of sin. They’ve not lived in hell and experienced the lies and blinding of Satan. Para-ministers have. In fact, their greatest ministries come from their greatest pain – a pain from which Jesus has saved them and healed them and then called them to do the same for others!
Why do we as para-ministers engage the fight so desperately and with such enthusiasm? Because we know the difference between heaven and hell. We’ve seen both firsthand and are absolutely committed to fighting Satan for the spirits of the lost! Jesus tells us in Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” That just fires me up!! Let’s GO!!!!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all church pastors are like the guy in the meeting. By the way, there were like 15 pastors there and only three or four of us actually spoke up during the meeting which tells you something as well. But I digress. What I am saying is if you’ve not been that lost sheep, you don’t really know the power of Jesus and the gratitude you have for being saved – a gratitude that will result in you doing anything for Jesus no matter the cost!
Last point – I promise!
I spent a lifetime in leadership. It is a topic which fascinates me because it is so important, and the fact is most people in leadership positions are significantly ill-equipped to be there. Drives me a little crazy. But one of the most important parts of being a leader is succession planning. You need to know when to step down!
How do you know?
When you are no longer part of the solution and you become part of the problem.
I had a litmus test during my 30 years in business. If I found myself saying “Can’t” it was time to go. When a employee or manager came to me with an idea and I told that person all the reasons something couldn’t be done I was no longer being innovative and pushing the organization forward but was instead standing in the way of progress.
That’s not to say every idea someone comes up with is a good one – there were some real doozies that came across my desk. But it was more when you find yourself defending the status quo that you’re done as a leader. I’ve actually stepped down from a couple leadership positions because I ended up in that place and the reality is every leader will end up in that place at some point. That’s why succession planning is so vital.
It’s biblical as well. God chose Joshua to succeed Moses, Elisha to succeed Elijah, and Isaac then Jacob to succeed Abraham. In fact, Jesus chose the disciples to succeed Him!
I don’t know that pastor from the meeting from Adam but based on his comments I get the feeling it’s time for him to think about succession planning. If you’re a Christian leader who is tired of the fight – doesn’t want to engage the “volley” anymore – it’s time for you to ride off into the sunset.
That’s not to say his church isn’t vibrant and doing effective work in the kingdom! It may very well be! But when the leader’s attitude is one of complacency, status quo, and/or resignation then you’re not one who can carry the vision forward.
Go back and read the epistles – letters by Paul, John, James, Peter. Don’t you feel the enthusiasm they have for spreading the Gospel! And remember that they were doing this in an extremely hostile world – attacked on one side by the Jews and on the other side by the pagans!
That’s our groove, folks! The Gospel spreads in times of darkness!
The last question the facilitator asked was name something you’re excited about. Again, I couldn’t just shut up.
I went off!
I told the group that I was excited about what a GREAT opportunity we had to find the lost and share Jesus with them. It’s in times of darkness that people are hurting. They’re finding that this world has nothing to offer them except hopelessness. They’re turning to idols (entertainment, drugs, sex, work, et al) to fill a hole that only God can fill! There is no better time to be a Christian light than in the darkest times!
How do we fight this battle? LOVE! We LOVE people! We live such good lives that they want what we want (I Peter 2:12). We give them hope in Christ!
But it means we have to enter the battlefield and Satan is there ready to attack us. And yes, we’re going to get battered and bloodied!
I guess the question Christian leaders need to ask is this: Is it worth it? Is saving just one person worth all the hate and discontent that comes our way?
For me it’s a no-brainer – HECK YEAH!!
Honestly, I don’t mean to be too harsh to my church pastor colleagues. I get their struggle is real. There are pressures they have that are different than those of us in the para-ministries. But this is the call – it’s not a job we chose, it’s a call God placed upon us! So, I think it’s important we have some perspective about just what it is we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and the reality of what difficulties are versus true persecution.
Take heart, pastors! You are in charge of Jesus’ flock so don’t get weary. If you can no longer fight off the wolves find someone who can and train them up the way Paul trained up Timothy!
Para-ministers – keep being the tip of the spear going out into the darkness to find that lost sheep so that heaven can rejoice over the work that you do, which is just as important as the work of our church shepherds.
To my pastor friend in the meeting: There is no difference between a pastor and a non-pastor. We’re all part of the Body of Christ called to be different parts doing different things in the same spirit for the same Kingdom. We need to work together instead of finding ways to see the differences in our various ministries.
Okay, I feel better now! Thanks for letting me vent!