The Secret of a Pastor’s Success. The “M” word.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,his mercy endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: his mercy endures forever.
3 Let the house of Aaron say, his mercy endures forever.
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,his mercy endures forever. Ps 118:1–4 NABRE
1 Church leaders, I am writing to encourage you. I too am a leader, as well as a witness to Christ’s suffering, and I will share in his glory when it is shown to us. 2 Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. 3 Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. 4 Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (CEV)
And a minister who turns away from the inner source of his ministry can neither serve other people nor find fulfillment in his own life. There are many reasons why the reality that is the Church, which in the 1920s seemed to awaken so much expectation in souls, is regarded today as an alien and alienating mega-institution. But the most crucial reason is always the defection of a priest who ought to personify the institution and make her present in his own person, but who becomes instead, not a window, but a wall; who turns against his ministry instead of letting it become a trusted witness of the suffering and struggling of his own faith. (1)
Most pastors don’t want to admit it, but when people think of a church, or a ministry, they are the face of the ministry. Not the physical face, but the reaction to the church itself is tied to the persona of its pastor, of the man who stands up, and has the responsibility of speaking for God.
It’s a heavy responsibility, a burden that easily tires out those who accept it. Often, it tires them out too soon, and they determine that being a pastor is something else. Instead of shepherding, they see themselves as communicators (preachers) or leaders, or authors/bloggers, podcasters, who can remain at a distance, say what needs to be said, and walk away. A couple of years ago I even heard one indicate that it wasn’t about pastoral care, because the ministry had changed, and we were no longer pastors, but ranchers. He expected “real pastors” to leave pastoral care to lay servant ministers.
You see this in the modern drive to abandon the pastoral office to run para-church organizations, to be consultants or coaches, or to direct bureaucracies What this does, far too often is that it distances them further from the people God called them to serve. It becomes too easy to become the wall that Pope Benedict describes, and their own spiritual life becomes dry and lifeless, institutionalized and alienated.
But, theoretically, safe.
Safe from people realizing how broken we are, how desperate we are, Safe from failing in the expectations we have, or that others place upon us. Safe from our doubts, our fears, our anxieties. In doing so, we also become safe from the needing the faith, the dependence on God to survive.
You see, the more we are distanced from the pain our people endure, the anxiety that keeps them awake at night, the heartache that causes them to doubt God’s presence, the easier it is to become numb to our need to depend on God. When we weep and laugh, cry and rejoice with them, they see we struggle as well, that we share in this brokenness of life….
And hopefully, they see us run to the cross, to give thanks over and over for this mercy, this incredible loving kindness, this presence of God which comforts us when there is nothing left. For that psalm to hit home, we need to know that mercy, we need to realize the power in it, the comfort, and for our people to “get it” they need to see this in us, a natural reaction. Then the psalm above wouldn’t just seem repetitive, but it would be a joy to hear, and it would undergird our meditations.
The mercy of God is the inner source of our ministry, it is the strength that sustains us when we are at our weakest, it is what enables us to have a sure and confident hope in God. When we are in awe of His mercy, our people become in awe of it, and they depend upon it!
If only seeking and find that mercy revealed could become what we are addicted to, that which we crave more than life itself. If that was what we tweeted and posted about, even more, what we shared with our neighbors, co-workers, families and friends.
If only they saw God comfort us in our weakness, forgive us in our brokenness, if they saw us count on His mercy and grace. How wonderful that we would know this intimacy this well, and no longer hide! How wonderful that would be, for then, this would be real, not an academic exercise, and our souls would be the windows through which they would know God’s desire to work in their lives.
Lord, Have mercy on us! AMEN.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 150). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.