An ice storm on Saturday night! Everything was cancelled. Roads were closed and powerlines down.
Chad was the new pastor at Creekside Church. In fact, he was new to ministry leadership. His ordination service in this rural congregation happened only three months earlier.
The parsonage had been located next to the isolated church building for its first 75 years. But as part of the anniversary celebration four years ago, the congregation had voted to build a new minister’s residence in nearby Rheiderland, hoping to attract younger ministers in the future by offering them a modern house in town, where neighbors and stores and the school were nearby.
Now a fallen tree blocked the driveway. Chad would not be able to drive to church for Sunday worship. Phone lines were down, and cell service had not yet come to this rural remote farming community.
Chad was quite sure that worship would be cancelled, but he didn’t want to assume anything. These resourceful and committed farm families were likely walking across fields right now to get to church. They would never trust their young “citified” pastor if he claimed he couldn’t get to church on a Sunday morning, regardless of the weather!
Ice! Chad had played hockey since his boyhood winters in Minnesota! He found his skates and walked gingerly down to the frozen creek that meandered between town and church. Five miles slipped quickly under his blades, and he arrived as many of his congregants rolled up on ATVs and in pickups. Worship could begin!
Not so fast, said the elders. Was it appropriate for their young pastor to skate on Sunday while they were instructing the teens of the congregation not to participate in Sunday sporting events, especially ice hockey?
A quick elders meeting was called. Arguments were shouted across the table for fifteen minutes that seemed like hours, while Chad and the others who waited for worship to begin heard every word through thin walls. The eldest elder finally raised his hand to halt the rising emotions. After several moments Pastor Chad was called in to answer one question. “When you skated to the church this morning, pastor, did you enjoy it?”
A test. Chad was savvy enough to understand. “No,” he stated, with the most downcast look he could muster. The room exhaled relief, and worship began. In the emergency of the day, Pastor Chad had skated out of necessity, and not out of pleasure. No transgression had been committed.
Pastors are ordinary (at least most of them!). But like doctors and teachers and politicians, they endure greater public scrutiny than most “ordinary” people. Jesus’ brother James knew this when he said that “not many of you should become teachers” (James 3:1). Paul knew this when he advised his younger proteges Timothy and Titus.
Because of this, your pastor will likely never say some things, but wishes at least a few trusted confidents would know them:
- “There is a lot of human behavior that is ‘gray’, even though many in the church want me to declare things either ‘black’ or ‘white’.”
- “Too much music planned for worship services is bad, difficult, and sometimes heretical.”
- “I am not always ‘up’ emotionally or spiritually on Sunday mornings.”
- “Few of my sermons are brilliant; in fact, most are mediocre, and more than I care to admit are so bad that I would not want to endure them.”
- “A few people in my congregation demand much more than their reasonable share of my time and pastoral care efforts.”
- “Many, if not most, committee meetings are boring and have little consequence or benefit.”
- “Transformational neighborhood evangelism is very difficult and extremely exhausting. It is always easier to collect funds for missionaries and mission work at a distance.”
- “By far the largest portion of the annual church budget is intended to sustain Sunday morning worship and all its support systems, and very little is committed to transformational neighborhood engagement to make Jesus known to those who are not like the current members of my congregation.”
- “Few people in my congregation read the Bible regularly or comprehensively, and use it mostly to find ‘divine messages’ of comfort and encouragement for themselves, with little awareness of the divine redemptive drama and its worldview.”
It might be a good thing to share this article with your pastor sometime, and ask your pastor what she or he thinks. You might be in for a long and thoughtful conversation that could well bring out the best in your pastor, and lead you into deeper talks and care and mutual prayer.
While every pastor is different, and not all would say these same things, it is likely that the following are true about your pastor:
- Your pastor loves Jesus.
- Your pastor loves people.
- Your pastor is deeply devoted to Jesus’ church.
- Your pastor remains optimistic about God and God’s work and God’s ability to change lives in a world that destroys faith and undermines faithfulness.
We at CLC are committed to training pastors who care deeply and lead faithfully. Check out the things we can do to assist your pastor and current and future congregational leaders.
Your pastor wants all of us to have these conversations.
Written by Dr. Wayne Brouwer