We had an awesome Sunday at Harvest. Good crowd! Good spirit! Good response! I'm looking forward to a great week. I visited Scott Hanes at Kaiser today and he's doing a little better. Keep him in your prayers. I feel a little guilty, just a little, for picking this beautiful flower at Kaiser on my way out today. There were hundreds of them though and I'm sure my picking this one will encourage that plant to produce more.
I have the greatest pastor's wife ever. Probably because she understands her job description very well. It's really not that complicated. It is...but it isn't. Her role as given to her by God is to be my wife. That's it! I have to say that she does an excellent job of it.
Last night at dinner she asked me about my last blog post. She asked me if I really loved being a pastor. She knows like nobody else the ups and downs I face. She is my best friend. She's the one that I go crying to when things don't go well, and she's always quick to point me back to God. She knows when I'm discouraged, defeated, hurt, lonely. She knows. I think that's what made her ask me if I really loved being a pastor.
My response was, "absolutely, probably more now than ever before." I'm 20+ years into this journey and I'm still learning every day. It may very well take a pastor his entire ministry to finally become good at pastoring. Yes, there are times when you get hurt but that only happens when you have opened yourself up to people. In order to experience the great joys of ministry you have to be exposed to the pains of ministry.
I was writing in my journal this week and sorting some things out. A pastor's heart...
- A pastor starts by loving God and following Him into the ministry. I still stand amazed that God would call me and use me. I mentioned in my last post that the pastorate is not a job or career, it is a calling by God. Fall in love with God and let Him do whatever He wants with your life.
- A pastor falls in love with the church, which is not a bad thing as long as he loves God more. The church is such an amazing thing! It is so exciting to study it, watch it, and participate in it. Some pastors have loved God but despised the church. When you fall in love with the church you would do anything for the church.
- A pastor falls in love with his people. I am amazed at how much I love my people today. There is a danger here however, of loving your people more than God, which will mess everything up. Loving your people is what exposes you to the greatest joys and greatest hurts imaginable.
There may be another phase beyond these, I'm not sure. This is my journey so far. I think that tremendous pain often comes with growing and transitioning into each of these phases. I've had my share and I'm sure that I've not always handled it well. Here are a few thoughts about pain in ministry.
- Originally, my pain was based on my being goal oriented. If I didn't hit a goal it hurt. If my attendance dropped it hurt. If someone left the church it hurt. I was on a quest for God and I wanted to please Him so much that when things didn't go right I was hurt. These things still sting and maybe more so, but for different reasons.
- Then my pain became based on how things affected the church. I still struggle with this. I love the church so much that it really hurts me when something affects the church. I have to constantly remind myself that it is His church, not mine. I think there have been times when I hurt more for the church as an institution than I did for the individuals that make up the church.
- As you fall in love with your people the pain sometimes seems unbearable. People that you genuinely love are able to hurt you far more than people you don't care that much about. I've said many times, "I wish I didn't care, that way it wouldn't hurt so bad". Here's the deal though, in order to be a good pastor you must care for your people.
Here's how this pain breaks down. Here are three phases of hurt. (I know, I'm going crazy with the bullet points tonight)...
- I hurt for me... It's painful to me personally. They attacked me. They don't like me. We must grow beyond the "It hurts me" level.
- I hurt the church... They are hurting the church. We'll not reach our goals. Our numbers are going down. We must grow beyond the "It hurts the church" level.
- I hurt for them... We hurt because we understand how destructive sin is to our people. We see the needless pain they are experiencing. We know the toll it will take on their marriage. We know the damage it will inflict on their children.
- I hurt for Christ... We hurt because we know the heart of God is breaking.
I don't know why I'm sharing any of this tonight, but there it is. It's what was on my heart. Maybe there is someone God wanted me to share these thoughts with. Yes, I love being a pastor! I think I'm getting better at it each and every year. At this rate I'll be pretty good by the time the Lord takes me home. :)