Jump Start #3243
Jump Start # 3243
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Recently a post has been circulating around on Facebook entitled, “Twelve things you need to know about your preacher.” I will list the twelve statements from that article:
1. He is lonely, and so is his wife.
2. Ministers and their families are watched constantly.
3. He will be criticized often, many times without just cause.
4. Members will gossip about the minister and his family.
5. Members will challenge the preacher in his knowledge of Scripture.
6. He is on call 24/7.
7. He will probably be underpaid.
8. Ministers will be blamed for the church’s failings.
9. Preachers are not pastors, but members expect them to be pastors.
10. Preachers frequently deal with discouragement.
11. When a minister loses his job, he starts over from scratch.
12. The minister serves the church, but he fights for his family.
What a list! I’ve been doing this preaching thing for more than four decades. And, yes, I could not only agree with just about all of those things, I could add about a dozen more. Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday recently. Most had the day off. The preacher didn’t. If he wanted the day off, he would have to take a vacation. Even on vacation, the preacher realizes that Sunday is coming. Sunday is always coming. A class needs to be taught. A sermon must be preached. On vacation he is working because Sunday is coming. It’s hard to relax because Sunday is always coming. I have stayed with folks where the guest bed was the pull out couch in the living room. I was the last to bed and the first up because everyone walked through the living room. I’ve had strange dogs licking my face in the middle of the night at a home I was staying in.
I remember years ago one of the elders in Kansas City, going through the year end stuff. He came to my salary. He stated it before everyone, which was a bit awkward. He then went on to tell the congregation that there were no taxes taken out, no insurance offered, no retirement plan, no benefits. I leaned over to my wife and said, “Remind me why I am doing this?”
But here is my take on that Facebook article. It reminds me of the guy who owned a small farm and he hated it. He wanted to move. He hired an agent to list his property. One day as he was reading about another place, beautiful pond, quaint but darling home, wonderful garden, scenic view, he called his agent and said that he wanted to see that place. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. The agent told him that he was reading about his own property. When one is discouraged all he can see are the problems and often he fails to see all the good things.
First, there is a divine dignity to preaching. Run through the list of preachers in the Bible, such as Noah, Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, the apostles and even our Lord. Preaching was God’s way and God’s design to spread the message. Go into all the world and preach. Not put on a play. Not write a book. Not tell stand up jokes. Preach. Preaching is God’s choice.
Each week we preachers get to stand before an audience and deliver the word of God. There is no other message more important than the saving message of Jesus Christ. This is greater than finding the cure for Covid, cancer or any other ill that plagues our times. The answer to rising crime is Jesus. The answer to prejudice is Jesus. The answer to selfishness is Jesus. And, we preachers get to bring the book before the people. What an honor. And, on top of that, we get paid. We get paid for what we ought to do for free.
Week after week, people come with a question. They seek your wisdom and insight. They are looking for help. They come to the preacher because they trust him. They know his character. They love him. What a joy it is to help people understand, see and learn.
It would do good for current preachers to take a strow down through history, even American history and look what preachers endured. Many were paid with a live chicken. Many crossed rivers on horseback and then stood, dripping wet, before a crowd and preached. They traveled by train, by horseback and foot. They preached in log cabins, out under trees and just poured their souls out for Jesus Christ. Those reminders sure make us today seem like we have nothing to complain about.
Second, every job, and that is EVERY job, has down sides, negative things and parts that are not easy or pleasant. Working with the public is tough these days. The guy who drives the truck, the doc in the office, the pilot in the skies, the one in the military, the school teacher, the house wife, and, yes, the preacher, all have good things and unpleasant things that come with the job. One can focus upon the negatives, and if he does that long enough, he’ll eventually quit.
In a time when we are seeing fewer and fewer preachers, I find it troubling that such a post is making the rounds on Facebook. Rather than encouraging, it’s discouraging. Rather than rallying the troops, it spreads discontent and may cause even more to quit. Sure, some brethren have been critical and unfair. Some elderships are misguided and troublesome, but there have been so many wonderful, wonderful disciples that have encouraged, helped and supported we preachers through the years.
In the past few weeks I have preached far too many funerals. Those are tough for me. I try to make each one unique and special. I pour hours into writing those words that I will speak. When I am done, I am really done. Emotionally drained, tired, and wondering all along if I did any good for a hurting family. The love of others is what drives us preachers. It’s not the pay. It’s not the hours. It’s helping souls connect with Jesus.
Not everyone ought to preach. And, we need to stop trying to make preaching like a business model, because it never will be. On the ball shepherds can do a lot to help the situation with their preacher. Preaching is different and very few understand it except a fellow preacher. But, neither do I understand the funeral business. I’ve been around a lot of funeral directors lately and only someone in their business truly understands their world. But isn’t that the same for a doctor? There are many professions that on the outside may seem easy, but once one steps into it, our eyes are really opened.
Have I been discouraged as a preacher? Yes. Have I felt alone? Yes. Have I felt underpaid? Yes. Have I been criticized? Yes. Have people gossiped about me? Probably. So, then why do you do it? One simple answer, Jesus.
The greatest marvel of all, is how God takes the perfect story about His perfect Son and allows imperfect people like me to tell that story. That is amazing. And, I get to do it over and over and over.
It’s time to stop the pity party. Put away the tissues. Put on your big boy pants and take a long look at what the apostles went through. We are not the scum of the earth, as they were. We are not homeless, as they were. We have not gone about hungry, thirsty and poorly treated, as they were. We have been blessed. What an honor it is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our verse today says, “endure hardships.” Complaining about how hard it is doesn’t sound much like enduring. Onward Christian Soldiers—that’s our call. That’s our mission. In rain or in sunshine, we will deliver the message of Heaven to a dying world.
Could things be better? Certainly. Wise shepherds who read this ought to give serious thought about how they could make life better for their preacher. It begins with simply asking that question. Have you ever done that? Sure you give him a paycheck, but is that it? Does he struggle with discouragement? Is he approaching burnout? Do you even know? How close are you to the preacher?
Just sitting down, one on one, a shepherd and the preacher, being honest, transparent and open, will go a long, long way to helping things. You see the polished sermon on Sunday morning. What’s the week been like for him?
The more conversations that can take place, without the fear of intimidation, threats, or possibly losing his job, the more a team atmosphere will be created and the more good that will be done for the kingdom.
God bless my fellow preachers! Maybe no will ever know all that you do, but God does. Keep it up. You are making a difference now and for eternity!