Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" magazine lists October as Pastor Appreciation Month throughout the United States. When most folks think of their pastor, it probably conjures up images like the one at left. However, other than the three hours a week (or so) that we are in the pulpit, pastors have many other duties and responsibilites as well.
We're a strange lot. Paul the Apostle advised young Timothy that, "If a man desires the office of Bishop, he desires a good work." On the other hand sometimes people (and pastors themselves on Monday) wonder why that is. In fact, Charley Dygert has asked me on several occasions, "What in the world possesses a guy like you to WANT this job?"
Well, the answer is that while we often think of it as a job, in fact it is a calling. The amazing thing is that God calls men into the pastorate who are just that. Men. Human beings, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that go with being part of humankind. Now, I don't want you to disrespect the office your pastor holds, but I hope each of you will realize that in many ways, the guy behind the pulpit, is not a lot different than the guy in the pew. He just has the responsibility of being a shepherd. Sometimes the task is difficult, but a truly God called Pastor will find joy and happiness in no other.
Recent research statistics show that pastors are leaving the ministry in larger numbers than ever. Some leave do to moral failure. More leave due to financial burdens and the generally low pay. The great majority leave from burnout or as a result of church conflict. It is easy to criticize your pastor, no matter who he may be, but remember that he does have a difficult job. One wise man once said, "If you want a better pastor - pray for him!"
I have been blessed to serve as an associate pastor in one church, and as lead pastor in five churches over the 38 years of my ministry. It hasn't always been a "bed of roses" but I have dear friends today in each of those churches and a multitude of precious memories. The past six years at Westmoreland Baptist have been some of the most wonderful years of my ministry, and I would not trade the past 38 years with anyone!
Now, with all that serious stuff said, let me share something a little more lighthearted with you. A long time friend and fellow Pastor, Phil Warren sent this message to me yesterday, and I got a good chuckle out of it. I'm sure Phil wouldn't mind me passing it along to you today. It may give the average church member a humorous look into the psyche of your pastor.
YOU MIGHT BE A PASTOR IF...
- You hesitate to tell people what you do for a living.
- You've ever dreamed you were preaching only to awaken and discover you were.
- You've ever wondered why people couldn't die at more appropriate times.
- You find yourself counting people at a sporting event.
- You're leading the church into the 21st century, but you don't know what you're preaching on Sunday.
- A church picnic is no picnic.
- You jiggle all the commode handles at the church before you leave.
- You've ever spoken for free and were worth every penny of it.
- People sleep while you're talking.
- Instead of getting "ticked off," you get "grieved in your spirit."
- You've ever been tempted to take an offering at a family reunion.
- You read sermons to your kids at night instead of bedtime stories.
- You'd rather talk to people with every head bowed and every eye closed.
- You've ever wanted to "lay hands" around a deacon's neck.
- You often feel like you're herding cats rather than shepherding sheep.
- Your greatest joys have been in the church.