pastors face extraordinary pressures these days.
A crumbling culture and
overwhelmingly deep and complex needs among people place
enormous demands on pastors to be spiritual guides,
community resource liaisons, and pastoral counselors.
People in the pews constantly compare the preaching
performance with their favorite TV preachers or their
iPod downloads and web-based resources.
church pastors must wear multiple hats-budget
specialists, event organizers, staff managers, and
recruiters. They work mostly with volunteers, which
can be like herding cats. And ideally, in the minds of
the congregation, they should be able to write
beautifully, speak eloquently, present themselves
authentically (but never weary or irritable) and work
smoothly with the Board. They should be on-call 24/7,
have "just the right word" for every conceivable
situation, and model the perfectly ripe fruit of the
you're a pastor, you know this is just the tip of the
iceberg. Only the called would accept this vocation and
could possibly survive it. In our day, many
Barbara Brown Taylor highlights another facet of
ministry that adds to pastoral pressure. She brings the
unspoken into the light.
"While I knew plenty
of clergy willing to complain about high expectations
and long hours, few of us spoke openly about the toxic
effects of being identified as the holiest person in a
congregation. Whether this honor was conferred by those
who recognized our gifts for ministry or was simply
extended by them as a professional courtesy, it was
equally hard on the honorees. Those of us who believed
our own press developed larger-then-life swaggers and
embarrassing patterns of speech, while those who did not
suffered lower-back pain and frequent bouts of
sleeplessness. Either way, we were deformed.
"We were not God, but
we spent so much time tending the God-place in people's
lives that it was easy to understand why someone might
get us confused. As Christians, we were especially
vulnerable, since our faith turned on the story of a
divine human being. Those who became ordained were not
presented with Moses or Miriam as our models, so that we
could imagine ourselves as flawed human beings still
willing to lead people through the wilderness. We were
not presented with Peter or Mary Magdalene as our
models, so that we could imagine ourselves as imperfect
disciples still able to serve at our Lord's right hand.
Instead, we were called to fill in for Jesus at the
communion table, standing where he once stood and saying
what he once said. We were called to preach his gospel
and feed his sheep. We were, in other words, presented
with Jesus himself as our model, so that most of us
could only imagine ourselves disappointing everyone in
our lives from God on down.
The common pastoral ministry
has uncommon demands. While we cannot modify the
expectations of all the people all the time, we might be
wise to modify the perspective we have of ourselves.
Jesus calls us to be His
servants not His surrogates. Perhaps even Thomas would
be a worthy exemplar for us.
May the Lord grant you
sufficient grace and strength for every demand this