“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, March 16, 2009

Care?



I am always amazed when I read of pastors from days past, and how they cared for their people. They truly gave themselves for their congregation -- for instance, Adolphe Monod the famous Swiss/French protestant, preached from his sick bed for nine months before succumbing to liver cancer. These months are considered by many to be the most fruitful of his ministry.

And what of the many pastors in persecuted lands that lay it all on the line every week to open the Word of God to their congregants. They face imprisonment, exile, or death, and yet they continue week in, week out.

That makes this all the more odious. Yes, I did listen to the rest of the sermon, and I understand that this is but a small part of it. But I also know that what this man understands about the role of a pastor is badly mistaken. The number of times he says "I don't care" as regards the feelings of his congregation is ridiculous.

While this person may be the most wonderful orator in the world, he is not a pastor; a true pastor would NEVER say these things about their congregation. It is an HONOR to not only open God's Word and speak to people that the Father has entrusted to you, but care for their needs.

And it is not only this person, but there are many others that I could mention, this just happens to be one of the latest. Sadly, pastors today seem to be much more concerned with their image than their people. I would pray that this person has rethought his comments, and has been convicted about these statements. However, from his site, and the comments there, it seems that he has blithely moved on.

I do not want to make this about one person, and a few minutes of a sermon, this just illustrates something that is pandemic across the USA: the lack of concern or care for the people that are under our care.

What does the Bible say about a pastor -- Well, how about this? 1st Timothy 4:12 -- ... set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

This is something we can all can improve on! I am in no way saying that the man linked above is the only one that needs to do that, but he, like the rest of us, needs to put this in the forefront of his mind. We must be EXAMPLES to our congregations. And saying that we have no time for them is not a good example! Our entire lives are our ministry, not just Sunday mornings and evenings!

And if we are to be examples, then are we not to put others before ourselves ? I understand that ministry is difficult, and a time-consuming beast, but if we have been truly CALLED to ministry, then the Lord will provide us with strength. And yes, there are times when it wears us to a nub, and we simply need a break. I know a wonderful man of God who had to take six months or so off, he just worked himself to a breaking point (he also has a 'mega-church'), but this is the exception, and not the rule (unlike the comments of the man in the video, not all pastors burn out in two years. I know MANY pastors, and most of them have been serving their congregations for 5+ years with no thoughts about leaving).

And, just so that we all understand -- while you will not get to heaven by knowing the pastor, there are places in the Scriptures where it is said that we (pastors) are to give it all up so that people will come to know Christ -- 2nd Timothy 2:10 -- Therefore I [Paul] endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Giving it all up may mean that we actually have to (gasp) MINGLE with our congregation, and yes, even eat food that we do not like! I know that this may seem like a lot to sacrifice for the people, but I guess I will struggle through it!

Just read the opening chapter of Colossians, and tell me -- what is the heart of a pastor supposed to fixed on? Paul suffered so much for the church, and yet, he considered it a minor thing -- we (and I am guilty as well as anyone else) consider it 'suffering' if we have to take time with our congregation? BTW, lunch with the congregation is the very time when I am able to minister one-on-one with some of the people within the community of believers at our church -- I have been able to work through some fairly thorny issues whilst sitting at lunch with a confused, or concerned member.

And lest you think that I am just throwing these thoughts out without understanding the situation -- I will tell you that I am a bi-vocational pastor, working 40+ hours/week at a secular job and functioning as pastor at my local congregation. I understand what it is like to harried and busy -- but we should never let this interfere with the needs that are placed before us.

Pastoring is much more than preaching -- it involves the love, care, concern and guidance of the flock that God has placed under your care. If you are unable, or unwilling to do that, then please do not call yourself a pastor; regardless of your abilities as an orator, you are not a pastor -- do not insult the people by telling them that they are stupid if they think you are going to make time for their needs -- as you are too busy tending to your own!

I have nothing personal against the person that I used as an example today -- I probably fail in many of the same areas, but I would pray that we, as pastors, would get back to the business of pastoring, and let the other things that seem to consume us simply slide off into the trash where they belong. The people of God need, and deserve, a caring concerned shepherd. Let us all be that person in the lives of our congregations!

5 comments:

Shawn Abigail said...

The larger the church, the harder it is to care for the flock. If you have three elders and 100 church members in 50 families, you can share a meal once every 3 weeks. This is entirely reasonable.

But if you have 2000 church members, it is pretty much impossible to have any sort of meaningful fellowship. You can't function with 60 elders (the elders wouldn't even be able to meet to discuss issues). And so you end up with a handful of men who either work themselves silly or resign themselves to simply preaching a really good sermon each week. Perhaps the mega churches have small groups, but I'm not sure that this is the same as real pastoral oversight.

Ray said...

I heartily agree - which is why I believe in a plurality of elders - yet, as you so aptly put it, even then there is a problem.

Hence, maybe the answer is smaller churches. Radical, I know -- but the problems inherent in larger churches make this a reasonable idea.

Far too many larger churches are primarily personality cults. However, if the church leadership commits to a size -- say, 500; yes, it is still difficult, but doable, and after that size takes one of the leaders they have been grooming for pastoral ministry, and plants a new church, you can be more effective.

People need pastoral care much more than they need a great speaker.

Our church (very small) ministers to a good percentage of people who attend a mega-church on Sunday, but find that their needs are not met, so they come to our church for pastoral care.

BTW, thanks for stopping by - I think healthy discussion on this subject is needed.

Shawn Abigail said...

Yes, we could have a church without the Sunday morning sermon, but it's much harder to have a church without pastoral care.

And yes, I think it might be healthy for a church to declare that they feel 250-500 is a healthy size. If they hit 500, they divide into two churches that are 250 each. This size of church is good for reproducing itself (you can afford a mortgage without bankrupting yourself, you can support missionaries and ministry staff, and maybe even give someone a helping hand with the costs of seminary).

By the way, which telecom company do you work for? I'm also in the industry, as well as speaking in "Brethren Assemblies", a deacon and a few other ministries on the side 8-)

Ray said...

Well, interesting you ask -- I am in Silicon Valley this week, and I saw your last post regarding that. AND, I also work in Ottawa!

I worked for Newbridge, and now am at ALU. I used to have a friend at Redback who was a Brethren, and he was out of Canada as well. at the time he lived in Silicon Valley)

Shawn Abigail said...

Drop me an email at my @gmail.com account, starting with shawn.abigail

I also work at ALU and was NNC before that. Probably lots of friends in common.

And the next time you are in Ottawa, drop by my cube!