A Pause in the Conversation

Recently I have been writing a series of posts titled Things Your Pastor Won’t Tell You… and I wanted to take a minute to explain why.

On first glance, they can seem to be little more than complaining, but that’s not the point behind them. There are things about the life of a minister that most people don’t know. The life of a minister is most often a rewarding one. There is nothing quite like watching someone come to the realization that there IS God who loves us.

Not the celestial bigot who hates fags, lezbos, niggers, towel-headed Arabs (pronounced Ay-Rabs), spics, single mothers, men who enjoy the occasional manicure, and anybody who doesn’t use the King James version of the Bible. No, I’m talking about the God who says to each of us, I know who you are and what you are. But I know who and what you can be. And I love you so much, I sent my own son to love you, teach you, and ultimately pay a price you can never pay because I want you with me that much.

That’s the God we serve. The one who says I love you all. And a minister listens to that God, or at least tries to. A true minister serves that God and makes the love of that God as understandable as he or she possibly can. They try to live the example set by Jesus. It is because of that love and his/her desire to show that love in all that they do (or as much as is possible…nobody’s perfect) that they give their lives over to God and his ministry.

  • That’s why when the phone rings at 3:30 in the morning they jump straight up to answer it, KNOWING it isn’t good news.
  • That’s why they choose to live in a “fishbowl” where everybody in the community knows their business.
  • That’s why they constantly push congregations to be more involved in food pantries, Bible studies, prison ministries, neighborhood projects, regular worship, homeless ministries, children’s ministries, Latino ministries, and daily personal devotional time.
  • That’s why they give up time with their own families to be there for the families of others.
  • That’s why they spend hours praying.
  • That’s why they often serve as janitor, secretary, groundskeeper, Sunday School teacher, and maintenance person in addition to their “regular duties.”

But the dark side of being a minister is the fact that almost 25% of ministers suffer from depression at some point. And though it seems absurd, they have very few places to turn. You really can’t turn to the congregation because they would take sides. Some colleagues may listen, but others are gong through the same thing. And truth be told, the ministry is not a big support system for other ministers. And sometimes it’s hard to know who you can trust.

And here’s another telling truth (from an October 29, 2009 USA Today story, ):

A pastor is like “a 24-hour ER” who is supposed to be available to any congregant at any time, said Steve Scoggin, president of CareNet, a network of 21 pastoral counseling centers in North Carolina. “We create an environment that makes it hard to admit our humanity…It’s a job that breeds isolation and loneliness — the pastorate’s “greatest occupational hazards,” said Scoggin…

The life of a minister is rewarding beyond all understanding. It is a life punctuated with joy, with moments of spiritual ecstasy, the thrill of Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

watching someone come to Christ, and moments when you can see the hand of God moving in the life of another person.

A minister is privy to some of the most intimate moments in the lives of his or her congregation. He comforts them when they grieve. She joins them in marriage and celebrates when a new child is brought into the world. He hears their secret sins and prays with them for their healing. They listen as lives fall apart and points those who are trying to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives to the one who heals us all.

But theirs is a lonely job. And they are often misunderstood. Sometimes ridiculed. And too often those in their charge want them to work, not within the parameters set by God, but the ones set by convenience.  Or apathy. Or laziness. Or a lack of motivation.

You see the things they do.

But you don’t see the things they don’t dare show you.

And I just thought you ought to know what they need you to know and can’t tell you.

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