Give Your Pastor A Break

This is going to be a bit more of a rambling blog than usual. I had a weird experience this last weekend. And I need to be careful as I know this can be taken as being negative or critical of the very people I serve and journey with in my faith. That is not my intent.

We had a time of sharing and I mentioned, with some feeling, that I'd experienced a discouraging week. It had started fine, but a variety of things had not turned out well, there has been some criticism of the church (very unjustified), there are some painful decisions to make, and by the end of the week I was feeling a bit down.

As I was sitting there during our worship time, I was thinking through my little pity-party with a Biblical perspective. I remembered how happy I am to be here, what a privilege it is to do this kind of work, how graciously Jesus has provided for me and my family, how I have watched people in the last week go through gut-wrenching suffering and have been able to comfort them. Folks, I'm in the front row of what God is doing in some lives! To restate it, I came out from a hard week and into the room worshiping Jesus with my fellow Christ followers - and I could respond with joy. That was a great experience!

I shared from Psalm 13 which, like several other Psalms, has the same message: life seems bad, really is bad, but come into worship and you feel better. I was reminded of this and suddenly felt badly for those people who don't have the opportunity to engage in real worship, who do not have a vital relationship with Jesus, who do not (or even Christians who will not) take the time to worship and thereby are left to stew in their own minor miseries until the stew becomes a new misery of itself. Anyway, and I could go on – it was a pretty powerful moment for me.

The weird thing – well it seemed weird to me – is that people were reacting to the thought that their pastor was anything but happy, joyful, and content. Now, in the specifics I understand that there are reasons for some folk to over-react. But there can be some odd expectations of what a pastor's emotional health should be like.

Let me part the curtain a bit. Your pastor occasionally gets discouraged, even depressed. The only one who doesn't seem to be so afflicted is Joel Olsteen and I kinda wonder at that guy. But, hopefully, your pastor does not stay there in discouragement. How? Because of his own walk with the Lord and your prayers. But to think less of or, even worse, criticize your pastor for being occasionally down is very bad.

And it is more than – shall I say it – insulting to imply that your pastor who's had a bad week is not living in faith? If the apostle Paul could admit to his occasional discouragement and suffering, then you've got to look Paul in the face and tell him he didn't live by faith. And then he'll stand aside and you can talk to Jesus. Here was the person who was foretold to be a "Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." Go ahead, look Jesus in the face and tell him that he lacked faith. Being sad is not necessarily an issue of faith.

I understand that we want our leaders, especially in the church, to be better than us. But setting up those expectations in an unrealistic manner will only encourage a great sin: the sin of hypocrisy. That is, rather than being honest or "authentic" with their discouragement, your leaders will just lie to you. Why? Because you want them to. Your unrealistic expectations will tempt your brother to sin. And they will eventually not be able to lead you because they can never tell you what is really going on in their heart.

Be mindful of the expectations you have of your pastor.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I praise God that I'm at a church where it's OK to feel bad, even for our pastor. At times it's hard to hear him share his struggles. I want him to be perfect and show me the way to a perfect life with perfect happiness. But then I remember I'd rather he be honest. So many pastors walk into a room and turn on their "pastor show" -- probably because they've learned that is what we want.

I'll pray that you continue to be honest while having the wisdom to not share TMI. I'll pray that those around you can accept you as you are. It is often hard to be honest as a layman -- it must be much harder as a pastor.