I think that pastors are vastly underestimated in the power that they wield week in and week out. Combine a pastor’s spiritual authority with a built in Christian culture veneration of that role and add to it an ability to communicate God’s Word and persuade people to act on it and you have a recipe for the extreme….extreme good or bad.
Thank God that most pastor’s use this volatile force for extreme good. They are the warriors who fight in the trenches for the lost souls who wander this earthly sod without purpose or hope. They are the counselors who patch and scratch broken marriages back together with words of wisdom, admonition and encouragement. They are the chaplains who console the grieving in the midst of the painful lost of loved ones. They are the shepherds who rock the flock toward Christlikeness through rightly dividing the Word of God week in and week out and challenge the tend-to-wander sheep to feed deeply on the truth that they supply from the pulpit.
But what about the others? They are the ones we read about in news reports from time to time who scandalize through fraud, sex, stupidity and sin. They are the ones who cause the Bride of Christ to blush in embarrassment and bring an undeserved black eye to all pastors. When one pastor falls morally and publically all pastors feel the impact. It gives the mocking, watching world another reason to doubt and to smirk. Even faithful congregation members can wonder down in their hears if their pastor has a secret life of sin that has yet to be detected. All of this undermines and grinds the tens of thousands of truly good and godly pastors out there doing the work of God in the power of God for the glory of God.
From all the intelligence I can gather, the force-for-good pastors outweight the other pastors one hundred to one. Most of the pastors I have met work hard and pray hard. They long to see their flocks transformed by the truth. Their hearts desire is to see true life change as a result of God’s Word planted in the souls of their congregation members.
For a decade I was a preaching pastor at a church (Grace Church) that my buddy (Rick Long) and I planted in 1989. During those ten years I came to realize that I didn’t have what it took to be a pastor. Sure I could preach the Word but it was the other stuff that tripped me up. Being a preacher came easy to me. I’ve been preaching since I was twelve years old. Being pastorly is where it got tricky. When it came to counseling you couldn’t find somebody worse than me. I actually kicked a guy out of my office once who said that God had told him he should get a divorce because he was so much more spiritual than his wife. To be honest I wanted to do more than just kick him out of my office, I wanted to put a few of his teeth in a jar on my desk as a memory of our “counseling” session.
Suffice it to say that my buddy Rick is pastoring the church now and doing a much better job than I ever did. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999 I have been full time reaching and training teenagers across the nation through Dare 2 Share Ministries.
But after ten years of being a pastor I have a tremendous respect for what pastors have to do week in and week out. In addition to leading the church, going to elder/deacon/whatever meetings, providing guidance and direction to the staff, trying to get people to volunteer their time to serve the church and then lead that volunteer force to ongoing and effective action, doing endless amounts of counseling sessions, marriage counseling, marrying and burying and more…they have to write and deliver a talk from God’s word week in and week out. Sound easy? Think of it like this. What if you had to write a ten page term paper every week and deliver it in a compelling way every week in front of a crowd that could number in the hundreds or maybe even thousands?
Dr. Tony Evans once defined Biblical preaching as the proper exegesis of the text delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit to the needs of the audience through the personality of the preacher. I love that definition because it captures all four aspects of effective preaching. To combine these four ingredients into a recipe that “tastes good” to the audience, provides spiritual nourishment and produces life change week in and week out takes all out work on behalf of the pastor.
I hope that this blog encourages you to have a more comprehensive view of what your pastor is up against all the time.
Some of you may be thinking, “Hey I thought that this was a youth ministry oriented blog. How do pastors tie in to the youth ministry world?” My answer is this: Pastors lead the youth ministry world! Most pastors set the pace for youth ministry by determining the budget, picking the youth leader and choosing the metrix for success in youth ministry. They are the ones who ultimately allow a glorified babysitting model or demand the equipping of teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith.
That’s one of the reasons I long so much to influence senior pastors as much as I want to influence youth leaders and teenagers. Pastors are the gateway to true transformation on every level in their churches (children, youth and adults!) I know this firsthand! The DNA of the church is most often determined by the leadership of that church as summed up in the pulpit. As one sage puts it, “Everything rises or falls on leadership.”
If you are a pastor my hope is that this blog encourages you to realize the sacred place and space God has placed you in. You have a tremendous amount of influence…more than you probably know. By the way, we at Dare 2 Share Ministries have tons of stuff that you can use as a pastor in your congregation. Here’s just a few:
- The GOSPEL Journey Reality Series…a eight session DVD series we did over a year ago with a Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, etc in the mountains of Colorado. I took these teens and twentysomethings through the story of the gospel from Genesis one through Revelation twenty two and let them ask me any question they wanted from the Bible. This is as real as it gets. Many pastors are started to use this for small group curriculum in their churches. You can check out the first session for free streamed on www.dare2share.org/gospeljourney. Check it out!
- Ministry Mutiny…A Youth Leader Fable…a book I just wrote through Focus on the Family that tells the story of a youth leader who is about to quit because he has become “the babysitter” that he promised himself that he never would become. This story follows the young youth leader Ty from the writing of his resignation letter to the senior pastor to the end of six days worth of counseling in the form of “ministry mutiny” principles from Tony a twenty six year youth ministry veteran. I believe that if pastors read this book they would be able to understand youth ministry more, the pressure that youth leaders are under constantly and have a basic grid for encouragement, direction and accountability when it comes to the confusing world of youth ministry.
- Dare 2 Share…a field guide to sharing your faith. This book is designed to give teens and adults alike a basic “how to manual” when it comes to sharing Jesus.
- All sorts of “free stuff” to help you help your teens and adults alike “Go wide” with the gospel and “Grow deep” in the truth. Go to www.dare2share.org, click “free stuff” and download away.
Oh and by the way we do training conferences across the nation that equip teenagers to know what they believe (AKA “sound doctrine”), live what they believe (AKA “sound living”) and share what they believe (AKA “evangelism”). Former pastor to current pastor I would challenge you to come with your youth group and enjoy the training weekend. You would be surprised at how cross-transferable these principles are to adults.
And I hope you drop into my blog from time to time (I try to post twice a week or so) and see what is going on in the crazy world of a former pastor, current evangelist and crazy man.
If you are not a pastor just remember that your spiritual leaders are under attack from within and without. Five hundred years ago or so Richard Baxter said that Satan will seek to do the most harm to those who seek to do his kingdom the most damage. As your pastor continues to flesh out the Great Commission through word and deed week in and week out and challenges you to do the same, know that Satan and his emissaries of evil are seeking to deceive, distract, discourage and destroy him.
Hold your pastor up in prayer. Drop him an encouraging note. Hug him a little tighter in the foyer this Sunday. He is a marked man.