Doctors, nurses, schoolteachers, and a few thousand other occupations and small businesses had a tough year. 2020 presented challenges previously unknown and unfaced in most of our lifetimes.
Regardless of where you land on the political or economic scale, nobody argues about whether last year was challenging or not. It was hard. Like off the charts hard.
In case you’re wondering, pastors had a difficult year too.
- For the first time in America, churches were forced to close their public services for a season. (Some still haven’t opened.)
- Depression, drug abuse, and suicide were far more common than usual. We got the midnight calls.
- Most of us watched our churches dwindle in size and resources.
- We were forbidden to visit our parishioners who were critically ill or dying in the hospital.
- Our email boxes are filled with cries for help from people wrestling with old and new addictions, spousal abuse, isolation, and abandonment.
Here’s where I’m going to sound more than a bit defensive . . .
- We, pastors, are in a spiritual battle 24/7. And the struggle is real.
- We, pastors, are evaluated, accepted, or rejected (at some level) every time we speak or write. (There’s a good reason why people hate public speaking.)
- We, pastors, are attempting to lead a wide variety of people who have never been more opinionated. Some think we are idiots for capitulating to the “liberal right” and closing our doors; others are angry because we opened before there’s a vaccine. Some—the maskers—never want to see my face; others—the non-maskers—get irritated when they can’t see my coffee-stained smile.
- We, pastors, get emails and verbal threats from some who accuse us of not loving others because we’re open and singing. (I have been called “Satan incarnate” and selfish.)
- We, pastors, get emails from those who accuse us of not having enough faith when we decide to stay closed, not sing, or we ask people to wear a mask.
In nearly forty years of pastoring, I have never felt more like I am walking a tightrope and in a lose-lose scenario. It’s never been my goal to keep everybody happy. That’s impossible. But the extremes (on both ends) continually peck at my leadership.
So, what? Why this post?
Of course, I encourage you to do the expected and helpful “spiritual” things. Pray for your pastor. Try to encourage him or her. Be cognizant of the struggles they face that are at a much broader level than what most of you can conceive.
The press never gives us credit, but your pastor is a frontline worker too.
That being said, here’s my best advice: Stay.
Stay put. Stay with your pastor. Stay committed. Stay present (be there when the doors are open.) Stay quiet when you’re tempted to add to the chorus of negativity. Just stay.
Now is not the time to go “church shopping.”
Now is not the time to “feel led by the Holy Spirit” to go to another church.
Now is not the time to quit or the time to fire your pastor. (What kind of dysfunctional board terminates a pastor during a pandemic?)
My pastor once told me, “Everybody’s leaving.”
He might be right, but disappearing during a pandemic is beyond painful for a pastor who is already struggling.
Perhaps, commitment and faithfulness to the Kingdom and the Church is spelled S T A Y.
Maybe, what you do when things are far from perfect is the best reflection of God’s perfecting work of maturity in you.
What if you practiced the wisdom of Solomon, who wrote, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born to help in adversity.” At all times—including the terribly ugly and trying times.
Please stay and watch what God can do through a committed friend. What if it’s not just about you, how you feel, or how happy you are right now?
What if your pastor and Jesus need you to stay the course, now more than ever?
Too many pastors and church leaders are quitting. Too many churches are closing their doors forever.
Please be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Please.
By the way, guess how you can best bless your pastor (as you stay)? Come alongside him or her and serve as you’ve never served before. Help your leader care for the diseased, the disenfranchised, and the disillusioned.
Not only do I invite you to stay put, but I entreat you to hear the call of the Holy Spirit to step up. You are needed more than ever now.
So, never underestimate the value of your support to a pastor. He’s human. Most of us are needier than you might think. Nonetheless, Jesus called us, knowing full well our imperfections.
Remember that thing I say from time to time that I learned from one of my pastors? Never follow a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.
Here’s something else to consider: It might be best if you’re not the cause of that limp. (This verse should sober you.)
Thanks for taking a few moments of your time to contemplate how you can make an eternal difference in the life of your pastor. He or she’s been doing all they can to make a difference in yours.
An imperfect, broken, and limping pastor . . . on behalf of my colleagues around the globe,
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Kurt Bubna