I want to say a word to encourage pastors, and at the same time plead with church members to be aware of your pastor and go beyond your normal best to see into your pastor’s heart. Check his spiritual heart and his physical well-being often, and of course, that of his family.
This past year and a half has been new, challenging, and painful for pastors attempting to do ministry as self-expected and congregationally-expected on a huge variety of plains. The playing field was changed; the boundaries were redrawn, everyone has a whistle, and do not get me started on the rules.
Under normal conditions and experiences, being a pastor is beyond simply challenging. Of course, the call of God to minister in His name is an extreme honor, but it also has many extreme sacrifices. Being a pastor, experiencing a broken heart is common to the call. Ask me how many times my heart has been broken and I will direct you to gaze into the night sky filled with stars.
Oh, how it breaks my heart the many ways the evil one works to destroy even the best of lives; the strongest of families. To watch people in our churches suffer pains and sorrows over the enemy’s attempt to draw their children into the most ungodly activities and self-destructive abuses, convincing them they are the better paths, is an often helpless feeling within an already tired warrior pastor. When a friend and member of the church suffers the loss of a loved one, who is also your pastor’s friend, the pastor goes through the mournful grieving as well . . . but often quietly alone. This pastor has conducted 113 funerals to this point; I am familiar with the pain over someone’s grief. (The week following my mother’s funeral, I returned to my church to conduct the funerals of three of my member’s mothers. That was a tough, lonely, week). Brother Pastor I feel your pain and fatigue; your difficult time; perhaps even a long dark period.
However, I do not pretend to know or understand the depths of what you face. And I would never say to you that it will soon be over. I would never hurt you this way. But, I am one preacher who has been in the depths of darkness, seemingly a half step from the pits of hell itself. While I never thought of or planned suicide, I confess, death looked pretty good from where I sat (or lay in bed for days at a time over a total period of a year or longer. My memory of the time is a complete blur). However, I did come fairly close to disappearing from sight. I thought, if I would just disappear into the homeless arena, my family would be far better off. Somehow, God stopped me from doing that.
All I want to say to you is that, in ways you and I cannot imagine, you are going to make it. Hang in there; get help; hold on to the promises, even if at the moment they are hard to believe! National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours: 800-273-8255.
Church: Before you regret it; take better care of your pastor, with intentionality. Pray for him, yes, but also pray over him often. Make sure you know his heart. Watch for signs of needs (if you get close to him you will recognize the signs of needing help). Be sure he gets time away for relaxation, even if only a few days often. The spiritual warfare we pastors are under right now is demanding (we know yours is too, but we are prone to carry some of the weight of yours as though it was our own).
Be faithful in doing service in your church. Do not allow your Pastor to do it all, even if it appears as though he wants to. Serve one another with gladness! Be faithful in attendance. Be on time. Expect to hear a Word from God. Show love and gratitude to one another, including your Pastor. Let’s be praying, loving, compassionate children of God.
And, oh by the way, Pray On!