Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PEW: Have Compassion For Your Pastor's Personal Struggles

Hey, it's my second week of Practical Encouragement Wednesday, a.k.a., PEW. I spend a lot of time around pastors, hearing their struggles, their joys. I get to help them and they help me. What I don't get to do is share lessons I've learned with members of other churches. I was a counselor for 10 years, have been a pastor for over 20, and want to put some of that experience to work helping churches help their pastors. My hope is that doing so will strengthen the church to fulfill its mission in this world.

I hear it's lonely at the top. I don't know if being a pastor is being at the top, but most pastors are lonely at least some of the time. They are surrounded by people, but feel alone in the crowd. Their office seems to separate them from humanity.

One reason is this. They study and preach God's Word all the time, and know they just don't add up. I know, some think they are superior, but most are all too keenly aware that they are not. That adds to another cause of loneliness - fear. What if their shortcomings take center stage? All pastors have heard about the pastor who was fired for something minor. So, rather than opening up, pastors often cover up, because they aren't allowed to grow up.

So, how can you express compassion for your pastor and his personal struggles?

Don't try to force your pastor to open up. Don't sit down and say, "Pastor, I know you've got struggles just like the rest of us. If you ever need to spill your guts, I'm here for you." I actually had that conversation many years ago in Texas. Any discerning pastor will decline this offer.

Be a friend. Invite him over to watch the game. Take him fishing. Treat him like a human being, not an office holder. But, understand when he doesn't want to come to your niece's birthday party because he just needs to rest from a week of pouring out to others.

Defend him when he is unjustly criticized. If you are with him while someone is criticizing him unfairly, defend him in his presence. You really have no idea what that act of courage will do for his soul.

Lovingly confront him when you see him slipping. He must hold himself accountable, and so must the people of God. Expect him to live a holy life, but not a superhuman one.

P.S.: Just a note to the congregation among which I serve. We have served the Lord together for many years in large part because of your care and compassion for your pastor and his family. Thank you for continuing to help me grow in Christ.