The light-hearted pastor is an oxymoron

“…the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).

After pastoring three churches for nearly nine years, I joined the staff of a large Southern Baptist church in our state and suddenly found myself attending Sunday services without having to preach.

Now, I loved to preach, don’t get me wrong. But for almost a decade, I hardly knew what it was like to attend church the way normal people do.

I recall sitting on the platform during the early part of the service feeling as light as a bird, carrying none of the burden I had grown accustomed to when I was pastoring.  I would sing the hymns and enjoy the worship, and then at the appointed time in the service, get up and make my announcement or extend the welcome or offer a prayer.  When I finished, I walked off the platform and joined my family in a pew.  It was a wonderful feeling.

One day something occurred to me. Before long, I will be re-entering the pastorate.  I’ll be the person bringing the sermon each Sunday.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could be as free and light-hearted, as burden-free, as I feel now?

Not going to happen.

I knew that.  But I longed for it, nevertheless.

The clear fact is the pastor is the point man for the Lord’s church.  The reins come to his hand, even if he has a large team of assistants and helpers.  No one has the care and responsibility for every area of the church the way he does.  When he arrives at the church building on Sunday, he is the only one there carrying the divine burden of a message God has given him to deliver.

To expect to carry that message without feeling the weight is asking a little much.

The Old Testament prophets would sometimes preface their sermons with this: “The burden of the Lord.”

The Lord’s servant was carrying a heavy burden, one that he had to discharge.

Paul wrote the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3).  Every preacher knows the feeling.

–I am not adequate for this responsibility.

–I do not live up to such high and lofty standards as to be able to preach this.

–I’m not wise enough about this Word;  there is so much more here that I’ve not grasped yet.

–These people know what a poor representative I am of the Living God.

–This message is far beyond my poor ability to proclaim.

–People’s eternity hangs in the balance.  If I do this poorly, some may pay an awful price.

–Some are making decisions about the Lord today based on what they hear from me. That is frightening!

“Not that we are adequate for these things,” said Paul.  “But our adequacy is of God, who has also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant….” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

And so, the servant of the Lord grasps His Bible and walks into church.  The constant prayer of his heart is, “Help me, Lord!  If You do not go with me, if You do not empower this, we are lost.”

But, it’s more than a prayer. It’s a plea, a heart-cry, an SOS.  We sound a lot like Peter attempting to walk on the Galilee. “Help me, Lord, lest I drown!”

O Lord, help your minister.  He’s trying to walk on water over his head.  He is attempting to do something which would be the height of presumption were it not for Thy call upon him: to speak for the living God.

Forgive him when he tries to preach Thy message in a light-hearted way.  He’s struggling with the assignment Thou hast placed upon him, to walk with one foot in Heaven and the other on earth. Sometimes he leans more one way and sometimes more the other.  Help him find his balance, Lord.

Amen.

 

 

4 thoughts on “The light-hearted pastor is an oxymoron

  1. Good job Pastor Joe. You nailed it. Having been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it, I wholly identify with the burden of the local church pastorate. Even now, though I do not pastor a local church, my burden for the many churches of our organization is large. As a pastor to pastors I hurt with so many of them that are struggling in different ways. Compassion and empathy, I suppose, are evidence of my continued calling in this burden.

  2. thank you for sharing this, we as laypeople sometimes forget to pray for our pastors and this was a nice little reminder to please pray for our pastors all over the world.

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