“…serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials…” (Acts 20:19)
Let a pastor go through one huge church fight that leaves God’s people bleeding and bitter and scattering and he will do everything in his power to avoid another one.
Let a pastor go through a termination in which he is forced out from the church where the Lord sent Him, and the pain of that rejection will accompany him the rest of the way home.
Some pain never leaves.
The wound heals but the scar remains and the memory never fades.
Thoughts of that event will color his counsel to other pastors. The pain of that event will pop up at the strangest of times. The lessons of that event will demand to be shared with others going through their own little foretaste of hades.
So, the wounded pastor will mention that event from time to time.
It’s not even a choice he makes.
He could no more ignore that event in his life than forget his wife and children.
Occasionally when the pastor mentions that bit of his history, invariably some (probably) well-meaning soul will say, “You need to get over that.” Well, thank you, friend, but some things you never get over.
The scar remains.
The suffering comes to an end, but the memory of the pain is never gone.
The lessons and the guilt, the self-recriminations and the regrets, become a part of our very bone and marrow and never go away.
In a sense, you don’t want it all to go away.
“God doesn’t waste suffering,” we like to say. And for the God-called pastor who has been the victim of self-righteous (or mean-spirited) church leaders with an agenda of their own and sent packing, there are things he cannot forget and will retain the rest of the way home.
He cannot forget some of his own mistakes. “I wish I’d been more patient there….more assertive with that group…less abrupt with him. I wish I’d made more pastoral visits in homes, had spoken more forcefully on moral issues, and had not terminated that staff member. I wish, I wish, I wish.”
He cannot forget how his family was treated. The phone calls in the middle of the night to disturb the household. The anonymous letters. The harsh comments from the children of church people. The vicious rumors which were completely without foundation.
He cannot forget a few comments from antagonists. “You think you have won this one, pastor. But it will never be over until you are gone.” “I don’t care what the Bible says. I just want you gone from my church.” “Unless you go quietly, preacher, you will be fired and there will be no severance.” “I’m going to tell the congregation there are things you did that we can’t talk about, that are too shameful for words. That’ll do it!”
Some of that the pastor would love to forget, but it will not go away. So, he consciously works to forgive the others–and forgive himself!–and go forward.
Some of the lessons from that terrible time in his life will never go away either.
He remembers how important it is for a pastor to show a spirit of Christlikeness at all times. The times he lost his cool with church members who were trying his soul linger with him.
He remembers how critical prayer is and determines he will live for the rest of his days on his knees. Nothing is better than knowing when life is coming unraveled that you are right where God put you, that He has this situation in His hands.
He remembers the importance of giving strong leadership to the ministerial staff. Allowing a lazy or carnal staffer to go unchecked was a mistake for which he himself paid dearly. But he will try to get this right next time.
He reminds himself how important is the balance between protecting his wife from the daily stress and yet informing her of all that is going on so they can pray together and be a strength to each other.
And he knows one more big thing…
He cannot make the next church pay for the sins of the previous one. He must not be too harsh or demanding with them because of how the last church failed to get it right.
He must abide in the Lord and let His words abide in him.
He must begin every day on his knees with the Lord and before the Word in order to find strength and direction for all that day contains.
And even then–if the past is any indication–he will make mistakes. So, he prays for an understanding church and a wise heart. He prays for the Holy Spirit to “lead him in the path of righteousness” and for boldness to declare the whole word of God.
And he prays for one more thing, a huge request which He hopes God will grant. He prays the next church will have a corps of prayer warriors who will daily intercede for their pastor, even though they know little about his past and the battles he has come through. Let them pray for their shepherd, asking the Chief Shepherd to care for him and be his all in all.
God, bless your pastors please.