What we are attempting here is to walk a fine line between the fun of humor and hyperbole and the conviction of truth and righteousness.
The Lord called you to preach the gospel and you answered. You went off to a Bible college or theological seminary of one kind or the other, and you earned yourself some degrees which are now prominently displayed on your wall, right beside your high school diploma and the certificate of appreciation from the supermarket where you led the prayer of dedication for their grand opening. That was a long time ago, and these days, well sir, you are somebody. You finally got past those tiny churches which many consider boot camp for the pastoral ministry and now you are uptown in a fine facility–or even better, out on the interstate in a spacious new campus–with your name boldly plastered on the sign out front as the senior pastor.
Have you “arrived” in the ministry? From all appearances, you have. But here are some ways you can tell for sure….
1) You have a Bible published with your very own commentary notes.
“The Official Roger Bigshot Bible.”
It still has the basic 66 books of the Holy Scripture of course, but no one is buying it for that. They purchasing it for the wonderful, scintillating, incisive–and insert a lot of other dynamic adjectives here!–notes at the bottom of each page.
How in the world Martin Luther pulled off the Reformation without his own personalized Bible is anybody’s guess.
2) You have two secretaries. One works for you and the other works for her.
Your secretaries sometimes lord it over the rest of the office staff since they work for the (ahem) head guy, but hey, that’s life and it’s to be expected. After all, they take phone calls for you from leading pastors around the country, publishers of major printing establishments, and denominational executives. They are in high cotton and if they’re a little prideful, well, who wouldn’t be?
3) You have research assistants to do your Bible study for you.
You can recall when you had time to check out the root of that Hebrew word. You used to enjoy spending a full morning in your library. But those days are behind you. You’re just too busy for that any more. So, that young intern sure comes in handy. His insights and sermon ideas have given you some messages that have been well received, too. He’s going to make someone a great preacher one of these days. Hopefully, not too soon. You need him too much just now.
4) You get invited to large events to speak. Or, if you don’t, you leave the impression you do.
Of course, you never get invited to the small churches and lesser visible events, because to be blunt about it, those people know you are “out of their league” now that you have arrived. If you were invited to Mount Pisgah at Route Four Podunk, you would have to fudge and tell the pastor how much you would love nothing better than doing this, but your schedule just will not allow it, and thank you for calling and have a blessed day.
Surely the Lord will forgive your little lie. You were just trying not to hurt the guy’s feelings, after all. The simple fact is they cannot afford you. And if word leaked out that you were preaching at Pisgah, what would people think?
5) The media calls for your “take” on events of the day.
And you find yourself practicing in advance of their calls, which you know will be coming.
You love getting phone calls or emails from friends far and wide saying they saw you on CNN or Fox and what a great job you did. You hope your own members saw the same things. One appearance on a national news show will earn you a hundred goodwill-chips, to be cashed in the next time you need extended time away or support for a pet project.
6) You no longer have time to attend those preachers meetings in your own county.
Everyone knows you’d certainly be there if you just were not so busy flying hither and yon to speak. These days, you no longer know those pastors anyway, so attending their meetings would be awkward. Best to spare everyone the embarrassment by avoiding them altogether.
7) The mayor treats you like the CEO of a major employer in the community.
The funny thing is that you soon discover he wants your notoriety to rub off on him the same way you want his public recognition to enhance your status. So, there’s a little symbiosis going on here, with the two of you enabling one another.
8) You’ve almost forgotten what the inside of a hospital room or nursing home looks like.
You have other people doing the actual shepherding of your congregation. You’re above that sort of thing now.
The only time you get to the hospital now is when one of your key guys is in critical condition. They make their little jokes that, “I must be in bad shape because the head pastor is here!” but there’s a lot of truth to it, and the reality is there is not a thing you can do about it. It’s just the reality of your life these days. Success has its price and one of those prices is you can’t be everywhere, you cannot do everything. Something has to give and it’s the actual work of pastoring. After all, anyone can visit a hospital room. Your gift is in vision-casting, motivation, leadership. Important stuff.
9) You camouflage your dereliction of pastoral duties by fancy terms.
Like vision-casting, motivation, and leadership.
Meanwhile, the pastor of the smaller church at the edge is doing the actual shepherding of some of your members. They actually call him. The wording varies, but mostly they sound like: “Pastor Johnson, if you’re going to be at the hospital this week, could you run by and see my daddy? I’d ask my pastor but he’s so busy.” Or, “Pastor Jones, I wonder if you have a few minutes to talk with me about a problem? I’d go to my pastor but he’s off at the meeting of the World Alliance for Global Alliances.”
10) And finally, you know you have arrived as a big-shot pastor when you lie awake at night, unable to sleep because you are missing the actual work of pastoring your people.
You envy the pastor down the street who loves the work of shepherding a flock and does not care a flip about enhancing his image, million-dollar budgets, and .casting visions, whatever that is.
Being somebody, Doctor Bigshot, your days are spent planning with your executive staff, flying to high-level conferences on important issues, hob-nobbing with celebrities (hey, they need a ministry too!), writing your books and doing your book tours, and pontificating on important moral issues of the day.
If that floats your boat, go for it. Someone has to do it, I suppose
But if God of the Universe called you to pastor His people, you just might want to take a look back down the road and ask yourself where you took that fatal detour, that side road that led you to ten thousand perks but far away from the actual shepherding of God’s people.
As for me, I would rather be a pastor of the Lord’s people than to dwell in the White House for eight solid years, rather minister in the hospitals and nursing homes than to have a widely-watched program on Fox or CNN, and rather teach a bunch of Vacation Bible Schoolers about Jonah and then introduce them to Jesus and baptize six of them than to be on anybody’s best-sellers list ever.
Only those truly called to pastor can understand this. The rest will be tuning up their resume–playing their role as Doctor Bigshot in search of the First Church of Bigtown.
“Father, bless your pastors. Please.”