By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Now seems like a good time to print a portion of it. Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, wrote an excellent column in the Sept 12 issue about depression and how it affects everyone (pastors, ministers, and laypeople).
In this column, Clarksville pastor and a longtime friend Larry Robertson writes from a pastor’s perspective how sermons often are misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Being a pastor is like being a baseball umpire. You’re expected to be perfect when the game starts and get better as it goes along. That just doesn’t happen.
A pastor recently wrote:
“In my case I’ve given 33 years of my life to the ministry and over the years I have had, from time to time, a very heart-breaking experience. The Bible says the Lord will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and this is true; but God’s people will.
“When you have done your best to help and encourage; when you’ve married their loved one and buried their dead; when you have led them to Christ and baptized them; when you have given them counsel that saved their marriage; when you have held their hand in a hospital room before surgery; when you’ve prayed for their wayward child to return; even when you have done this and more, God’s people (not all, but some) will forsake you, lie about you and even hate you.”
He continued on: “It hurts to high heaven and it tears at your heart. The tears stream down your face like a river. You become physically sick from the rumors and lies. You’re tempted to respond in kind but refuse to give in, and when you do yield — your guilt pierces your soul. Your children watch and are often hindered or ruined spiritually by the events, but no thought of them is in the heart of the perpetrator. …
“What is the result? Lost people stay lost. God’s glory is blemished. The church is hindered. Many believers fall by the wayside and after many times, good men leave the ministry.”
Some will say this is just a disgruntled pastor. Maybe, Maybe not.
Others will say there’s two sides to every story, and that is true.
But the sad truth is, I’ve heard stories like this over and over in my 30 years as editor. This is not a one-time incident. And, yes, there are times when a pastor needs to be disciplined and even replaced. But there’s a right way (God’s way) and a wrong way.
It’s okay to acknowledge that sometimes ministers and churches prove to be a “bad fit” for each other. Sometimes church search committees are so quick to “hire someone” that they don’t always do their homework and do not truly discern God’s will.
Sometimes ministers are so anxious to leave a bad situation they will take the first opportunity available to leave.
Whatever the case, both the minister and church leadership need to sit down, discuss the matter and come up with a solution. It may mean letting the minister stay for an “agreed upon” amount of time to seek what God has in store for him and his family. It might be allowing the pastor to leave immediately, but providing for his needs with a severance package. Whatever it is, seek God’s will. And, above all, extend God’s grace and love to that minister.
The world is watching. Satan loves it when a minister resigns under duress or a church splits. Don’t give Satan that pleasure. When we operate under God’s guidance, grace and love, problems normally will be resolved peacefully.
Pastors have a difficult job. They are on call 24/7. They’re not perfect, but neither are we. We can all use God’s grace in our lives.