Tag Archives: Criticism

A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25 

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Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

How Did I Do? The TRUTH Comes Out!

Mock Trial

This was the first year my daughter, Haley, competed in something called “Mock Trial.” In a nut shell, students from different public and private schools send students to compete in make-believe trials before actual judges, with actual layers as juries, in actual courtrooms.

Haley posing before entering the court room.

Haley posing before entering the court room.

The students are divided up into teams which work together through the season on a particular case. Each team member is assigned two characters to play, one when the team acts as the prosecution, another when they act as the defense. This seasons case was one involving a young woman being accused of vehicular homicide; Haley played a witness for the prosecution and an attorney for the defense.

On a side note, Haley is home-schooled, along with all of the other members of her team. Last night, when they competed against a very prestigious local private school (Baylor), the other team was shocked – they had never seen kids who home-schooled – they were amazed.

Anyway, mock trial is not simply a bunch of acting; it’s a real trial. Each participant must know the case, and the characters he or she brings to life, inside and out, and work as a team. The winners are the ones who can show that by literally being put on trial.

How Did I Do?

Sooooo…. Last night, on the way home, Haley asked me, “So, Daddy, how did I do?” I replied with, “Do you want me to tell you what I really think, or do you want me to answer you the same way you and your mother always answer me when I ask that question after I preach?”

Haley: Tell me what you really thought.

Me: Nah, I think I’ll just say what you always tell me after I preach, “It was good.

Haley: Oh, no you don’t! NO! Do you really want to know what I thought about Sunday night? Huh? Do you!?

Me: Seeeeee, there ya’ go! I knew it!

Haley: OK! FINE! You want to know what I thought about the message you preached last night (Sunday)? Fine, I’ll tell you! …You preached like an OLD WHITE GUY!

Shawn McBride

Shawn McBride

Pause for explanation… Last week Haley went with a youth group from another church to a youth camp in Ridgecrest, NC. The speaker that weekend was a lively, energetic, funny, African-American – in other words, a BLACK preacher. His name was Shawn McBride.

Now, I have never heard Shawn McBride preach, but in my defense, I have never had the opportunity to speak to a thousand+ youth at a retreat, either; large hoards of effervescent hormones are not my typical audience. How one preaches to a bunch of crumb crunchers is different from how one preaches to those with blue “handicap” decals hanging from the rear-view mirror of their cars.

Me: What? Well did he preach anything doctrinally deep enough to wade in? Or, do I need to make my points from a ladder on stage? (she said he used a ladder at one point)

Haley: Sure, your stuff was deeper, that’s true – but you still preached like an OLD WHITE GUY!

You really don’t need to know all I said about Haley and her “acting,” do you? Really, I was nice – after about a minute. Then I bought her a cheeseburger.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

We just have to do the best with what God gives us…even if we are OLD and WHITE!

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Do not judge, General Observations, Homeschool, Preaching