The following guest post was submitted by Matthew Malin, a young man who blogs over at Confessions: Bringing to light that which is hidden. As a matter of disclosure, I did not ask Matthew to write this, nor did I edit what he wrote. So… All I can say is that somebody’s evidently been around the block and knows what he’s talking about.
I’ve been a pastor’s child for 17 of the 23 years I’ve been on this earth. I’m not writing this article to tell you that it’s been completely easy. I’m also not here to inform you that it was hell on earth. It was neither easy nor hell but rather a comfortable middle, I suppose.
Out of the many years spent watching my mother and father traverse the rocky waters of ministry has come a longing for “outsiders” to know what it’s like. Sometimes, if I’m being honest, I wish that the congregation would have had to live in our shoes if but for a day. Maybe then they would realize that we were only humans too.
My father has never been Superman. Albeit he is my hero but he was not created to be all things to all people at any time. My mother, as much as I respect and adore her for her strength, was never fashioned by God to fill every hole in the church as a pastor’s wife. They were created as human beings, like the rest of us, and called to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.
This is the message that I hope to lovingly convey to you today: Your pastor and his family are not gods. They are not the only thread keeping your church from falling apart. They are not the saviors of your spiritual life. They are, however, human beings with emotions, desires, hurts, longings, and passions just like you. And as much as you need other people in the faith to come alongside you to encourage you, they need it as well, if not more.
Growing up I thought ministry was cool. My dad was the youth pastor of our church which meant I got to tag along on most youth events, much to the chagrin of the “cool” kids. I mean, no one wants an obnoxious eight-year-old around, right? Despite the perceived negativity of those I wished to associate with, I looked forward to every time I could see my dad at work.
My father was instrumental in passing on a passion for the ministry to me. Seeing his drive, his passion, and his love for the church of Christ was contagious. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do what he did.
Then it got hard.
You see, as I grew I became privy to some of the “behind the scenes” information concerning the inner workings of church life. To summarize it all, I didn’t like what I heard and I borderline hated what I saw.
The more involved I became with ministry the more hurt I subjected myself to. There were those who openly condemned my father for his choices. There were those who did so secretively. Many professed love for our family but that “love” quickly died when something did not go their way. Suffice it to say, my family has gone through hell in the ministry.
I want to be very clear, though. My family and I do not hate ministry. It is only by God’s gracious hand that my father continues to shepherd a local body, that I am pursuing a pastoral role, and that my sisters all have a desire to be missionaries and pastor’s wives. After all that we have seen and had happen to us, this is nothing short of a miracle.
However, that never stopped us, even to this day, from wondering why. Why were we always expected to fill every hole in the church’s ministry? Why were we expected to be perfect? Why did so many say that they loved us only to hurt us in the end? Why were so many people unfaithful to God and the church body? Why would someone do such a thing to another soul? Why did no one ever stop to think about our spiritual needs?
Why does this matter?
I fully believe that our Christian culture has created an aura, a stigma if you will, that the Pastor is some sort of “god” capable of accomplishing any and every role set before him. The Pastor is to be preacher, teacher, shepherd, counselor, friend, janitor, organizer, committee leader, father, husband, coach etc…etc…He’s supposed to be the one that fixes all of the complaints brought to him. He’s supposed to right every wrong. He’s to never slip up in the flesh lest someone think he’s less than perfect. He’s not supposed to need discipleship, guidance, and counseling. He’s the pastor, he should know it all by now, right?
Being a pastor and being a part of a pastor’s family can be incredibly lonely because of this thinking. It is as if we, sinful people such as you, are supposed to live and exceed a higher expectation of holiness because of a job title. Truth be told, we need the Gospel just as much as you do.
Your pastor, his wife, and their children need to be encouraged. They have to be. The devil is attacking them and tempting them to despair. There is a target on their back. Why is it that you hear of so many pastors falling out of ministry because of sin, burn out, or apathy? It is simply because the devil is trying his hardest to kill them.
The devil is trying to kill your pastor and his family.
He wants them to die.
He’s doing whatever it takes.
Let’s be honest, sometimes he uses you to accomplish that. I hope that I do not speak without compassion but I must say that the people of God are most commonly the most effective tools of the devil. I know this because I have seen it and I am far too often such a tool as well.
What, then, is our purpose?
The primary goal of every believer, not just a pastor, is to preach the Gospel and make disciples. Yet somehow we’ve taught ourselves to believe that this is the pastor’s role and only he can do it. In all reality, every believer has been called to this life. Every Christian should be actively preaching and reproducing. The “pastor” is simply a man called to lead a specific body of Christ into doing this.
He is charged with teaching, encouragement, rebuke, and discipleship. Yet so many pastors don’t have time for any of those things because the color of the carpet needs to be decided upon. Minor example but does my point come across? We are far too concerned with that which doesn’t matter. So much so that we lose sight of that which does.
Can I encourage you to forget the minuscule objectives for your church that you may have? The only objective we should be pursuing is the spread of the Gospel to all people. Our primary goal should not be having 150 committees for every ministry in the church. Our goal should not be to get our way with our preferred style of music, Bible translation, or style of chair in the auditorium.
Our goal is the Gospel of Christ penetrating hearts to all nations and to all peoples.
Unbelievers need the Gospel. You need the Gospel. Your pastor and his family need the Gospel.
Can I encourage you, one Christian to another, to take care of your pastor and his family? Whether it be through encouraging word or by keeping a complaint to yourself, you’re showing them love. Maybe it’s by way of a card? If your pastor has small children then offer to babysit one night so that he and his wife can go on a date. Whatever it may be, reach out to them.
They need Jesus just as much as anyone else.
Despite your pastor being a sinful man, if he is genuinely pursuing Christ for himself, his family, and you, then nothing else really matters. There are many men and women in the ministry only pursuing personal gain. If you have a pastor who faithfully preaches the Gospel and isn’t afraid to stand on truth, I can guarantee you that the Devil wants to destroy him. Be in prayer for your pastor but don’t stop there. Reach out, make an effort, and try to stop complaining so much. 😉
I love the ministry. I love the church. I hate the sin. I hate it in your life and I hate it in mine. I wish for us to be in heaven so that we could be free from its impact but we know that God is faithful. He will show himself so in your life and in those around you so long as you remain obedient and humble. Seek the Lord with all of your heart and live a life patterned by the transformational love of Christ. You’ll be amazed by the difference He can make.