As a person who worked in Christian bookstores for a number years, I have a unique perspective on pastors and the local church. Often pastors came into the store seeking refuge from a hectic week and the daily pressures of life as a member of the clergy. Having never been a pastor myself, I had no idea what it was like to be one, nor did I understand the challenges they face every day. As I learned to serve them and their congregations, I had the opportunity to hear their stories of joys and sorrows. Over the years I have developed a deep love and respect for the pastors that serve our community. Here are some reasons why:
1. They are willing to teach us what we need to hear. I cannot imagine what it must be like to develop a message from God each week for a group of people that may not like what they hear, but desperately need to hear the message anyway. The best pastors are able to share directly from God’s word in a way that is both encouraging and challenging.
2. They provide counsel that has saved countless lives and marriages. Most pastors do not have professional degrees in psychology and yet are constantly called on to provide guidance to people at moments of crisis. We may never know until we get to heaven how many people chose not to to commit suicide or chose to recommit to working on their marriage because of counsel their pastor gave them.
3. They are constantly learning. It never ceased to amaze me how members of the clergy came into our store on their days off to find books to study and grow from. Many of them had advanced degrees and yet were continuing to seek new information and ways to creatively present the message that God had given them for His people.
4. They lead by example. Pastors are always in the limelight and watched by their congregants, the community and their colleagues. In the midst of that fishbowl, they are expected not just to “talk the talk,” but to “walk the walk” as well. The best pastors live a life of humility and integrity in which their triumphs and mistakes are opportunities for growth for them and their congregations.
5. They live a life of sacrifice. This may be a controversial statement with the advent of the CEO pastor and the issues surrounding the prosperity movement; having said that, my experience has been that there are many pastors who work in secular employment in addition to pastoring, just to make ends meet. Those who are fortunate enough to make their living from the pastorate make incredible sacrifices of their time, energy and personal life.
6. They are multi-talented. I have always been amazed at the number of roles pastors have to play. On any given day they may be the janitor, secretary, business manager, publicist, receptionist, preacher, counselor or worship leader of their church. This is especially true of pastors of smaller congregations. As the church grows, they have to develop other skills like team leadership that they probably did not learn in seminary.
7. They are on call 24/7. As the leader of CLC’s ministry here in the USA, there have been many times I’ve felt constantly on call. In reality, I have nothing to complain about when I think about the lives that many pastors lead every day. They are expected to take phone calls from people in crisis at all hours of the day and to actually have godly advice, even if it is the middle of the night.
8. They are the face of our faith. There is no such thing as downtime for clergy members who either wear clergy attire publicly or identify themselves as pastors to anyone who asks. This reality means that they get asked a lot of questions about what it means to be a Christian, and they are constantly being judged (fairly and unfairly) for the way they live their lives as “public” Christians.
9. Admonishment is a regular part of the job. Pastors are expected not just to encourage us, but also to hold us accountable before the Lord. Because of those of us who do not like confrontation, that can be a tall order for pastors. Not only are they expected to confront, but to do it in a loving and godly way. Wow, has that got to be hard sometimes.
10. They are real people. With all they are expected to do, you would think that only superheroes need apply to be pastors. Amazingly, men and women who are fallible and not always perfect choose to go to seminary and take on this incredibly challenging responsibility. More often than not, these pastors live their lives with transparency and set an example for us, living out the truth of the gospel every day.
For all these reasons and many more, I love and respect those who choose to accept the call of God on their lives to be pastors in our community.