And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
One of the difficulties of pastoral leadership is handling disappointments without discouragement. A pastor is expected to be exuberant, cheerful, and positive at every service no matter what may be going on in the church or in his personal life. Another pastor once advised me to never let the people know when you are sick, never ask specifically for personal prayer, never show any vulnerability because each of these will be seen as weakness and will make you an ineffective leader. I am not sure if there was ever a worse piece of advice given because pastors are vulnerable, do get sick, and need personal prayer just like any other member of the church. It is a great myth fostered by many independent Baptist pastors that they are demigods and should be treated as such. This only fuels the unbiblical teaching of separation between clergy and laity.
For the most part, I handle the sicknesses and the occasional personal problems without much difficulty. The most trying times for me are when I see church members that help foster separation between the pastor and the people by acting as if the requirements of their Christianity are different from those of the pastor. It might be helpful to understand that in the first century pastors were not appointed by denominations; they were not graduates of seminaries that waited with diploma in hand to be picked over by leaderless congregations. Pastors were chosen from among the people and most of them spent their lives with that one group of people. Working consistently and faithfully in the church was a common enterprise for all the members, not just a special few.
I am never disappointed in the Lord because I know He does all things well. I have a much harder time not being disappointed with people. Our Sunday School Superintendent, Taber Jarrell, sent an email reminding teachers about faithfulness in teaching and also commitment to church attendance. Taber said it well: “The children, as well as adults in our church family and especially our class, are watching and learning from our testimony—let them find us most faithful. I would ask that you carefully consider before being absent from your class, or service of the church, is there any way I can find a way to be present and in my place of service?”
Our church needs a revival of commitment from all members. It is understandable to miss for vacations and when work or other situations are unavoidable. I am concerned, however, that most absences are avoidable. Much of it is plain indifference rather than necessity. Including WEDNESDAY evening, we have four hours of worship each week which hardly seems too much for the Lord to ask. Corporate worship is not a suggestion from the Lord; it is commanded. As church attendance dwindles, separation, consecration, and holiness follow suit. Consider your children. Are they better off for your example or worse?
You are no different than the pastor. The Lord requires the same from you as He does from me. Could you tolerate me as pastor if I approached church responsibilities as you do? Think about it and get back to me. If you love Christ, your truthful evaluation will fix you and encourage me greatly.
Pastor V. Mark Smith