Many of you are (or will be, or have been) in Phoenix discussing church work. Ministry in Phoenix can be hard—I know, I’ve preached there. It’s so beautiful in the winter that heaven doesn’t motivate them, and it is so hot in the summer that hell won’t scare them.
But church work is hard everywhere. Did you pray at your last deacon’s banquet, “Lord, thank you for preparing a table for me in the presence of my enemies?” Is your church so small that when you say “Dearly beloved,” your wife is embarrassed? Do you feel as if each sermon is like explaining Leviticus to a four-year-old? Do you feel like you are the Titanic and the church is the iceberg? Is your latest vision statement “Misery loves company”? Was deacon grump-a-lot voted chairman and his wife believes her spiritual gift is suffering?
Speaking of suffering, did your best deacon say he never understood suffering until he heard you preach? And worse, the chairman of your over-budgeted and under-financed committee has been there so long it is rumored he is the one who ratted on Ananias and Sapphira.
Do you identify with the pastor of a rural town who sat by the train track each morning? A member asked what he was doing, and he said that he wanted to see something move that he did not have to push.
The best advice for a pastor may come from Yankee Manager Casey Stengel who said that the key to managing a team was to keep the five people that hate you away from the four that were undecided.
Why is church work so difficult? It is the people. They are everywhere. If you don’t like the people at your church, remember they are at every other church. They are all defective—just like you and me. We have been recalled by our Maker. Even when you help, it’s not enough. I read that Pastor Leslie Weatherford told of a sailor who dove into the water to rescue a drowning boy. A few days later the boy and his mom were shopping and the boy pointed to the sailor and told her that he was the man who saved him. The mother walked up to the young man and asked if he was the one who fished her boy out of the water, to which he replied, modestly, that he guessed he was. The mother responded that he had a new hat on when he fell into the water, and she wondered if he had found the hat.
I admit that I am nervous when people hand me things at church. One reason is that I can’t hear the ticking as I used to. Large donations can be a problem, too. A saying in Texas is that whoever buys the fiddle gets to pick the tune. Many churches only sing the songs of yesteryear because the yesteryear people give the money. Are you in a church of yesteryear people who only want to go on cruises with a buffet view?
No wonder Oliver Wendell Holmes said he would have entered the ministry except so many ministers acted like under-takers. Of course they do! They feel as if people are plotting against them.
It has always been that way. That is why Jesus had more religious people plotting against Him than praying for Him. So, why do we pastor? You know why: it is for the money, right? The salary pastors usually get is not normal everyday, buy-yourself-a-Mercedes money. It is chicken money.
Pastor Bill Hinson told of the second sermon he preached. It was in an old country church, and a barefooted boy was on the front row swinging his feet throughout the sermon. As he preached, all he could think of were those feet. He was distracted by the constant movement and preached an awful five-minute sermon. The boy invited him to lunch with his family afterward. He figured since the boy had destroyed his sermon, they owed him. That night he drove back to his South Georgia college, and a few days later he received a letter from that boy. Included were nickels and pennies — $.57, with a note saying that the money was for his schooling to become a better preacher. He got quite a hoot out of it and called the boy’s dad. He told him that he probably didn’t know that his son had sent the money, and that he was returning it. The dad said that his son saved his profits each week from taking care of the chickens and that he could not send the money back. His son had never done a better job and was sending his profits to Hinson each week. Every week for months, and then for years, he found the envelope in his mailbox. He wasn’t laughing anymore. He dropped to his knees and asked God to make him worthy of that boy’s sacrifice.
Think of your next paycheck as chicken money. It will encourage you a lot more than just bringing home the bacon.
Pastors, thank you for your loyal following over the years. It has been great to see you in your churches, airports, and restaurants and have you tell me that you read the last page of SBC LIFE first when it arrives in the mail.
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of Lowery Institute for Excellence, and speaks full‑time. You may contact Lowery Institute at 940.686.0738 or www.CharlesLowery.com.