Friday, February 4, 2011
Note to my brothers Part 5: What they don’t tell you.
I am going to break the rules today and tell you the hidden secrets of ministry. I realize that my revelations may get me thrown out of the guild but the risk is worth it (this said “tongue in cheek”). I can remember back ten years ago when I had just surrendered to the call to preach. I would look at pastors, evangelists and missionaries and think that they had it made. “It must be great,” I would say to myself, “to labor in the Lord’s vineyard all day and not have to get up and go to a work.” I was foolish and ignorant.
One man said to me: “It is the rear end of a mule that called many a pastor.” I asked him what he meant by that remark. He explained that he was referring to when people plowed with mules. In other words, some men went into ministry to avoid the hard labor of “work.” I also think about the comments that a friend of mine made around the same time. I was asking him how things were going in seminary. He said that he was deeply troubled by some of his peers. My first thoughts were that they were not regenerate or that they had wrong theology. He went on to explain that there were many men who were in their mid-life or later years that were in seminary so they could get the job of a pastor when they retired from their secular work. I understood what he meant.
These men saw ministry as an opportunity for “easy work.” Think about it. You get up when you want to. Wear a suit all the time. Smile. All you have to do is “talk” for a few hours a week and perform the occasional inconvenient funeral or wedding. You can download sermons off the internet or go to the book store and buy a binder with a year’s worth of sermons already prepare. You will be respected in the community as a professional and liked by everyone.
Here’s what you haven’t been told: ministry is hard. I can remember on a Wednesday night several years ago it was my duty to give a short devotional before the pastor was to preach. The pastor came to me and said “Barry, take as much time as you want tonight because I haven’t had time to really prepare much.” He looked worn-out. He was slumped over; his eyes were heavy and his face drawn. I knew that he had been very busy the past week carrying for a dying congregation member and preparing for a conference.
Here’s what they don’t tell you: as a pastor you will spends hours preparing a sermon. Some pastors preach two or three times a week. So you may spend 20+ hours in sermon preparation. Here’s what they don’t tell you: your “on-call” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When God’s flock is suffering they will need you to be there for them. When tragedy strikes their life they will call you-even if it is 3 o’clock in the morning. Missionary and church planting work is no easier.
This used to be a typical Sunday of a missionary I know.
7:00am- Leave the house dressed for church
7:30am- Go to hotel to clean conference room and set up chairs for the afternoon
8:30am- Drive an hour to the church
9:30am- Set up audio, video, etc. and clean the church
10:15-12:00- Teach Sunday school and preach
12:30pm- Eat lunch in the car and drive back to the hotel conference room
1:30pm- Set up video projector, materials, etc.
2:30pm- Welcome attendants
3:00pm-4:30pm Teach English to Spanish speakers
5:00pm- Put away chairs, video, etc. and clean conference
6:00pm- Go home and collapse
Here’s what they don’t tell you: sometimes you will be the only one that cares enough to do the things that need to be done. There will be times when there is no one to help you. In addition to your duties you will feel like you have to do everything. Most churches are weak and have not been taught the importance of serving. Sometimes you will have phone calls to return, visits to make, sermons to prepare, meetings to attend, a lunch appointment, counseling session, a funeral to preach…There will be days when you have 24 hours to accomplish 30 hours worth of tasks. By the way, you still need to be in prayer and studying the Word for the sake of your own soul. Oh! Don’t forget, you have a wife who needs your conversation, attention and affection. Oh yeah, and those kids they need you…and, you have to repair the bathroom sink at home and take the dog to the vet, and on, and on…That’s what they don’t tell you.