Here's the blog . . .
I am sure that a post of this sort offers itself to misunderstanding. I write it nonetheless, in hopes that you will hear my heart and glean the good from it.
The church in America seems to have lost the ancient, and dare I even say Biblical understanding of correctly honoring the man of God; one who dedicates his life to service to God and God’s people (this could be the worship leader, youth minister, or most often the pastor). We have confused honor with obsession, treat our ministers like hired hands, and become addicted to personalities on TV or the internet and swallow anything they try to sell us while starving our local pastor on a salary that allows him to qualify for food stamps.
There is a distrust and skepticism afoot that is a result of the hideous scandals of the 1980’s. And I do believe that the Swaggart and Baker scandals were, in the long run, good for the family of God. That bubble had to burst, and the scripture had to come true that judgement must first begin in the house of God. There have been plenty more, even the Ted Haggard scandal of recent days, that have caused the world to view us with a cynical eye. We should expect this and live our lives accordingly so that the world can see a true Christian witness. But in the wake of these scandals, not to mention Enron and WorldCom, there is a “mood” where it seems that churches treat pastors as expendable, replaceable, for hire and for fire. We almost automatically distrust anyone in leadership now.
I am not advocating that the church makes the pastor a little king of a little kingdom with freedom to do or say whatever he wants. That is insanity. I am advocating for a return to honoring the man of God, not worshipping him, but understanding the heavy burden laid upon him, the struggles and pressures he faces on a daily basis that NOBODY else experiences, and the specific needs the pastor faces that are uncommon to all other people in the church.
Perhaps this is the reason so many pastors burn out and quit ministry. The statistics are staggering, so much so that the Eli Lilly Foundation is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into churches, seminaries, and other non-profits to try and figure out why pastors walk away and how they can help stop the mass exit. When questioned as to this reality, pastors who quit most often say that a lack of support from the church and lack of understanding from the members as to the stresses and pressures of the job is the largest contributing factor to pastoral burnout.
Can we regain a sense of honoring the man of God without becoming obsessed with personalities or worshipping personas? Of course we can. Pray for your pastor. Slip a $100 bill in his hand after church. Send him and his wife on a cruise. Give them gift certificates to their favorite restaurants. Babysit their kids so they can have a night out to watch a movie and eat a good meal. Stand up for them when you hear gossip. Get their back when they cannot defend themselves against the untrue accusations of others. Encourage the deacons or the elders to take up a special love offering for your pastors family once a year, honoring them with respect and generosity.
When I was a young boy, my daddy and I got our hair cut every other Saturday morning at Garrett’s barbershop in Fountain Inn. And everytime that a local pastor would come in the barbershop to get a haircut, all the men waiting would stand up, take off their hats, shake hands with the pastor, and it made a heavy impression on me as a little boy. Since then, I have made it a personal goal to always honor the pastor when I go somewhere to preach, to always honor him from the stage, to tell him publicly how much I appreciate him and his family and their sacrifice for the church, and then to tell him personally and privately how much I look up to him. This simple practice has opened up friendships between me and hundreds of pastors over the years. Sometimes, they just need to know that we believe in them and that we’ve got their back when they need us. Let’s restore honor, correctly, to the man of God in the church.
While, I am not asking for donations, although, a cruise would be pretty cool, and not down an Indiana river. What I am asking for is what I have said since I came here, 'respect me as you want me to respect you.' Now, are there major issues you don't know about? NO. But I don't like to hear about rumors or unhappy people from 3rd parties. When someone rips me or one of our other pastors, defend us, don't be silent, even when you don't agree with the person.
My job is to look to the future of the church so the church can advance the kingdom and build it and help it to grow spiritually and numerically; while making sure other needs are being met within the body. Well . . . thanks for listening.