23 September, 2016

Just What Do People Think A Pastor Does Anyway?

Recently I've come under a pretty severe attack because someone was offended at what I said to them. I've lost a family from my church for it. So... what was so horrible that someone could become so offended? Did I call them an ugly name? Did I insult their family lineage? I mean it had to be pretty bad... Right? Well, let me say upfront it was none of those things. Before I tell the reader what I said, let me lay the groundwork to this situation. This family had been very faithful in church attendance and in their giving for years, but about 6 months ago I began seeing a major shift in both areas. So I was chatting with the wife one night and I told her that I was becoming quite concerned because of the pattern I was seeing. She assured me that there was nothing wrong, but I told her that I'd seen this pattern so many times over the years I have been a pastor. I told her that I've watched family after family begin to slip in their faithful attendance and every one of them, without exception had said to me that everything was fine and that there was no need for me to be concerned. I explained that I'd watched literally 30-40 families go down this road and gradually drop out of church and then backslide and that nearly half of those families are now divorced.  She again told me that I was worrying over nothing. So... months later, their attendance has not improved, but had in fact grown worse. So I again tried to reach out to her and I sent a message saying that I was very concerned because they were becoming more and more removed from the church and God.  That's it. That's the horrible offending statement that I made that offended her so much. In her view, I implied that she did not know God and was going to Hell. I never said that. Let me use this story to illustrate just what I was saying:

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.
After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.
As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

This is a perfect illustration. When someone (or family) begins to isolate and withdraw from the church, much like this piece of coal, they begin to lose their fire, their glow and ferver. Why? Because they have become removed from their source of refilling and energy. 
This person and countless others think it is awful that a pastor would say something like that to a person. They all say the same things... You can't judge me! I don't need to go to church to serve God! Funny... the only people who ever say those things are those who have removed themselves and they know in their heart they are not where they belong but it's always a whole lot easier to point fingers and blame someone else.  The outcome? They leave the church... just as I'd warned 6 months prior.  Go figure.  But of course, the pow-wow begins with others saying "I left the church for the same reason! He's too judgemental. He wants to tell others how to live" and so on. Guess what? THAT is the pastor's job! He is the shepherd. He tends to the flock. When he sees one wandering, he goes and gets it. If it continues to run away, he will break it's leg, if necessary, to keep it from running off and getting hurt.  Well, we cannot break legs, but the point is that we are to do what is necessary to cause the wandering sheep to stop...  before it's too late.

No comments: