Working at a church is both humbling and horrifying. You get the joy of being a part of God’s ongoing mission and watching lives be transformed by the Holy Spirit each day. I often stand in awe of why God would choose someone like me to carry forth His Word. When I look around, I see many are more skilled speakers, more personal, and smarter than me. However, I couldn’t be more thankful that God set me apart for vocational ministry.
There is also a negative side to ministry. No, it’s not just dealing with unregenerate church membership or trying to keep the fires put out. Rather, it is getting a peak behind the curtain. It’s seeing the way people act who claim to be followers of Jesus. It’s watching people wait like a pouncing cat for the pastor to make a mistake so they can attack the man and his family. While we all love to blame the government and the liberals for our problems, the biggest threat to our congregations lies inside our buildings, not outside.
Perhaps most concerning of all is my relationships with those in the ministry and knowing too much about their work habits, sermon preparation, and their survival skills. I find myself asking far too often, “Does he care more about getting famous and selling books or being found as a faithful shepherd before the Lord?”
My ministry is far from perfect. However, I struggle with the idea that ministry is just another job where the goal is to climb the ladder a mega-church and make mountains of money. I guess I never took the “How to be a Televangelist” class in seminary.
A few months ago I was at a ministers meeting. We were talking shop and bouncing ideas off one another. I asked a question about preaching. I asked how each of these guys prepares their sermons, hoping to learn a few things — and learn I did.
I was shocked to learn that many of them simply get their sermons out of a book or copy them off the internet. One admitted he listens to a popular preacher and then “puts his sermon in his own words.” The consensus was that their church’s expectation was they pay them, give hugs and handshakes, far above teaching the Bible. I must have been at a meeting of chaplains, rather than pastors.
Last week I walked through an exhibit hall at a major denominational convention. I was taken aback to learn they had several booths selling full sermons — for those busy weeks. Several popular pastors had booths peddling their sermons, too. It disturbs me to think how prevalent this is in the pulpit. The scary part is those in leadership who have put their stamp of approval on this phenomenon. I have to ask, what does God think about this? (Jeremiah 23:30)
To the pastors who I serve with in our state. I ask this in love and with the utmost compassion: Why does your church pay you? It isn’t to play golf, build relationships, show up at community events, or even grow the church. Biblically you are paid to pray and to preach the Scriptures (Acts 6:4). If you’re simply a parrot repeating another’s words, your church could save money by simply eliminating your position and playing a better preacher’s sermons over the sound system each Sunday.
Friend, you’re not a chaplain; you are a pastor. One day you and I will both give an account for the ministry entrusted to us. We will be held to a stricter judgement (James 3:1).May we always love our task more than our title.
Andy Waits is the associate pastor over worship and students at First Baptist Church-Springville. email@example.com