Do you remember the cartoon character,Pogo’s, famous comment: “We have met the enemy and it is us!” I am reminded of that comment when I reflect back on my interim ministries with several different congregations. I have seen many of the problems that congregations have—and way too often the problems are US—i.e. US PASTORS!!
Don’t get me wrong—I do NOT think that pastors set out to be a problem for their congregations. That is NOT why we endured the hardships, labor and expense of seminary. Certainly it is NOT because of the excessively high salaries we are paid! Why is it then that we so often become problems for our congregations? As I have struggled to clean up the messes left in congregations by my fellow pastors, I have seen several ways we become problems. Let me explain what I’ve seen as a warning to all of us.
1. One of the greatest problems we have is that we forget who we serve! We serve neither ourselves nor our congregations—-we are servants of the “Most High God”. When we forget that it can be deadly for both the congregation and the pastor. We begin to feel as though we should be placed on a pedestal by our congregation. We fall victim to PRIDE. Pride in what WE ARE DOING rather than AWE OF WHAT GOD IS ACCOMPLISHING THROUGH US as his servants. That Pride leads us to drive our congregations rather than lead them as a shepherd, because after all, WE know what is best for them (we’ve been to seminary, remember?) We must never forget that the congregation is not there to honor and serve us. We are there to honor God by serving the congregation!
2. Secondly, we have a problem if we fail to recognize that only God’s love and grace is sufficient. Too often we don’t do this. And if we are not walking in the light of God’s love and grace, we can scarcely lead our congregations in that walk! Instead, we stumble along in the darkness and the congregation stumbles along after us. If we have not developed a loving relationship with God we cannot possibly lead others to such a relationship.
3. We get lazy! Yes—LAZY!!! We are able to hide in our offices and play games on our computer and let people think we are working hard on sermons and church business. They won’t want to interrupt such “important” work so they decide if our door is closed they will not “bother us” because we are busy. THE ONLY TIME I THINK A PASTOR’S DOOR SHOULD BE CLOSED IS WHEN HE OR SHE IS HAVING A CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL DISCUSSION WITH A CONGREGANT OR OTHER PERSON. Otherwise the door should be open to invite people to come in and to allow the pastor to get involved with the congregation and help meet their needs individually.
I was in a church where the first day of my interim, the church secretary commented that was the first time in two years that the pastor’s office door had been open all day. In that same church on the first day of my tenure, I requested a list of “Homebound and Nursing Home” folks from the secretary and was told she would have to put one together—-she hadn’t been asked for such a thing the last two years!
I feel that Pastors have a sacred mission to lead their congregation to a closer relationship with God as they themselves seek that close relationship with G0d. We neglect that sacred mission at our peril!! Let’s examine our hearts. Is what I am saying above in any way descriptive of our present behavior? If so, my friends, we greatly need to call ourselves to “Repentance”—-i.e. we need to turn and go in a different direction. POGO…PASTORS…PENITENCE…Amen.