I follow a blog written by Pastor Craig Nieuwhof from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. He is the founding pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie. He is also an author and speaker. As I contemplated what to write to you for the August 2020 newsletter, I remembered this post from one of his recent blogs. I think it basically says a lot of what most of us pastors want to say to our parishioners in this crazy, upside-down world in which we live. It is a bit long, but it really covers a lot of our thoughts as pastors.
FIVE THINGS YOUR PASTOR WISHES THEY COULD TELL YOU
By Carey Nieuwhof
I don’t know why I wanted to write this today. But I did. Other than a brief time in law, pastoring a church is what I’ve been involved in for my adult life. I’ve probably had thousands of conversations with people (and so have you), but if you’re like me, there are some things you just never get around to saying out loud.
It’s not that you don’t want to…it’s just that you don’t. Yet saying them could help you and maybe even help scores of great people who are working so hard at your church. They might even make things…better. Here are five things I think most pastors wish they could tell their congregations:
- I’M TRYING TO STEP OFF THE PEDESTAL PEOPLE KEEP PUTTING ME ON.
I’m not better than anyone else. Really. I have never believed I’m better than anyone else. And I promise you if we got to hang out more, it wouldn’t take long for you to see I don’t belong on a pedestal either.
I’m not in ministry because I’ve got this all figured out, or because it was an ambition of mine. I honestly feel I was called into it. Believe it or not, I tried to resist the call. But people kept affirming what I couldn’t stop sensing—that God was calling me to serve in the local church. So I obeyed.
It gives me a lot of comfort that the heroes in the scripture were flawed people. Peter barely got it right. Paul had his critics. Noah was a flawed leader. So was Moses. But reading their story gives me hope for my story. And—you know what—it gives me hope for your story and for the church. God doesn’t use perfect people. His grace flows best through broken people. God belongs on the pedestal. So why don’t we keep him there and keep ourselves below it?
- I ALSO HAVE DOUBTS
I realize you might think my faith is rock solid. And in the end, it actually is quite strong. But I have days when I’m not sure my prayers make it past the ceiling. I have days when I read the scriptures and it seems like just another book. And I have days where I wonder where God is in the middle of this. Just like you. But I’ll tell you why I can’t let my faith go or shake it. Because God’s faithfulness keeps overshadowing my doubts.
God has been consistently patient, kind, gracious and giving toward me. And he has been toward you too. And the days where the prayers seem empty and the scriptures seem cold are inevitably followed by the days in which God’s presence is almost palpable and the scriptures read me.
So, don’t let your doubts do you in. Persist through them. I have and I do, and all I keep finding is the faithfulness of Christ. You will, too.
- I DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT TO DO
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know what to do. I know you know that. But there’s something in all of us that wants our leaders to know what’s next. I’ve become committed to telling you when I don’t know, and I hope you can accept that. You also need to know I’m doing my best to surround myself with incredibly wise people. Together, we are far smarter and wiser than any of us is alone.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for a generation. No one understood why Jesus was so determined to go to the cross. And the birth of the early church in the first century probably made many peoples’ heads spin. But God was in all of it.
I’m sure as we pursue Christ as best we can, we’ll figure out where he is in the middle of all this.
- I SO APPRECIATE IT WHEN YOU CUT MY FAMILY SOME SLACK.
It’s fine for you to put me under a microscope. I get that. I got called into this and I’m accountable. But this church is a place where my family is growing up. It’s a place where my kids are asking their own questions and where my spouse comes on their good days and bad days.
When you treat them as people who are on their own faith journey and hold them up to no greater standards than you do any other family, you give my family an incredible gift. We are pursuing Christ together, and when you give us grace, you actually make that journey richer.
- I’M MORE GRATEFUL FOR YOU THAN YOU REALIZE.
I realize how demanding life is and how busy you are.
I know you worked late on that project this past week….and still came to the event at the church.
I realize you haven’t had 8 hours sleep in about three years and your kids are driving you crazy…and you took time to seek God today.
I realize your family argued on the car ride to church and still walked through the door anyway (we do that too sometimes).
I realize the school trip cost more than you thought and you’d really like to get to Disney this year but you’re giving anyway.
I know that you serve in a number of organizations in the community but you still throw your weight behind this mission at the church we’re in together.
- Thank you. Really.
- The church is the most blessed organization in the world. We have an eternal mission that will make far more sense when we stand before Christ than it does most days now. I think only then will we see how important what we’re doing now really is. We rely on the goodwill and the hard work of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people to be the church.
- And I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am for you. I am.