Teaching a D.Min. course on "Christocentric Preaching in a Pluralistic Age" at Kansas City's NTS back in the early 80s, I lunched with some students because Ralph Earle wasn't around.
Between lectures, I listened.
Same old same old: "It's sooooooo hard being a pastor...People don't like the hymns that I pick...I'm criticized for the kind of car that I drive and where we shop and...My denomination is sooooooo ___ed up...I feel like Paul in chains...I...I...I...I...I...I...I..."
I couldn't take it anymore.
I blurted, "Pooooooor babies...You are suffering sooooooo much for Jesus...They don't like the hymns that you pick! Help me, Jesus!...Have you ever looked at the cross? Have you ever read what Jesus said about taking up your cross? Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? Yeah, that's what you want, isn't it?...How about getting flayed for faith?...How about watching your family stuffed in burlap bags filled with venomous snakes and tossed into the sea?...How about being blinded or beheaded or...?"
I got away with it...because I was the one who passed out grades at the end of the semester.
But I've never regretted it.
God knows I know pastors are paid to be abused; especially in the religious culture of America where Christianity is only coincidental to the Bible's red letters and, as Dylan sang, clergy are rarely more than errand boys for the wandering desires of their flocks.
Yeah, I know all about the clergy killers.
Yeah, I know all about people transferring their pejorative pathologies to pastors.
Yeah, I know about being in denominations irretrievably apostate under current management.
Yeah, I know all about thaaaaaaat.
Ending the conversation, I blurted again, "Man up!"
Here's the deal.
If ya can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Didn't you take the course on original sin in seminary?
It's always been less than perfect in the world and churches that never really totally overcome their worldly DNA.
I know that sounds harsh; but if you're really called to undershepherding to the Good Shepherd, you know you're going to catch hell for heralding and praying and laboring and even insisting that fidelity aims for life "on earth as it is in heaven."
If you're really called..., you know it's a war in an Ephesians 6 kinda way.
If you're really called..., you have memorized Psalm 62 in your brain and branded it upon your heart.
If you're really called..., you're more into providing ministry than receiving it.
Yeah, everyone needs retreats.
Yeah, everyone needs a sabbatical every now and then.
Yeah, it's nice to have some folks around interceding for ya.
Buuuuuuut for God's sake and the sake of those entrusted to your undershepherding to the Good Shepherd, stop bantering and moaning and bleeding and...all over those who've been entrusted to you.
If you find yourself receiving more than giving, you just may want to consider...
Read John 10.
When I'm feeling especially vocationally bummed, I look at the cross.
I consider the martyrs.
Dang, I look at what's happening to our sisters and brothers around the world who are really being persecuted for righteousness' sake.
Then I get embarrassed by my whining and bantering and moaning and bleeding and...
The old priest said to the young priest in Georges Bernanos' The Diary of a Country Priest, "Salt stings on an open wound; but saves you from gangrene."
If we are truly called, it's a Matthew 10 thing.
All of it/Him.
Blessings and Love!
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