Life without Pastors

by on Apr.07, 2009, under View from the Pew

Dear Pastor:

How do you put up with us? Sermons on the unity of the body are answered with divisive annual meetings. Counseling sessions uncover evidence that pleas for righteous living have gone unheeded. Biblical answers for life’s problems are regularly shared but too frequently ignored. The cleansing fire of revival seems distant, and doubts about the effectiveness of your ministry linger in your mind.

If the discouragements of ministry threaten your continued call, consider what life would be like if there were no pastors to shepherd the flocks. What would the body of Christ be like without your presence? What would the nations of the world be without your collective influence? where would we be if your salt no longer seasoned and preserved us? Here are some thoughts from a layman about the importance of your pastoral role.

Each week I see evidence of what America would be like without pastors. Headlines scream out the verdicts on a nation that looks to politics, not pastors, for lasting answers. Is there any wonder we are experiencing an epidemic of divorce when the original plan for marriage has been casually cast aside? Where, aside from the biblical teaching of the faithful pastor, will men and women learn how to be true husbands and wives? Where, aside from the biblical counseling of the faithful pastor, will those struggling in their marriages hear that the answer is not to abandon each other but to renew their commitment to one another? Who in our society is capable of equipping young men and women for the future challenges of marriage, if not you?

Where will our world learn of justice except from those who know its Author? How will we experience racial harmony and reconciliation without first being reconciled with the one who made us? When will we realize the command to treat every person, rich or poor, impartially because He has commanded it and because it is right? A world without moral standards is incapable of explaining why we should exercise justice and be reconciled to our enemies. Our world does not understand the origin of its problems and the source for its answers. You do. God has entrusted you with His message. Speak and live it forcefully.

Our depth of insight often results from your pastoral care. If every person in your community knew that they are valued by God, valued so highly that they were worth the death of His Son, would we be experiencing the sense of estrangement and isolation so evident in our world? If every man and woman understood the price God paid so they could live in peace, would the problem of domestic violence be skyrocketing? If every child knew the innocence and safety of a home headed by men and women of faith, would sexual abuse be the modern plague that it is? If every son and daughter lived with parents dedicated to their biblical roles, and to each other, would we be facing our current crisis of sexual orientation and rebellion.

The church, alone among all of our institutions, has the answer. Pastors, alone among all vocations, have the ultimate calling to share the answer with people.

Each time I drive to church I pass those who live their lives without a shepherd. How do they survive without your influence? Where do they go when they are discouraged? I benefit from your teaching and encouragement. I learn from your dedication and example. Who are their role models? Rush Limbaugh? The Simpsons? Hardly! Only in your care will they experience the words of life. Only in relationship with people of faith will they find the fulfillment they seek, and God intends.

How do those who have not yet heard God’s message of hope deal with the devastating news of a lost job, a failed marriage, a positive biopsy? What sustains them in the black of night when the message of light is something unknown to them? Who comforts them with a sense of purpose when everything in their existence seems void of meaning? You do. And the people in your pews who carry your message on roads you will never travel and inject your influence in places you will never go.

The demands of life outstrip the ability of service clubs, sports, work, or any human activity to bring lasting and ultimate meaning. Twelve-step programs are not enough. Fame and power vanish. Beauty fades. Physical strength wanes. Dreams disappear. Prodigals don’t return. Expectations are unfulfilled. Spouses die. What then? Without your message- -despair. With your message–hope. Hope that does not disappoint. Hope that has a future.

You must never underestimate the impact of who you are and what you do. You must resist the temptation to dwell on the shortcoming of our work. Yes there are frustrations. But there is also fruit. It is easy to be distracted by the visible impact of the family disintegrating in your midst, without remembering the families that are intact and functioning because of your invisible influence. There are and will be financial crises that would be eased if more of us in the pews were serious about stewardship. Apathy will continue to exist. Those we esteem may fall and disappoint us. Because we still feel the effects of our sinful nature, only that amazing grace, which makes your walk and mine possible, is sufficient for us to try again. God’s mercy is new every morning.

His grace changes our hearts from an orientation of self to an orientation of others. We learn to give and be glad. His constant presence reminds us that there is still time to obey His call. We learn that He patiently waits for us to return to Him. When we fall and disappoint, He raises us up and comforts us. We learn that He does not abandon us to our failures but supplies strength in our weakness. This God who called you into ministry is a great and mighty God. One whose faithfulness never ends.

Don’t quit on us. Don’t quit on yourself. God remains at work in all of us. So take courage from this view from the pew; we are in this work together. These words, written by one person, are views shared by countless thousands. we say to you at the moment of your discouragement: “Persevere.” We pray for you at the moment of your need: “Lord, deliver.” We stand with you when you think you are all alone. God’s presence is enough. He is able. He began a good work in you. He will be faithful to complete it.

God bless you.

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