Monday is to pastors as Mondays are to football coaches. I know of no other profession for which this day holds such morbid introspection.
Obviously, you’ll note a slight pay difference between the two professions. But both take quite a bit of abuse from the folks in the stands, both deal with leading incredibly destructive forces onto a playing field on a weekly basis.
But I’d rather take on linebackers than angry women with casseroles any day of the week.
Today is the day when I’m dogged by feelings of inadequacy based on the number of people who attended church yesterday, how little they gave, and how few signs of improvement I can see for us.
I wonder…if we did have a scoreboard for Sundays at church, what would winning look like? The football coach knows when he wins. Me? Not so sure.
Do I consider a Sunday a “win” based on how many people came to Christ? If that’s so, then yesterday was a loss. Sure glad there’s no scoreboard for recording that, because I’d look like a loser most every week.
Believe me, I try. I reach out into the community. I make friends with the unchurched. I reach and reach until I feel like some kind of religious Stretch Armstrong doll they’d sell at Lifeway. But most weeks are just hard work, preaching to the same folks, and wondering where the ones who didn’t show up are.
That lady whose family are all new Christians, who started coming a couple of months ago? She begged me to help her understand the Bible. So of course I start a “through the Bible” sermon series, and even offer a weekly Bible study to accompany it. Great, right?
I started the series last Sunday. She hasn’t bothered to attend for the past two weeks, and couldn’t find time in her family’s schedule for the class I spent time studying and promoting.
What a sucker am I.
That young adult guy I reached out to who’s talented in music and the Arts? He’s on my praise team now. Great, right?
Nope. Now he’s being pulled into questionable roles in his theatre troupe, and making huge compromises. His ego is leading him the wrong direction. And now I’m wondering if he really needs to keep singing on the praise team. Is his compromise hurting our worship and quenching God’s Spirit? Am I supposed to kick him off, and if I do, will he wander even further from God?
On top of that, I’m just exhausted. Hauling equipment in, setting up for worship, helping lead the service and then preach the sermon. Then take it all down and move out of our rented space. And for what? I sit in my chair today, too tired to accomplish anything much but this whiny diatribe, marinating in my own misery and self-doubt.
I look at the new pastoral candidate announcement at a church where I used to serve. They’ve just named him after a nationwide search, with accompanying fanfare and publicity. His resume is so perfect, his family so squeaky clean. Probably never had the crap kicked out of him anywhere. Or if he did, he had powerful enough friends to help him pop back up on his feet.
Yep, I see it on his resume now. There’s the church he served and left suddenly to be a “teaching pastor” at a satellite of another church led by a mega-pastor. That must be where he landed on his feet after things didn’t go so well. Must be nice to have friends in high places.
Now he’s able to keep moving forward with a blemish so slight that only a seasoned refugee of church wars like me would be able to recognize it.
Well, I don’t have those friends. I certainly wouldn’t have minded them, just never had the connections. Maybe I don’t kiss butt as well as others…or maybe that’s just what I tell myself to feel better. So here I am, struggling away at a church plant that probably won’t make it much longer, and wondering what I’ll do after that…
Then thankfully, a reminder. A little tap on the shoulder from my Boss.
There is actually a scoreboard for the job I do. And thankfully, it’s not kept at any denominational office or in any stats. It doesn’t depend on my numbers of baptisms or church attendance, and mercifully doesn’t reflect my finances, either.
How is the score determined? Simple…faithfulness. Yesterday, I did what my Father told me to. I completed my assigned duties once again. And I gave it absolutely everything I had.
I was never meant to compare to that guy with the almost perfect resume and connections in high places. Honestly, I wonder if he could handle what I’m dealing with. Looks a little too conventional and bookish to be able to haul in a sound system every Sunday. Probably wouldn’t have spent time with the young adult drama guy, and certainly wouldn’t have adjusted his preaching schedule for the lady who wanted to understand the Bible.
God has given us all different assignments. And the score is not based on anything but simple obedience.
Am I doing what God told me to do? Yes. Am I doing it the best I can, to the point I’m exhausted every week? Yes again.
It’s only when I compare myself to others that I really get discouraged. A pastor’s promo materials don’t tell the whole story anyway – that’s not really the man my old church is hiring. It’s just his image.
All that matters is what the Scorekeeper thinks. As long as He says I’m winning the game, I guess I can make it another week.
Hmmm, good thing Baptist pastors aren’t allowed to drink. I guess it makes sense after all.
God knew we’d all be alcoholics after just a few Mondays.