The greatest gift a pastor has to offer his church is quite often the last thing he wants anyone to know about.
Allow me to assume some things about you, pastor.
You probably have some level of education. You might even have initials like M.Div. or Ph.D. after your name. And the people in your congregation are really impressed by your great learning.
You know how to talk in front of a crowd. Sure, maybe you’re not the greatest speaker in the world but you do speak. And you do this every week. A significant portion of the people in your congregation would rather handle rattlesnakes barehanded than speak in public. They really admire your ability to do this.
You have the gift of presence. Of course, you’re not always there and there are those members who want you to always be present at every birthday party, doctor’s visit, and hair appointment. But for the most part, you show up when people need you. That means a lot to your congregation and they think highly of you for doing your best to be there when you can.
You might not feel like it, but you are admired. There are people who view you as a spiritual hero. That’s not such a bad thing. But it’s not what’s best for your church.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks running on empty. A few Sundays ago when I finished preaching, instead of taking a nap, I took my son to urgent care. To paraphrase the great prophet Brian Regan, He felt like his insides wanted to be on the outside. It would be almost two weeks before he came back home. During those twelve days my son was poked, drained, pushed, and squeezed all while enduring the worst pain he had ever experienced. My wife and I alternated nights sleeping in the hospital. If you’ve ever played that game before, you know that I use the world sleeping loosely.
And then came Sunday.
I decided that I could preach. It went okay.
And the came the next Sunday.
I decided that I could preach again. It didn’t go okay. I should’ve stayed in bed.
When that was over I helped preach a funeral. And I preached again that night.
I’d like to think that this was me being Willis Reed and toughing it out for the kingdom. In reality, it was just me being foolish. And prideful. Pastors live under the accusatory dark cloud of only having to work one day a week. Sometimes, in our pride, we want to prove the naysayers wrong.
Pastor, our churches don’t need us to be Willis Reed. And we can’t M.Div. them into heaven. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our people is to let them know that there are some things we just can’t do.
The greatest gift that you have to offer to your church is not your education, skill, or compassion, as important as those things are. It is your weakness. It’s in our weaknesses that we often see Christ more clearly and our people see that our faith is a lifestyle, not just a bullet point in a sermon.
So pastor, stop trying to convince your people that you have it all together. When you are drained, tell them. When you have nothing left, let them know. And in so doing, both of you just might come to see that real hope is found in a perfect Savior, not a perfect pastor.