By Mike Glenn, Senior Pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tennessee
The sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. I was re-reading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together when I came across the following:
A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Life Together, Harper and Row, 1954, p. 29.)
What? A pastor can’t complain about his church? I thought that was a natural right of ministers. What else would we pray about if we couldn’t explain to God we would be much better ministers if we were only at a different church? What would we talk about to our pastor friends if we couldn’t complain about our churches?
OK, let’s get real. I’m no Pollyanna. I’ve been doing what I do for a long time. There’s nothing about a Baptist church I haven’t seen or heard. Like Paul, all of us bear on our bodies (and souls) the marks of ministry.
But can we at least reframe the question? Perhaps the question isn’t, “What’s wrong with these people?” Maybe the question we should ask is, “Why am I sent to them?”
Remember, every great movement of God begins with a problem. The children of Israel were in slavery, so Moses was sent to Egypt. Samuel anointed David king at a time of national crisis. Esther was made queen “for such a time as this” and her bravery saved her people. We’re no different. Our people are in trouble and that’s why Jesus has sent us to them.
Sometimes, I think talking about the Fall is misleading. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about the Fall as much as we should talk about the Falling. The word “Fall” means we fell one time and it’s over. But life as we know it isn’t like that. People seem to keep on falling. They keep messing up, keep making wrong decisions, and keep ignoring the clear teachings of God. Life gets ugly when that happens. So, we keep being sent to them.
So what do you do when you have to deal with problems all of the time? I volunteered as a chaplain for the Brentwood Police and Fire Department for several years. Here’s what I learned from the firefighters about dealing with problems:
- Check your equipment before you need it. When the alarm sounds, you have to know your hoses don’t leak and your oxygen tanks are full. The time will come when you won’t have time to GET ready, you’ll have TO BE ready. As a pastor, what systems or skills do you need to prepare before the crisis happens?
- Drill. Drill. Drill. Firefighters are constantly training to deal with different scenarios. They know what to do when the “what if” happens. What about you? What if you find out a leader is having an affair? What if someone abuses a child? Who will you call? What will you do? Now is the time to get ready for time when the worst “what if” will happen. Trust me, it’s coming.
- Condition and train. Firefighters are always working out. Knocking down doors and pulling people from burning buildings requires a lot of strength. Our work requires a different kind of strength, but what we do is still dangerous and exhausting. Be sure your body, mind and soul stay strong.
- Train other firefighters. Firefighters consistently enlist the support of the community and hire other men and women to join the force. I know dealing with the demands of daily ministry can be overwhelming, but we must organize our time so we are always training more leaders. The job is too big for one person.
As I write this, it’s Monday morning and I’m in the office trying to sort through emails and phone messages about hurts and heartbreaks we heard about in yesterday’s services. This is what I do. This is what you do. It’s why we’re here. Broken people are hurting people.
Jesus said sick, wounded, and broken people were the reasons the Father had sent Him. These same people are the reasons He sends us.
In addition to serving as the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, Mike is a frequent speaker and prolific author. His latest book is The Gospel of Yes. You can read his blog at www.MikeGlennOnline.com.