My good friend, Clayton King, who is the teaching pastor here at NewSping (and is now blogging) shared this when he spoke two Sunday’s ago—it is one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever read and it serves as a warning to pastors—and an eye opener to the churches they serve. I will have to admit that I am incredibly blessed to pastor this church…but many are not as fortunate to be a part of a church that takes care of the leaders who serve Christ there…here is an example…
One of my great joys over the past 20 years as an itinerant preacher has been the opportunity to meet pastors. These men are my heroes. I have grown to love and respect not only what they do, but the ability God gives them to do it year after year for His glory. And it does not matter if they are pastors of mega-churches or small rural congregations that cannot afford to pay them a salary.
Pastors are front and center in the life and death battle between light and darkness. Because of the difficulties and pressures of the pastoral calling, I have tried over the past few years to give them the benefit of the doubt, pray for them in all circumstances, stand up for them when they are mentioned in a negative fashion, and be less critical of them when I preach. After all, I may preach in 200 different places in a year. A pastor usually preaches in one. Bottom line: I love and respect pastors and they live under a scrutiny that most of us can never understand.
That is why this story is such a hard one to tell. But it must be told. And I pray that this never happens to your pastor, and that your church never allows this sort of destruction to take place in the life of the person God calls to shepherd your congregation.
Several years ago I ran into a pastor at a store while shopping. I had preached for him a decade earlier and asked how his church was doing. Here is the conversation that followed.
“Well Clayton, I really can’t say how the church is doing because they fired me 2 years ago and I have not been back, or even heard from anyone since I left. I was there for 13 years. Attendance doubled, we built a new sanctuary and added 4 new staff positions. But what I did not realize is that I let church work become my life. It came before time with my family and it even became more important to me than Jesus.”
“I figured out who the power players were in the church, and a deacon told me to make sure I did not make any of them mad because they had the 2 things that mattered most; family and money. So I made every decision based on them. I preached for them, made sure I did not offend them, and made special efforts to cater to them and their families. This brought short-term success, but I was burning out. I had no passion left. I was just working for a paycheck and health insurance for my family.”
“I did not realize how much I had negelcted my kids until one became a drug addict and the other one slipped into deep physical sin. I did not even know my own children, and it was my fault. Then one day I came home from a deacon’s meeting, and my wife had taken all of her stuff and left a note on the table that said she was tired of it. She hated me for ignoring my family and she blamed me for everything, for putting the church before them.”
You can imagine the lump in my throat as I stood there and listened to this grown man choke back tears over the family he lost. He was broken; a ghost of the leader, pastor, and shepherd I had met 10 years earlier. Then the saddest words to ever leave his lips landed on my ears.
“So what did my church do when all of this happened? The people I had served and pastored called a business meeting and they fired me. They said they could not have a divorced pastor with rebellious kids leading their congregation. They gave me 2 months salary and wished me luck.”
No grace. No counseling. No support. Maybe they felt he was unable to lead them any further. Fine. But not even a reception with cupcakes and coffee to say thanks for 13 years? This is way too common. I see it more than most anyone else because my calling carries me so many places, and when I hear these stories, I cry out to God to protect pastors, and the churches they serve, from shooting our own wounded. Of course not every church is like this and not every pastor suffers such a fate, but this man did. God help him, his wife, and his kids. And God help the Body of Christ to offer mercy and compassion to our own wounded who lay on the side of the road, in a ditch, waiting on anyone, even a Samaritan, to come to our aid.
(Note: This story was shared in a sermon called “Protecting Your Pastor” this past weekend at Newspring Church in Anderson, SC. To view or listen to the sermon, visit newspring.cc)