I did not enter the ministry for money or power or respect. I did it for the constant criticism of everything I do and say.
There are several pastors in my family. I saw these older men in my family get pummeled by the ministry. I did not enter the ministry without an idea of what was going to occur. Growing up in that environment did cause me to hate church.
When I attended college I stopped going to church. I read my Bible and I attended a Christian college and got a degree in Biblical Studies, so it’s not like I became an atheist or anything. I just needed a break from church.
There was a point in my second year of college where I knew I was going to be a pastor. This greatly depressed me at first, but then it made sense. I know what the church is. I know what people do in churches. I have knowledge that could be put to good use.
I discussed this pastoral idea with one of the guys in my family who was a pastor. He said. “Don’t do it. It’ll break your heart.”
He was deeply saddened by my decision. But he also said, “But I understand. If you have to do it; you have to do it.”
Unfortunately, I did have to.
The stuff I saw happen to those guys began happening to me. The same stupid problems and struggles I watched them endure became mine to endure. I knew what to expect, and wow, did the church deliver on those expectations.
I’ve been criticized for the clothes I wear, the car I bought, the house and neighborhood I live in, where I send my kids to school, saying “shut up” in a sermon, arguing a call in church softball, not arguing a call in church softball, being too legalistic, not being legalistic enough, not knowing grace, making too much of grace, every doctrinal opinion I’ve ever expressed has rubbed someone the wrong way. I was even once criticized for being seen riding my bike.
It’s quite comical at a certain point. At the beginning it bugged me a lot, the constant scrutiny over inconsequentials. Now I’m just entertained by it. Yeah, it’s still annoying but I mean, seriously people? If that’s the kind of stuff you come up with to judge me, how tortured must your conscience be?
That’s also where I’ve gone with it. Instead of moping about my horrible judged situation, I fear for these souls who have to judge pastors riding a bike. What level of guilt must they have to make a deal out of that?
These are real people with real souls that will really be with the Lord or in hell for eternity. Yes, there’s a weight of responsibility, but there’s also the fact that I can’t make people believe. I can’t force people to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
According to Romans 14 we are to be careful not to offend others. “Offend” does not mean “make them feel uneasy.” “Offend,” in the context, means to cause them to do what you are doing against their conscience. A person being offended at me riding a bike is not what he’s talking about.
If a person doesn’t want to drink alcohol, but I do and tell them to as well, and then they drink alcohol against their conscience, that’s what “offend” means there.
People are offended by everything. Guilt is the force behind all offendedness. Pray for people who judge your bike riding and the other incidentals of life. These are hurting people beaten by sin. They need your prayers. Don’t be a jerk, don’t go out of your way to flaunt liberty and tick people off. Give that a rest. But don’t place hurdles between people and hearing the Gospel.
When people are bothered by minor issues, know that this is their guilt being expressed. Something is going on in them. They need the Lord. Be patient. Be kind. Expect the ridiculousness that being in ministry will bring you.
And then pray, live well, and preach the Word. I know not what else there is to do.