I’ve contemplated this post since yesterday (Sunday) when I first heard Clayton King explain why he was speaking at Elevation and what he was going to be speaking on. So, let me tell you now…this will be a big one. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a sermon touch me at my core like this one did. Of course I glean many, many things out of everything I hear at Elevation on Sundays or at other churches, from my father, etc. But I think this one hit me in particular due to the topic, the fact that I was there alone (not in the sense you might think – I’ll explain later on), and that I have been a part of the life that Clayton discussed.
I strongly urge and plead anyone and everyone who reads this to go to Elevation’s website and listen to this sermon. It is under the series “Thank you” and there is a media box with the series listings and if you click on “Thank You”, watch the week two sermon in this series. The sermon is called “Protecting Your Pastor”.
Why did this sermon get to me and bring tears to my eyes? Because it was about learning to protect your pastor. Because I’m a pastor’s daughter. Because I’ve lived on the inside of this life that was described in the sermon. Because so many churches have gotten it wrong. Because I was the lone member of my family listening to this and I still know how all of this feels…it’s not like I don’t talk to my family. Because I learned a lot more about what my father goes through on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. Because parts of it scare me half to death. Let me address these things… And please know that I’m speaking strongly about a lot of this because I’ve lived this life and have formed my own ideas about this, plus part of me feels like people just do NOT know how important some of this is and we HAVE to get this right, otherwise our cities are going to lose out when our churches are not ready to take them on in the name of Jesus
Learning to protect your pastor – Is it wrong that my heart hurts for my family and that I feel guilty sometimes that I am at such a wonderful church that is putting systems in place, people in place, and an atmosphere of honor aimed towards those leading the church, and of course I’m specifically thinking of Pastor Steven (or any pastor…but considering my father is a pastor….that position is one that I am most in awe of). It breaks my heart to say that I have RARELY seen a church do WHATEVER IT TAKES for their pastor through thick and thin. Sure my family has been at some great churches, but I have NEVER seen such a VISIBLE hedge of protection placed around a pastor as I have here at Elevation. This should be a HUGE and INTEGRAL part of the DNA of every single church. This is why I love how enthusiastic volunteers are at Elevation, they’ve caught the vision, they understand that God gave a vision to Pastor Steven and they want to be a part of spreading that vision. When we get new volunteers in Quest I take it as a high priority to let them know we are a huge part of putting this vision into practice with these kids. This is why I take my emails each week to the team as an important responsibility in keeping the atmosphere of enthusiasm, excellence, and vision right on the front burner. Sure we are doing this for God’s glory, but this is also getting your pastor’s back and supporting the vision, the lifeblood of your church. Please, learn to honor your pastor and honor their vision. If you don’t, find somewhere else to go. Cause if you’re honoring your pastor and that vision, you are honoring the Lord.
Because I’m a Pastor’s Daughter – The past 24 years of my life (and I pray to God more years to come), I’ve been in the boxing ring with my family. I am NOT going to go into any specific details on anything, but let me tell you… Clayton says pastors are a target for rumors, criticism, and jealousy…he is NOT kidding. It is a fight. A fight to find a balance. This probably broke my heart the most because it directly affects my family outside of the church. A pastor goes through things you can’t even begin to comprehend, that I can’t even begin to comprehend. They’re like a shock absorber between the battle Satan is trying to wage on their hearts and the Lord calling them to greater things. Can you imagine what that awesome responsibility must feel like? To have to decipher and distinguish the Word of the Lord with clarity so that you can lead “x” number of people in your church?? Wow. I think of what my father has endured for the furthering of God’s kingdom and it blows my mind. People are ridiculous. People go after you without reason and it cuts like a knife. My family has experienced situations that I honestly think bring shame upon the church – not because of what my family has done, but what people have done in response. How can we treat someone with direct vision from God to lead in such a dishonorable manner? Let me just tell you… If you EVER think you’ve been through something like what a pastor has been through, you’d better yourself be one. Most people would probably fall into depression, develop illnesses, etc. if they ever went through the physical, spiritual, and emotional battles that pastors go through in order to lead, hear from God, and do everything and be everything to everybody.
Back to the balance thing… Being everything to everybody can literally kill you, I’m convinced. With all that I’ve learned, seen that my father goes through it is no wonder that pastors burn out, their families disperse. My father is do dedicated to remaining in ministry that at present he’s bi-vocational. I hate that…and I’ll explain why. He’s driving an oil truck 40+ hours a week AND he’s supposed to hear from God, do all of the administrative duties for the church, run all the meetings, run Sunday school, write sermons, do the youth group, get ahead in planning for sermons, have time for his family, have time for himself… Let me tell you. He doesn’t get that. My Lord he tries his hardest, but when does he get to work on his sermons? SATURDAY. That just burns me…and I could go off about that but it’d probably not be saying very nice things at all. Let’s just say I am hardcore in believing pastors deserve and need more time than that to do their job. But you know what? Somehow, my father pulls it off beautifully, gracefully, and with faith that what he’s doing truly matters. It breaks my heart watching him work hours upon hours a week when I witnessed this at home during college breaks and now being far away knowing it is still happening…and it isn’t even for a sermon….doing what he loves. I worry about his health constantly. This is what scares me half to death. It is no wonder some pastors die young, have heart attacks, stress attacks. I’m afraid for him. This is not how a pastor’s life should be. It should be full of hours spent with the Lord, leading a people in a church who are willing and ready to listen and do the work, and certainly not hours upon hours of worry and stress because no one else in the church will take responsibility for anything. I also hate wondering if he really feels like he never spent enough time with us because of his job as a pastor. I hate thinking he’s wondering if he ever said enough that he loves me. I hate thinking that he might wonder if he’s failed us as a father. Thankfully and truthfully, dad, I can honestly say I have never doubted your love for me, mom, Hil or Kate. Never. You did just fine. You are doing just fine.
Because many churches have gotten it wrong – Like I said, if you think you know what it might be like, then why don’t you spend the day feeling like the world is on your shoulders, having to spend your precious time seeking the Lord and instead talking about the color of the carpet, the type of toilet paper to use, and whether or not you have enough money to pay the electric bill. And then go home to your family. We HAVE to get this RIGHT. I keep saying “WE” because the church is not just one person. It is NOT just the pastor. And it is WRONG for people to think the pastor can be everything to everybody. That is exactly why pastors burn out and why we are losing young people who were once called into ministry. A pastor does not need to necessarily be in on a meeting about toilet paper. Show them enough honor and respect and realize that their time is better spent seeking the Lord so that they can lead YOU and give YOU a word from the Lord. Because that’s what a pastor does…he gives of himself to build others up and gets little in return (though they do not do it for the “things” they might get or they money, so that should tell you right away where their heart truly lies – ok, end sidenote). Pastors need your prayer not your pissed off attitude because they didn’t wave at you at the grocery store or because they didn’t make a decision you liked. And don’t for a second think that none of this reaches the pastor…it can. And it can break them. Think about what this is all for. Is it worth the rumors and bickering behind the pastor’s back when what he (the pastor) is aiming for is lifechange? Isn’t that what you should be backing as well? Your pastor’s back and aiming for being a part of a lifechange? Back them up! That is someone speaking the word of God into your life. That is someone who is an anointed man or woman of God. Who is anyone else to judge someone the Lord has placed their hand upon to lead the church?
Because I was the lone member of my family experiencing this sermon – Being a part of Elevation has given me hope for what the church should look like from the top (God in charge!) to the visionary and leader (the pastor!) and down to the volunteers. Like I said before, sometimes, I almost feel guilty going to Elevation while I know the situation of my family back home. Elevation is what I know my father has envisioned and my mother has envision the church being like for a long time and yet they are not at that point. I suppose rather than guilt, it is a wish and a hope that more churches would somehow get it right. I wish my family had been present to hear this message. And being the eldest daughter of a pastor, I’ve experienced many things. Held at a higher standard, supposed to be blameless, felt talked about behind my back, hard time making friends, moved, watched the highs and lows of a church from the inside, seen what leading a church can do to a person and a family (spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc.), and things I just can’t even begin to describe. Before this sermon, I knew my father was a dedicated, determined, gifted leaders (and I’m not just saying that cause he’s my dad…I get people coming up to me telling me he is). I’d seen what he goes through. I’ve experienced some of it with him as a familiy. But upon hearing more intricasies of being THAT person, THAT leader, THE pastor, hearing the stories Clayton shared that were all too close to home for me, I learned more about what my dad really does go through. You have to be extremely, firmly rooted in your faith, devoted to your calling, have affirmation of that calling on your life that is beyond a shadow of a doubt, and be ready to weather the storm. Because when it rains, it pours. You will weather monsoon-like showers of blessing and seasons of intense tribulation that can rock you at your core. It could all implode upon you…unless you have someone who has your back besides your family. That is why I am thrilled with the illustration of David’s Mighty Men and am beyond happy that Pastor Steven has a group of Mighty Men who surround him and build him up. My father has some mighty men, I suppose. The unfortunate thing here though….is that I think he has to call them up, rather than see them face to face when he needs them. That is unfortunate, but I am glad he has several people he can go to in the absence of a much needed physical presence sometimes.
This is getting crazy long and I could go on forever about this because I have lived this life. I know that when a pastor is under attack, it really isn’t just him…his whole family is under attack. So I’ll finally hush up with this… It is not just a means to an end to honor your pastor. It is a way of life. And believe me, I’m not suggesting you give your pastor all your money or make them a meal every single week, but a simple prayer of protection and encouragement can go a long way. A simple smile and “hello” or “thank you” or a card or a hug can be the very thing that can launch them into the next stratosphere of engagement with God so that they are prepared to lead the church into the next season God has and lead you into a life of seeing the Lord move in ways beyond your wildest dreams. Like Clayton said, your pastor needs someone he can trust. Be that person he can trust to back him up and build him up, even if it is from a distance through prayer.