Pastors have it so good. We should all be so lucky.
They work a couple of days a week and basically read the Bible and pray for a living. Not to mention that their lives are always perfect, their kids never make mistakes and everyone reveres them. That’s why people call them “reverend.”
Actually, that is almost the furthest thing from the truth. I am the only male member of my family who isn’t ordained into some form of ministry. I have lived with pastors, deacons and ministers my entire life.
Pastors do study the Bible a lot and I’m sure most spend a significant amount of time in prayer for themselves, their families and congregations.
But that doesn’t mean their paths will be paved with pleasure and their days defined by delight.
Pastors always minister to members of their congregation who are dealing with health issues, family problems and the loss of a loved one. But who ministers to a pastor when those same issues affect him?
Often, parishioners position pastors on pedestals too precarious to preserve.
When they fall victim to the same issues we all sometimes do, their ministries are diminished or they are disqualified completely.
Few people can name the men who have faithfully led churches large and small for decades without any public issue.
But everyone can name televangelists and local pastors who were embroiled by scandal.
Even when situations are beyond their control, pastors come under fire.
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church – one of the largest congregations in America – recently endured the death of his 27-year-old son. Despite years of prayer, medical and psychological intervention, his son still took his own life.
Many have enveloped Warren with support and offered condolences.
But others used this opportunity to kick a man when he was down.
• “Maybe Mr. Warren was just a bad parent.”
• “This should have been a private family matter and if Rick Warren was a real man, he would have kept his grief private instead of lashing out at people who criticize him. Since he chose to take the low road, even in time of tragedy, I would go out of my way to say that Rick Warren pushed his son to suicide.”
• “Dear Rick Warren: now U know the 'anguished grief' parents of gay teen suicides feel after listening 2 U and UR ilk's anti-gay hate speech.”
These are mild compared to some but how can you justify attacking a father who just lost his son in any way?
Page 2 of 2 - To his credit Warren merely said, “You're most like Jesus when you pray for those who hurt you.”
Joel Osteen pastors a megachurch in Houston, Texas. And he often faces attacks from within the Christian community because his messages focus on positive mental outlooks as much as Biblical teachings. But the most recent attack on him came from a different source.
A man created and populated a website with Osteen’s name slightly misspelled. He also opened accounts on social media from which he – purporting to be Osteen – proclaimed that, “There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence ‘God’ even exists.”
The creator of the site said he had his own motives for the attack.
“I wanted to send Joel a message, to hopefully motivate him to talk about more serious subjects, such as Monsanto, GMOs, the poisons in our food and water, alternative cancer cures. He has a worldwide stage he isn't using to do enough good, but rather he's wafting lightweight sermons peppered with cliches across the Sunday airwaves."
I hope this electronic assailant doesn’t decide to attack every pastor who doesn’t preach on Monsanto or poisons in our food and water. I have gone to church almost every Sunday for 42 years and don’t remember many mentions of Monsanto.
I have family and good friends who lead congregations in worship each week and I can tell you that it isn’t only megachurch pastors who face unseemly attacks and deal with incredible stress and strife.
It’s about time we stopped badmouthing spiritual leaders and started praying for them. We need to stop questioning them and start supporting them. Instead of marginalizing them, we need to encourage them.
There is nothing we can do to keep pastors from dealing with difficult situations. But it is time we started ministering to our ministers.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org