Pastoring is not easy.
Just think about all the skills a pastor needs to have in order to make the church run well. He or she needs to be an excellent communicator, administrator, teacher, counselor, etc. The skills mentioned above might sound complex. However, I believe what makes a pastor’s job hard is not the need for multiple skills, but rather, conflicting theologies and ideologies in a church congregation.
As I jokingly say, ‘You might have 60 members in a congregation, but you might get 120 opinions.’ Matters can be complicated in church settings. Many members perceive things as black or white, but we need to come to the realization that pastors can get wedged between the black and white. For example, in the Seventh-day Adventist Minister’s Handbook, page 94, it clearly states that ‘men and women are eligible to serve as elders and receive ordination’. This is based on a vote by the world wide church during a GC session. This stance is also confirmed and supported by theologians within Adventism.
On the other side, there are many members who perceive the above church stance on ordination of women as elders as fallible. Their stance could be based on personal scriptural interpretation, cultural nuances or simply the interpretation of a certain theologian who advocates a position other than that of the official church stance.
A church congregation could have within its body, members who adhere to either school of thought on elder ordination. On the one hand, a pastor could have members asking him to ‘uphold the true biblical interpretation’ of scripture as well as the church’s official stance on having a woman elder. On the other hand, the pastor could have members pushing him to ‘uphold true biblical interpretation,’ and not ordain a woman as an elder.
Any stance the pastor takes could mean marginalization and name calling like, ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative,’ weak,’ ‘controlling,’ and ‘undecided’.
To cut a long story short, what can a pastor do in a situation like this? Two factions at war. One group sees the matter as ‘white’ the other as ‘black.’ These divisions can go to many different facets of church life, such as music, worship, and Sabbath keeping…
I go back to my opening statement, pastoring is not easy.
So what is the solution?
Let me suggest three things:
- Pray for your pastor: In 1 Thessalonians 5:25 Paul writes the church in Thessalonica ‘Brothers and sisters, pray for us.’ If Paul, one of the foremost apostle, urged the members to pray for them, what about our pastors who toil day and night to move the church forward. When was the last time you prayed for your pastor?
- Understand your pastor: We read in Ephesians 6:12 ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Don’t demonize, or label your pastor. Listen to his/her perspective. That is part of maturity.
- Support your pastor: I believe the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 summarizes my point in supporting your pastors. ‘Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’