Friday, June 10, 2022

That is the calling folks. . .

Before you close this tab because you think I am going to sound off against our culture, society, and populace and their intolerance of duty and service and responsibility.  It would be true but that is not where I am going.  Instead I want to focus on pastors.

I knew a pastor many, many moons ago who negotiated one Sunday off every month plus the regular vacation Sundays and weeks.  Instantly I thought this person my hero.  If only I had enough moxie to make such a bold request.  Then I thought more about it.  Sure, there were all the right reasons for this request -- time to rest, recuperate, and renew for the hard task of the ministry, time for family and to be with those also your vocation, etc...  But there were also all the right reasons such a request was foolish.  Pastor's work on Sundays by design -- it not only tells the folks in the pews that they can take a weekend off from church here and there, it suggests that time off of worship is salutary.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The pastor's duty is Sunday morning and the people's duty is Sunday morning.  Vacations are fine but not if vacation is an excuse to skip the Lord's House on the Lord's Day -- no matter who you are.

The ministry can be hard.  I know this.  Every pastor does.  More importantly, every pastor's family knows this.  Maybe it would be a good thing for the folks in the pew to discover this truth as well.  Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the ministry is easy or getting easier when the opposite is true.  Yet, there is something quite wrong with the suggestion that we work harder than God for God's people and therefore need time away from God and God's people on a regular basis.  This is the calling.  If you don't like that part of it, perhaps it is not the vocation for you.  My family certainly has lived with frustrations over the years because of Sunday duties that cannot be ignored or postponed and I have lived with the frustrating tension of being in between duty to family and duty to church.  This is the calling, folks.  

Over the years I have heard of two pastor congregations where one pastor sits in the pews with family when the other is on duty.  Pastors are always on duty on Sunday mornings -- at least those with a call and a pulpit and an altar.  Really?  I have heard of pastors who cancelled worship in order to deal with family situations (births, weddings, funerals, etc...).  If you have to be away on Sunday, then find somebody so that the rest of the congregation can be together with the Lord.  Another pastor is best but if not, have an elder read a sermon you prepare and lead matins.  I understand emergencies.  Not so much shutting down the congregation.  I am not speaking to anyone in particular or about anyone but more lamenting that something like this even needs to be said.

My dad was not a pastor.  He was a plumber, electrician, HVAC repairer/installer, and owner of a hardware store.  The store was never really closed.  If a farmer had an emergency or a family did not have heat or a house was blowing fuses or a toilet was overflowing, he was on duty.  We waited for him to finish jobs before heading out on the rare vacation and we waited meals for him when duty called.  I learned something about duty from him.  And, by the way, we never ever missed church.  

Pastors are not the only ones who balance work and family and church -- we just do it in another way.  So you won't find much support in me for pastors who would suggest that because they work on Sundays they need a regular Sunday off every month.  Nor will you find me approving of cancelling worship for any reason -- not even a pandemic, bad weather, or government order!  It may be harder work to find a way but it is so very important that pastors find that way and give witness in their lives that the House of the Lord on the Day of the Lord is the first and highest priority on us and the time we love to call our own. 

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

The idea that pastors only work on Sundays is also foolish. Just as plumbers, electricians, HVAC people are on call, so are pastors. Many pastors are not only the pastor, but also the custodian, church secretary, and various ministry positions like DCEs, etc. Sometimes life takes unexpected, unplanned turns, and new hats have to be worn by the pastor.The time for the people of the church to take up the work is in such times. If we are not ordained, we can at least be trained to pick up the load.

If I go home and feel the need of a nap after the Divine Service and preparing lunch, how should I expect the pastor to feel? Everyone should understand that preaching and presiding is perhaps not running a marathon, but it is physical. In addition, it is very taxing mentally and spiritually. Remember back to high school or college and the book report or speech? Once in a semester was nothing! Imagine you had to do it every week, sometimes twice and even three times a week. On top of that, it’s not a book report, but handling the very Word of God, and men and women’s souls at stake.

There may be pastors out there who treat their job like Sunday’s a Monday holiday, but Pastor Peters and Pastor Ulrich are NOT two of them.