There were fourteen of us in all, sitting on the couches and chairs around our living room, which is a bit too small for that many people. It was tight fellowship. In more ways than one. We had come together as pastors and wives from different towns and communities of Central Alberta. Wayne, the pastor who acts as our group leader, started things off by welcoming a couple who have just resigned from their church. He asked how they were doing. They described their loneliness, the discomfort of feeling that they didn't belong anywhere anymore, not even in this group, anymore. Their story broke my heart because they were our assistants for a few years. We know their hearts, their integrity, their desire to serve the Lord. Knowing they've been stomped on is hard to swallow. Knowing they're still hurting makes me hurt.
Then the next couple talked about why they were stepping back from youth ministry. Again, the story is grim. The next couple told us they are thinking of resigning from their church, more for the sake of their children than because they're tired of the battle themselves.
One of the more senior pastors mumbled - "Want to get shot at? Become a pastor."
It seems like there are few more difficult vocations. Then he began to tell us what has been happening in his church. They've gone through the gauntlet too, and are still under attack from some quarters, but then he told us about two men he led to Christ a while ago, and how they have been praying and gathering a small group around them to go door to door in the town where they've lived all their lives. The change in these two men is so obvious even the most skeptical have been taking notice. "God is doing something," the pastor said. "We've decided we want to stick around and see how it's going to turn out."
Then it was our turn and my husband admitted how many times we've come close to quitting. Sometimes it has just seemed too hard. But we've held on for fifteen years and it's been worth it. As he talked I remembered one Sunday morning, sitting in the front pew watching him preach. I didn't hear much of his sermon. I was too angry. I railed at God that morning. I asked Him why He didn't open the eyes of these people so they could see what my husband was doing right in front of them? Why are they always so self-focused? Why do they pout like five-year-olds and take out all their frustrations on a man who's just trying to serve them? Why don't they deal with their issues and do what the Bible says? On and on and on.
In the end I was silenced when I understood the Lord to say - he's not the only one who's been treated unjustly. And that's all the sermon I needed to hear that day. Jesus got through to me and I had a better understanding of what He went through as he stood before the Sanhedrin. Somehow that made our petty problems seem pretty insignificant. Somehow it made all the hurt a little more bearable.
But if you're thinking of taking a pot shot at a pastor, stop and ask yourself if you are really doing what God wants you to do. Ask Him what he thinks about the matter. You might be surprised at his answer.