Sunday, February 7, 2010

Before You Call Your Pastor

by Gaye Clark

When life grows chaotic, a ministry morphs into headaches, or dreams turn into nightmares, call the preacher. I did and felt slighted by the initial response. Pastor George's first available appointment would be weeks from now.

I waited my turn. When that day arrived, I made one mistake. I told my husband about the appointment over breakfast.

Jim looked up with a devilish grin. "We okay?"

I reached over and squeezed Jim's hand. "It has nothing to do with us. It's about my Bible study. I've been waiting weeks to see Pastor George."

Jim went back to breakfast. "Uh huh. You know these hash browns are great, honey."

"You don't think meeting with pastor George is a good idea, do you?"

Jim shook his head. "I'm not going to talk you out of it, but what is it you expect the man to do for you?"

What were my motives? Once revealed, they turned my stomach. I wanted:

1. A pat on the back.
2. Assurance that the pastor knew more than just my name.
3. A means to lighten my load.
4. A pastoral answer to big questions that my ministry created.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend and husband. Though his response annoyed me, Jim had a point.

I thought of cancelling the appointment. Instead, I went to my prayer closet with my not-so-hidden motives. I carried those hideously unfair expectations to God and asked him for an exchange. God knows me by name; in fact, he wrote it in his hands.* He pledged that I can do all things through him. He has answers, resources, riches far beyond my ability to count.

I should have called him first.

I thought of Diane, my friend and ministry partner, who would accompany me. What would encourage her in that brief hour we would have with our pastor? Prayer.

I had squandered many prayer times with 55 minutes of explanations and five minutes of prayer, and I did not want to make that mistake again. I typed two pages with prayer requests and carried three copies of the finished product to the meeting.

When we arrived at the church office, George was not there.

"He's been delayed with several meetings running longer than expected," his secretary, Vonnie, explained.

A few minutes later, George arrived at the office. He opened the door wide and extended his hand. "Sorry to be late. Come on in, ladies. Good to see you."

As we entered his office, I noticed the next person for an appointment came early. What must it be like, to sit and listen to person after person, as they ask for recognition, assurance, and relief? I'd be exhausted at the end of the day.

George extended his hand to three chairs in front of his desk. "Tell me what I can do for you." He sat down in a chair and leaned forward.

I gave George his copy of my prayer requests and spilled out the speech just as I'd rehearsed.

"Well, George, I had planned to tell you all about the problems Diane and I are having with the Bible Study. That's when it became obvious that they are too big for you. They are too big for us, too. We need to pray. So I brought some requests."

George turned his attention to the paper. "This is great. Can I keep this? It will help me pray later as well."

"Diane and I will start our prayer time, maybe go back and forth a little, and when you catch up with us by reading and praying, then feel free to join us."

George's perplexed delight seemed obvious to me. I secretly thanked the Lord for my husband, the man of hard, but great, questions. We did talk briefly after praying through the requests, but in a different light than I originally planned.

George closed the prayer time with these words, "Lord, I thank you for the privilege of praying for Kingdom-building things with these two women."

As we walked out, the next visitor jumped up and looked anxiously toward the door. It made me wonder, what would happen if we sheep went straight to the top with our needs-to God first- then to the senior pastor if need be.

We often feel slighted if the senior pastor is not right there when we call him. We wonder if he cares about us, question whether he's a people person and whine about feeling unheard.

Meanwhile we bypass the God of all creation on our quest to meet with someone higher up the church organization chart.

Next time your pastor asks, "What can I do for you?", tell him you'd just like to pray. Then God would do something awesome in your church.


  1. As I have been in this spot before with church staff, I wholeheartedly understand. In fact, the one thing the pastor says is, "If there is anything I can lift up in prayer on your behalf or on behalf of the ministry...."

    I had to put my expectations aside--and they were grand--and see the bigger God view of this person. He was called to something more than just the one thing. It wasn't that he didn't care.

    With God's guidance, we can learn how to effectively work with pastoral staff. Lifting them up in prayer for their work isn't a bad place to start.

    Honest post that needs to be heard in the churches--thank you!

  2. Funny how we think a pastor (or any other leader) should have all the answers, when God is the one that holds all of them!

    You're never more aware how you DON'T have the answers until you're in leadership!

    Thanks for this very honest post!

  3. Being a pastor's wife, I can attest to the frustration my husband has felt at times when a member came to him, wanting an answer that only God could give.
    Thank you for the reminder that God DOES know each of us by name, He created us, He knows what makes us "tick!" And yet so often we turn to another human as frail as we are and expect them to give us perfect counsel.
    This is an article I wish every pastor and every church member could read. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  4. Thank you for this post! I had a similar situation come up for me a few months back. As I waited for my appointment day to come I noticed the Lord had already set my heart straight and had other (much bigger!) plans for our meeting. It was a lesson for me to let God be God and yes go to Him first. Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder of how the Lord has worked in my life recently.

  5. Wow! I thank you for being so real and reminding us that we sometimes put our pastors in the role of God, expecting them to fix anything or pronouce it "good". Powerful! Thank you!

  6. This is excellent! I need to take this heart, and I know that there are many in my local church who need to as well. I wish everyone in a church could/would read this! Thanks so much for lovingly sharing this timely, brief and provoking word. God bless you!

  7. Great post for the sake of our very, very buzy pastors. Sometimes we forget they are only people.
    Thanks for being so humble and honest

  8. Thank you for the reminder. How soon I run to everyone else and neglect going to the Lord of the Universe Who sees the big picture.

  9. amen. how silly of us to act as if we need a mediator when we have direct access to the throne of God at any time.

  10. YOur pastor is blessed to have you as a lay leader. Thanks for the reminder to go to God first and pray for our pastors first.

  11. Friends, my sisters,

    Thank you for your kind words of affirmation.
    A former pastor of mine shared that he felt his job was to take us (his sheep) to God and leave us with Him. He alone meets our deepest aches and needs, especially in ministry.
    A a longer version of this article may be found in the book, The Ultimate Christian Living, Todd Outcalt ed.

  12. As the pastor in the story I can attest that I really do have a church member/friend in Gaye who is this considerate! And there are many more like her who make my ministry a great joy! I'm proud of you, Gaye, and pray that your insights will serve to strengthen the body of Christ through strong supportive mutual relationships between pastors and people.


  13. Ah . . .my beloved pastoral boss,

    many thanks for your kind words.
    honored to serve with you

  14. I am not in this article, in fact, i am the daughter of the author. I just wanted to say a job well done mom and hope to see a lot more of your work appearing in print. I love to see the impact you can make for Christ and His kingdom. Love YOU!!!