Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hang Your Head

(little preacher)

Back behind the gospel shed
where the bookstore is still standing
behind the shelves of daily bread
you'll find him reprimanding

They said you were the "perfect" one
a shiny tin example
the man to get the job done
to build the new church steeple

But hang your head, lil' preacher
they found out you was cheatin'
but hang your head, lil' preacher
better practice whatchoo preachin'

P.S. God still loves you

-from at the foot of heaven by Kevin Max Smith

Today, I was reminded of this poem.  Occasionally, it has been brought to mind as I hear of people in ministry who have failed. "Ooh, big gossip! Did you hear about the pastor who..." You can almost hear the stories, if not from your own experiences then from the media. A person in ministry failing is big news.  

The thing of it is, people in ministry live in this weird area between blamelessness and the war against sin every person fights. Often people in ministry end up going into a solitary confinement of sorts because they don't feel safe sharing their biggest personal struggles with anyone in their church because of expectations of perfection (perceived or real).  I can remember my daddy once mentioning his regret for being so open with a parishioner. I know my momma was afraid to open up too much when dad was in the ministry. And I can very early on remember being watched and expected to be an example to the other kids in the church because I was a YPK. It can be easy for those in ministry to put on a smiley face mask and act like nothing is wrong when, in fact, they are dealing with issues similar to those in their flock.  But somehow, it seems different when it's the pastor, or youth minister, or whatever the title may be. 

I've often found that if the sin isn't dealt with in-house, that God will allow someone or some situation to shed light on it. God wants us to constantly be drawing nearer to Him and if we aren't because we've allowed sin to get in the way, He'll do what's necessary to get it out of the way.  The congregation or financial supporters may have some idyllic notion of who or what a minister is or should be, but God does not mind knocking someone off a pedestal if necessary--and He will use whatever means necessary to draw people back to Him.

Now, I know that God using whatever means to draw someone to Himself is not limited to those in ministry alone; it is true for everyone.  I guess, more than anything, this is a reminder for myself, and for others in ministry to be aware of the need to find a fellow believer (even someone outside your own church) for truly open and honest accountability. A reminder to those not in the ministry that everyone (even your beloved pastor) is susceptible to stumble now and then, and to show grace where possible. A reminder to those who have fallen that this is an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through confession and repentance. And a reminder to us all to pray for those in ministry to be strong in their faith, humble in their positions, wise enough to steer clear of temptation, and to be surrounded by gentle brothers and sisters when they don't. 


Steve Finnell said...

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Emily B. said...

That is so well said, Bethany.
It was a slow-in-coming realization for me that my parents, and pastors (or any people I look up to), aren't immune to the same struggles as me and everyone else. But now, having learned that, I am encouraged to be more real about my struggles, rather than believing that I am the only one that doesn't have it all together. Hopefully that will build more trust, unity and support in close friendships rather than the isolation of maintaining a (false) self-image of infallibility.