December 2011 – Confessions of a Preacher
By Dr. David M. Berman www.smellthetruth.com
A “Preacher”…the term alone makes me shake with fear. When I think of the implications of being a man who is called a preacher, and charged with such a sacred responsibility, I tremble. On November 2 of 1991 I was ordained into the ministry. I went on from that time to establish many music teams, and to plant two churches (One assisting another Pastor, and one I planted by myself). Since that time I have won almost 1000 people to Christ that I know of and I have been on hundreds of radio stations, and well as TV. My ministry has also taken me to Mexico where I have both led ministry teams for children’s ministry, and preached and trained pastors in theology. After 20 years of ordained ministry, I thought I would take a moment to look back and give my perspective so that Christians may have a glimpse into what it is like to be a Preacher.
Many Christian people have no idea what it is like or what a minister battles with. The average Christian thinks it is a glorious position to be a Pastor. After all, Pastors only work “one day a week” (Any pastors wife would testify otherwise), and are respected members of their community (Pastors are no longer respected in America, certainly not in New England where I serve as Senior Pastor). There is a sense in the hearts of many Christians that their Pastor must be impervious to discouragement and therefore they can say anything about him, and do anything mean to him without being concerned since after all “it’s his calling.” Some things never change. In fact Moses felt quite discouraged in his ministry:
Numbers 11:10-15 “Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
There is an interesting set of emotions that comes out of Moses in this passage. Let’s look closer at what he is saying. First he is weary of the complaining of the people God has called him to shepherd. He turns his attention to God and quite strongly speaks to God these words; “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant?”
Moses expresses his discontentment in having to be the Pastor of a rebellious people. He refers to his ministry not as a joy but rather as a “burden.” The Hebrew word used here for burden means “taxing, to pay a tribute.” He refers to his ministry as a “tax”. That ought to express what he was feeling clearly. Moses goes on to speak strong words in saying “Have I conceived all this people?”
It seems clear to me that Moses is fed up with being a Pastor so much that he is basically saying to God “hey this was not my idea, and I did not make these rebellious people, they are your responsibility.” Thankfully God is gracious and does not exact judgment on Moses for such disrespectful words. Moses says. “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.”
Then after all this Moses comes to a place that every Pastor understands. Every minister has these same emotions, these same feelings of failure, and these same feelings of regret for not being what they hoped they could be. Look at what Moses says after his harsh words about the people, and his complaint to God; “kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.”
The great Prophet Moses, The Pastor of the rebellious Jews for 40 years in the wilderness, comes to the place way before the end of those 40 years where he says “kill me.” Moses is saying if I have found any favor. If you think well of me at all Lord, kill me. The end of this statement is very telling when he says “let me not see my wretchedness.”
Many commentators say that Moses was simply tired of the people and so he wanted to die rather than continue to hear their complaining. I do not see it that way at all. Although Moses was clearly tired of their complaining, and the burden of leading them, his last statement is not about them at all. His last statement is about himself when he says “my wretchedness.” I think it is clear that Moses was battling with his emotions and also what he perceived as his failure. You see on one hand he seems to be blaming the people, then God. Then at the end of his statement he expresses the real emotion of his weary pastoral heart is asking to be taken from this life because he is sick not only of the people but himself. In fact, what he is actually saying is this; show me that I have found favor by taking my life so I may not see my own wretchedness any longer. Every Pastor feels this to some degree at some point in his ministry, every Senior Pastor especially.
Moses had a conflict. His conflict was that he knew he was called, the people were rebellious, his emotions brought him to a place of actually getting upset at God, and at the same time he saw his own failures and wretchedness. This mix of emotions, duty, calling, and experiences shows through in the above passage. What we learn from this is that the scripture is always true and the following passage is no exception:
Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”
The struggles that Pastors have are not new. The life of a Preacher is a constant battle between his sinful flesh, and his call to ministry. He feels his duty to serve and yet his never ending feelings of not doing it well enough. He knows his passion to succeed and his feelings of failure. At every turn there is a problem to solve, a need to meet, someone who is convinced they know more than him, people who he has taught from a baby Christian who suddenly do not trust his teaching since they now feel their abilities are greater than their teacher, and often even betrayal by trusted people. This takes its toll on a man, even a great man like Moses. Over these twenty years I have seen much. Much that I have seen pains me. Many have come and gone who have felt it their right to stab at me and hurl fiery darts insinuating such insulting things that I find it hard to even repeat them.
What every minister must understand is that they are not alone. The great Apostle Paul experienced this as he states in this passage:
2 Timothy 4:10 “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”
Demas is a man that Paul earlier mentioned in a positive light: Colossians 4:14 “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” Now Paul says that Demas has forsaken him. Do you think that Paul did not feel hurt personally? Paul did not say Demas had forsaken the Lord. Paul said it in a personal way, “Demas hath forsaken me.” This is often how a preacher feels when he gives his time, emotion, and energy only to have the person he has sown into forsake him. I must confess I have often felt the way Paul did.
After reading thus far you may be thinking “get over it” no one is forcing you to be in this position, if you don’t like it do something else.” That is a fair enough point to the average position, but is fails to understand a minister. A Preacher has no choice. He must continue to obey the call:
1 Corinthians 9:16 “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
Paul makes it clear when he uses the most extreme term “woe unto me.” The term “woe unto” speaks of exceedingly painful grief. This is the call of a Preacher. A preacher with a true call must preach the gospel or woe unto him.
Am I writing this because I want to complain? Am I just emotionally spewing out pain? It is my desire to gain sympathy? The answer to these questions is NO. The reason I am writing this is twofold. 1) I hope young ministers read this and understand that even seasoned Preachers struggle as they do. I hope as they read this they understand that what really matters is being faithful to the one who called them. 2) I also hope that all church members will gain some understanding and hold up their Pastor in prayer and in actions that speak loyalty to him.
I am happy to end this article by saying that although over the first twenty years of my ministry, I have suffered the emotional scars left by certain experiences; I have also met some of the most wonderful believers. I have also experienced some of the most loving people and gestures of kindness. Thankfully, I can testify also as Paul did in the following passage:
Romans 16:3-4 “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
Paul speaks of these “who have for my life laid down their own necks.” What a way to put it! Their loyalty to him speaks volumes. I am so grateful to testify that I have people in my life like that. I titled this article “Confessions of a Preacher” because I believe it is important that Christian people understand that Preachers are ordinary people with extraordinary responsibilities and callings. We are no better than anyone else. We have the same struggles, emotions, dreams, and passions as everyone else, and yet “woe unto” us who are called if we do not preach the gospel.
Yes Moses struggled, yes Moses had emotions, but thankfully, and what should be an encouragement to all Preachers is this; Moses is mentioned in the following way in the New Testament:
Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
“By faith Moses” What great words, and what encouraging words for every Pastor! So to my fellow ministers I say Preach on, don’t give up, and to Christians I say Just because people have always resisted Preachers, it does not mean it is the right thing to do. Examine yourself, and ask yourself this; Am I a blessing or a curse to the one God has placed over me in spiritual authority? The honest answer to that question may just change your life.
By God’s grace I shall continue.
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”