Diary of a Large Membership Church Pastor – Part 1

Dear Diary (aka God),

So it’s been 15 months since I started this job.  There have been some incredibly awesome moments as I look back that remind me over and over why I do this work.  Moments where someone sent me a note, came to talk to me, or whispered in my ear on the way out the door on Sunday mornings sharing something important on their heart.  Or moments when I see a lay person using their God given gifts to further your Kingdom.  God, nothing brings a smile to my face quicker.  Or the privilege of being with a family during illness or the loss of a loved one.  Or seeing someone in the community or in our church experience the love of Christ in the broken parts of their lives.  This is what you called me to be a part of.

But God, there have been some amazingly difficult moments.  Moments that cause my calling to fade and at times even question who you have gifted me to be and some of the choices I have made.  But only momentarily.  In a large church, the concept of “you can’t make everyone happy” is only magnified and multiplied.  It’s strange, though.  Sometimes it feels like the weight of whether the church is doing well or not doing well gets projected onto the shoulders of the senior minister.  When you think about all of the many hands that work so hard to make church function it should be a team approach.  But it is a weight I’m learning to carry.

The hardest thing of all these days is trying to figure out how to deal with the mixed messages.  Some like my preaching.  Some do not.  Some like my leadership style.  Some are trying to figure me out. Some like the fact that I am a woman.  Some do not.

So I do the only thing I know to do that grounds me and gives guidance I can always depend on.  I pray.  Jesus is the one who got me into this work.  Jesus is the one who has guided me every step of the way these past 19 years.  Jesus is the one who will sit with me in my vulnerability and guide me as I empower laity and make decisions to help lead this flock of God’s sheep.  Most importantly, Jesus is the one who will love me no matter what.  And for each one of us, remembering that is what matters most.

But here is where my heart is this week in my prayers- this Scripture passage….

“…every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank.  I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagances of his work in us who trust him-endless energy, boundless strength!”

Ephesians 1:16-19 (The Message)

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE what I do.  I love this church.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.  God has shown me such amazing possibilities in the life and future of this church.  But it is hard work.  And when people care deeply about their church, they have strong feelings about it.  I just wish I could help folks understand that first and foremost, it is YOUR church, God.  It’s not my church or their church.  And when we trust YOU to lead us, then maybe we can stop questioning one another and get on board with living into the joy of your hopes and dreams for us with endless energy and boundless strength.  A girl can pray.

Thanks for listening.

Your Pondering Servant,

Lory Beth

9 thoughts on “Diary of a Large Membership Church Pastor – Part 1

  1. A wonderfully eloquent and heartfelt prayer. Leadership is a signal honor, and a burdensome responsibility, especially in churches. I grew the son of a pastor and I have some personal understanding of the constant pressure, heartache, joy and fulfillment. I remember Daddy spoke often of how a congregation can lift up or tear down the pastor. Either way, Lory Beth, as you say, it’s God’s church. And we are all God’s servants. That doesn’t make the human concerns go away, but it does lend perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  2. LB, I have had the pleasure of working with you through some difficult times. What has always impressed me about you is that you have an uncanny ability to LIVE a genuine faith, and not to just “preach it.” Perfection is impossible (though we strive to reach it) in this life. You will not be able to, and should not try to, please everyone. You helped ME learn these things. You are God’s. And you are good.

    My prayers are with you my friend. If I can ever help in any way, please let me know.

  3. Gotta be diference of opinions sometime.. Glad the Lord is looking after us like you say.Keep up keeping up. Dick Stockton.

  4. Lori Beth, I share your witness and your intensity. At times it is so difficult to step away from the temptation to carry too much on our shoulders. What is the shape of faithfulness in this postmodern, scattered understanding of Christian discipleship? Following Christ at times continues to feel like preparation for crucifixion duty. But, we don’t have to take it for the team; that has been completed. I am preaching about that this All Saints Sunday with Luke’s version of the Beatitudes–blessings and woes. But He says it is all for JOY.

  5. Lory Beth, I appreciate your prayer. I understand what you are feeling. Always remember those whom God calls He will not forsake. Over 46 years of ministry, I was fortunate to have only one such experience. God will not let you go. Love you.

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