While working on the next print edition (October issue) of Baptists Today a concern suddenly hit me. The fear was that it might come across as though we were picking on pastors.
My editorial about evangelism mentions how some preachers specialize in creating guilt. I double-checked to make sure my words implicated only some pastors, not most or all.
The Resource Page provides guidance for “second chair” ministers caught in difficult church staff situations. Sometimes that difficulty, professor Israel Galindo notes, is the result of a bad relationship with the pastor.
On the new Reblog page, that pulls and prints one each from the recent blogs by Tony Cartledge and me, Tony deals with the way some internal church battles have gone from business meetings and parking lots to the Internet. He notes that these struggles can relate to excessive pastoral authority and secrecy.
Upon closer examination, however, I am comfortable that the next issue of the news journal is pretty well balanced and really does not reflect poorly on pastors. But I confess to being overly sensitive about this.
My close friends tend to be either pastors or former pastors — and good ones. I’ve heard their stories. I’ve traveled with them when their family vacations or continuing education or conferences have been cut short by the need to get back for a funeral or other emergency.
While I laud local church autonomy and congregational polity, it must be difficult to have so many bosses — each with a better idea of how you should be doing your job.
My first act as the new editor of Baptists Today in early 2000 was to sit down with three Atlanta-area pastors at the time — Bill Self, David Sapp and Peter Rhea Jones. Over lunch I asked them to tell me how this news journal could help them in their congregations — and promised them that both the editor, personally, and the publication would be advocates for pastors and good pastoral ministry.
It is a promise I strive to keep with each issue as well as in personal contacts with churches. There are many keys to effective pastoral ministry. Some are beyond the pastor’s control.
Effective pastors need lay leaders to help them use their time and gifts to the fullest. Here are a few ways key leadership can help:
1. Emphasize all the many and varied things your pastor gets done in a week, not when they done. This is not a clock-punching factory job.
2. Help keep the few high-maintenance members from occupying too much of the pastor’s time. It can be consuming and laity can better take the heat for this.
3. Insist on some kind of sabbatical program that gives veteran pastors the chance to recharge and relax with plans in place so they will not be interrupted by pastoral emergencies — for just once. Lilly Endowment, Inc. is providing significant funds for this purpose. Since the grant covers both the costs of the pastor’s experience and the church’s pulpit replacements, not even the church treasurer has a legitimate complaint.
4. Always talk with your pastor directly when you have concerns, suggestions and feedback. It is hard to respond to hearsay or to interpret third-handed information.
5. Don’t compare your pastor to any of the ones on television. They are generally not as charming in person.
6. Try to be a good friend to your pastor. Most every pastor is glad to have one more.

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