Pastors Looking for Love

What I wonder is this: “Can you love your pastor?” 

I felt queasy when I heard a preacher say this from the pulpit.  It was painful.

While all pastors want to be well-liked, respected, and even loved, that’s not why we accept the call to professional ministry.  Good pastors often have to make decisions that disappoint people or even anger parishioners.  And God knows not all parishioners are loveable.

But we are called to love God’s people, to show them what the love of Jesus looks like, and to pray even for our enemies.  Our job is to love them, not to aspire to be loved by them.

I believe this is one of the keys to effective ministry.  This is why we need emotionally healthy church leaders.

If we have not experienced unconditional love ourselves, it’s very difficult to offer that love to God’s people.  Clergy with deep emotional needs cannot themselves do the hard work of ministry until those needs are addressed.  I remember Nadia Bolz-Weber saying “we preach from our scars, not from our wounds.”

Yes, even clergy have emotional needs.  There are times when parishioners support their pastoral leaders with casseroles and hospital visits and get-well cards and prayer.  Pastors get sick and grieve and experience difficult situations.  But it’s not the congregation’s job to be the primary support system for the pastor.  And God is supposed to be the object of our adoration, not the pastor who points to God.

Vulnerable pastors inspire growth.  Needy pastors create unhealthy dependencies.  What do you think?

5 responses to “Pastors Looking for Love

  1. So well said! Thank you.

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  2. We both wrote about the same thing today. I promise I didn’t read yours first.

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  3. To some extent, I do agree. But some wounds don’t really heal. I don’t think that grief fully heals. I believe that those who grieve are the best comforters because they still hurt. Those who come out of AA successfully will continue to say: I’m Duke, and I’m an alcoholic. I think that victims of abuse are in a similar boat. When we are truly wounded, we share those wounds with someone more wounded than anyone else in the world: Jesus, who, it seems, still bears his wounds – “The lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the world.” It’s one thing that people in ministry share with the world.

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