by Joe McKeever
A young minister asked a veteran pastor, “ Was there ever a time in your ministry when you just wanted to quit?” The old-timer leaned back and thought for a moment and said, “Well, how many Mondays are there in forty years?”
This morning—Monday, as I write—I do not want to think about how to solve the Iraqi situation, how to deal with the energy problems of the Northeast, what to do about the West Virginia copy-cat killer, whether gays should have the right to marry, the Southern Decadence festival and attendant debaucheries that went on in our French Quarter recently, or college coaches who funnel money to their players, then tell them to lie about it. I’ll solve all of these issues tomorrow.
Monday is for other things.
On Mondays, I need to rest my spirit. That surprises some people. A relative of ours once told my mother (who has two preacher sons), “I wish my boys had become pastors so they would have good salaries and not have to work hard.” Mom just listened and smiled. When she told me, I said, “You know, I grew up on the farm. I cleaned out stables and built fences and plowed. In college, I worked at the train station, and after college, I worked in a cast iron pipe plant. But I have worked far harder as a pastor than I ever did in those jobs. You may quote me on this.”
The problem is it’s a different kind of work and it produces a different kind of tiredness. That’s what some people do not understand. Working for the Pullman Company or James B. Clow & Sons cast iron pipe plant, I had one boss. The church worker has hundreds of bosses. Every church member owns a piece of the minister. And that’s just fine; we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mostly, it works well, especially with a mature and understanding congregation like this one. But sometimes it gets draining and you feel used up. That’s when you need to rest your spirit.
Mondays are for rest. And for giving thanks.
This morning, I’m giving thanks for three things that occurred yesterday. Following the morning worship service, we all adjourned to the fellowship hall for lunch. It appeared that everyone stayed, too—which was rare, because we almost ran out of food. As pastor, I enjoyed walking around and greeting people, listening to the laughter and feeling the love, meeting some new people and—let’s be honest here—eating my share of the fried chicken and desserts.
In the evening, we opened the service for testimonies. No sermon. Some of our ministers walked around in the congregation with cordless microphones and people stood to share burdens, blessings, answers to prayer, tributes to one another, and experiences of God’s nearness. Six of our members reported on their recent mission to El Salvador where they worked alongside our missionaries. Two members had attended the National Women’s Convention in Chattanooga, and gave a report.
A mother thanked everyone for the constant prayers for her child who had brain surgery 18 months ago and whose eyesight has still not returned. She said, “A lesser church would have forgotten about us by now. But every week, I get notes of love and prayer from you.” Another gave a testimony of how God saved her.
Amy, a college student, spent the summer in something we call “Mission-fuge,” serving in Charleston, South Carolina, teaching teenagers how to minister and serve and witness. One day, she said, one of the teens lost his name tag. The next day, a homeless man approached a leader with the tag and asked, “Is this yours? I found it in the park.” When they thanked him, he said, “I was reading the verses on the back of it. What do they mean?” Amy said, “The verses were there to guide the teenager in sharing his faith: John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and Revelation 3:20.” That day, the leaders explained the gospel to the homeless man and led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
At one point in the Sunday evening testimony service, I stopped the proceedings and said, “Folks, do you hear this? Do you sense how the Holy Spirit is working in this church and so many of our people?” Heads were nodding everywhere. The reason that is especially good is that in the late spring and early summer, we went through a dry spell. No matter what we did or how hard we worked, we were seeing very little fruit for our labors. No one was joining the church or being baptized. Oddly, everything we were doing seemed to be blessed by the Lord—the worship services were alive and lively, the preaching was on target—it was a real puzzle. I recall saying to the other ministers, “When I talk to the Lord about it, He says, ‘Do not be weary in well doing. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’” So, we did, and now begins the harvest.
So that’s what I’m doing this Monday morning: resting my spirit and giving thanks to God for His blessings.
Dr. McKeever pastors First Baptist Church of Kenner, LA.
“A Matter of FAX” is a weekly email column published by the church