Preacher Worries

This lesson probes deeper into the true life of ministers and goes beyond the usual stereotype of this type of work.
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There are really only three preacher jokes. Only three, I mean there is variations of them, but they are only three basic ones.

First one is, refers to how long a preacher preaches. So there's a million jokes about how long a preacher preaches.A man leaves for a haircut in the middle of the sermon and the preacher asks, why are you leaving now? And he said well, I didn't need a haircut at the beginning of the sermon.

The other joke is, it's about money. The idea that preachers, they're always preaching about money or asking for money. And of course, these jokes have developed even more since the advent of television preachers who have made a business out of preaching. That's why our website for example BibleTalk, we don't ask for money on BibleTalk online. Same thing with Mack Line, his program Search. And one of the distinctive things about his program that actually really gained it a lot of favor was that he never asked for money, as opposed to all the other preachers on television who are asking for money. So all these jokes about preachers asking for money.

And the other is about the preacher's kids and how rowdy they turn out to be. And of course we know that the reason for this is that they hang around with the Deacons kids, so.

Now there's some truth to this kind of humor. These jokes reveal some of the unique problems and challenges about being a minister. It's a job like no other job, and people just don't understand the work.

They think they understand it but they don't really, they don't understand that pressures that ministers have to deal with on a daily basis. And I don't usually make my sermons personal. I would much rather start with a open your Bibles to this particular scripture, but this evening I'd like to make an exception to this rule, share with you some of the things that preachers, all of them I believe, because I've known a lot of them for many years.

I would imagine even Marty in the same way, the things that we've shared together I think he would agree with some of the things that I'm going to talk about tonight. Three things that preachers worry about.

I know the Bible teaches us not to worry, but rather to cast all our anxiety upon him because he cares for you. Peter tells us this first I Peter 5:7. As a Christian, I do bring my worries and my concerns to God in constant prayer and study, I do that. Of course the Bible doesn't say that we won't be worried. That worry will not affect us, that things will not cause us concern, it simply tells us that when this happens we should bring these things to God in prayer.

No guarantee against being worried, just what to do when you are. So even though I do pray and repeatedly go to God with my life and the concerns that I have, especially about my ministry, there are certain things that cause me as a preacher, certain things that cause me to worry the most. Obviously I have concerns for my family and so on and so forth, but as a preacher, there are things I worry about and I want to share those with you tonight. First of all, I worry about souls. I worry about souls.

Everything that I do as a preacher has only one ultimate purpose and that is people becoming or remaining faithful to Jesus Christ. That is a singular vision that I have, some would say burden, day in and day out and day in and day out, it never leaves my conscious mind. I worry about this because I am firmly convinced of two things. First of all, there is no one else and no other way that a person can be saved except through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12, Peter says no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.

As a matter of fact, it is the belief of that particular scripture that propelled me into ministry. I just couldn't get around that Scripture. When I first became a Christian and I began to know the Bible and so on and so forth, that scripture was like a mountain, I couldn't get over it, I couldn't get around it, I couldn't get through it. Because I said to myself if that's true, what am I doing about it? And of course, the burden was particularly heavy because I lived in a place, Montreal, where the gospel was not being preached, where people were not reading the Bible, where they were clueless.

I understood that there's no system, there's no magic, there's no good work, there's no science, no Savior other than Jesus Christ who can give us eternal life. Another passage that was heavy on my mind, John 6:39 says, and this is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life. And I myself will raise him up on the last day. Now, as much as that is a marvelous promise to those who believe, the opposite of that is a tremendous burden. Because the ones who don't believe will not have this incredible gift that God offers.

So there's only one way, one person and one time to be saved and that is during our brief lifetime here on earth, and so I worry a those who risk eternal damnation because they are ignorant or rebellious or careless with their souls. And the more I understand these passages, the more firmly they are embedded in my heart, in my mind and in my soul, the more I have joy in the anticipation of the gift that God offers through Christ, the more I worry about those who do not have it, those who are letting it slip through their fingertips because of carelessness.

I also worry about souls because Jesus said, that only those who are faithful until the end will be saved, Matthew 10:22. He says it is the one who has endured until the end who will be saved. Notice he doesn't say it's the one who's waited around till the end. He says the one who has endured until the end. And if he uses the word endured, it must mean that there's something to endure. A challenge of some kind, a burden of some kind, a difficulty of some kind.

He must mean that it's not easy to endure until the end. Is there anything sadder than a person who has seen the truth, who has grasped eternal life in his hand, has enjoyed the peace and the hope of salvation and fellowship with God, fellowship with God's people and then throw it all away because of laziness or forbidden sexual pleasure or the passing interest of some thing or some other thing in this world. Is there anything sadder than that? I don't know about you but from where I sit, from where I work from, where I come from there is nothing sadder than that. There is nothing at all that can be sadder than that.

I've known people who have abandoned Christ for sports, or for bad habits. Preaching is all about building faith. It's all about instilling faith. It's all about renewing faith and my worry is that people will for one reason or another reject or abandon their faith and then have to bear the consequences of that. I worry about that. Every empty pew on Sunday, every missed opportunity to grow as a Christian, every time someone chooses the world over Christ, the flesh over the spirit, the activities of this world over the activities of the kingdom, I worry about them.

A lot of people do this, so I have many opportunities to worry. The office in the church building is open from 9:00 to 5:00, but my heart is always on the clock. I don't shut off and I know for a fact, because Marty and I have spoken about this type of thing at length, I know for a fact neither does his.And I'm quite convinced that our elders would say amen to this idea as well, and many of you. I worry about souls. Secondly, I worry about doctrine of all things. I don't worry about March Madness, I don't care who wins the game.

I go to the hockey game sometimes. Dr. Carey's kind enough to give out some of his tickets and a lot of us have taken advantage of that, and I don't worry about who wins. I just like having that frozen yogurt between second and third period. I would worry if they shut that place down, but I don't really worry about who wins and who doesn't win. It's just fun, that's just entertainment. But I do worry about doctrine. Some people say doctrine, that's not important, it's how you feel that's really important, what's the feeling in the church? The Bible however says that doctrine is very very important.

Jude three, the writer says contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Again words are so important. Every word in the Bible is inspired, that means every word selected by God, the Holy Spirit gave to the writers every word. So he says contend, not bargain, compromise close enough. He says contend earnestly, fight for the faith, the one doctrine. Make a great effort to preserve the doctrine, the teachings of Christ, to preserve them accurately.

Who was he talking to? Was he talking to other apostles and giving them some sort of charge? Was Jude talking only to elders? He was talking to all of us, wasn't he? Paul, the Apostle says that faith, the thing that saves you comes by hearing the word. Hearing what? Well, hearing the teaching, hearing the doctrines of Christ, Romans 10:17. Again, he says that the gospel, in other words the teaching of the doctrine of salvation. The gospel is what saves us, Romans 1:16.

He says I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation, not feelings. He didn't say I'm not ashamed of my feelings. Not opinions, I'm not ashamed of opinions, I'm not ashamed of our traditions, the salvation of my soul is based and obtained through the proper teaching of God's Word, God's truth contained in these teachings. And so this place is a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of those who preach and those who teach these truths, and I worry about that. James says, let not many of you become teachers my brethren knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

James 3:1. This is no idle threat here, this is not a suggestion. Again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive this instruction. So I preach once per week, sometimes mostly in the evenings and sometimes in the mornings. And I teach two classes a week and I produce video teaching material, maybe four or five, four or five blog, video blogs every week. Hal and I go in the studio and we record four or five teaching blogs on a variety of subjects.

Plus seminars and other things that I do for other churches. And this is every week, every year, new material, new stuff all the time. It's not a novel. A guy writes a novel. That one guy writes a song. ♪ It was an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow... ♪ So he writes this song and he makes a trillion dollars and he retires for life. 27 words in all, period. But preachers are producing tremendous amount of material week in and week out all the time. And it has to be accurate. The Bible warns those who teach. It has to be an accurate representation of what the Bible says. Not just the words but the spirit of what it says has to be accurate as well.

Your faith and my faith depend on it. And the Bible says very clearly, I will be judged for it. So I worry when I write it, if it's Christ-centered, I worry if it's accurate, if it's balanced, if it's relevant, if it's effective.

This worry about preaching is nothing new. Most ministers report that their single most cause of anxiety and pressure is that constant pressure of knowing what am I going to speak on this Sunday? What will I say to the congregation? What do the Brethren need to hear? And so the preacher's ear is always attuned to the spirit if you wish to know where, where will I go in God's Word and how will I develop it and what will I say? So this worry about doctrine, about preaching is echoed by Paul when he said I am under compulsion to preach, I Corinthians 9:16.

In the same way, I feel this need to preach. I am disconnected, I am disoriented if I cannot preach. I refuse to get a sideline job. When you've got four kids, four teenagers, eating, driving and you're a single income home, there's a lot of pressure to make some money and preachers have this flexible schedule, you know what I'm saying? And I've been offered a lot of times to get a sideline job or do this or hey, buy some property, flip houses.

You can get away from the office for an hour, do this and that and I've always refused to do it. I have few other interests because all I see and all I hear and all I think about is always filtered through the calling to preach. I always say to myself, if I do this thing and I meet somebody and they ask me what do you do? What will their reaction be when I tell them I'm a preacher? Oh, oh, you're a preacher but you sell Amway on the side? Or you're a preacher and you sell cars on Saturdays or Friday night, you know what I'm. I'm interested, what will that filter be like? And of course, the worry that what I preach should always be accurate to God's Word, I refuse to be distracted. And the refusal to be distracted is caused by the worry to make sure that I get it right, that it's accurate, that it's true.

And then I also worry about hypocrisy. Jesus saved his harshest criticism for hypocritical teachers and preachers, the Pharisees. And I worry that I am not charged with the same kind of sin. Paul said by the grace of God I am what I am, 1 Corinthians 15, and in the same spirit he said, we have this treasure in earthen vessels 2 Corinthians 4:7.

The treasure he talks about is the gospel, the truth of the gospel and the vessel is himself, the earthen vessel. And in both of these verses he's referring to his unworthiness to serve as a spokesman for God and His Word.

Imagine, Paul the Apostle, felt unworthy. How do you think the rest of us feel in comparison to Paul the Apostle? I mean who are we preachers to stand in front of people saying God says this and God says that? Who are we to demand that people repent or change? Who are we to talk about heaven and to talk about hell? Who are we? I mean I know what I am.

I'm a sinful, weak, ignorant man, that's what I am, really. No false humility. I am unworthy of Christ. As Isaiah said, a man of unclean lips. I say amen, that's me. As I've shared with you in the past, the article in the paper, in a newspaper that drew me first to come to visit a church of Christ, that article said sinners are welcome at the church of Christ.

And when I read that article I said, well he's talking about me, that's who I am. And I've never forgotten that. And so I worry that the distance between what I preach and what I am will be so great that no one will be able to believe the message because the messenger is so flawed.

And I suppose this is what happens to preachers' kids and this time I'm not making a joke. They know the man who's doing the preaching and because they are young and many times inexperienced, they have trouble believing the message because they see the man struggle.

Preacher kids are the way they are I believe because they have few illusions. And so I worry that the weakness of my flesh may block the glorious light of Christ that I am trying to explain, project, proclaim.

I worry that in the end someone might use me as an excuse not to believe or not to remain faithful to Christ or not to continue with the church, I worry about that. Now lest you think all I do is worry, I want to say that there are many things I don't worry about.

I don't worry about church growth for example because I know that God is the one that provides that, so I don't lay awake at night worrying about Church growth. That's God's responsibility. I don't worry about my career because it was God who led me here to this place, to Choctaw.

Not opportunity, not money, or the size of the church. I've worked for smaller churches and I've worked for bigger churches. Preaching is a calling not a career, so I don't worry about that thing. But as for the things I do worry about, and I believe most preachers share the same concerns, there are ways of reducing that worry.

You see, preachers need certain things to lessen worry, to function effectively, to avoid burnout. Number one, number one, health issue with ministers, burnout. Did you know that ministers of all kinds but ministers are in the top five for suicide? They burnout, they get depressed, they go down into a cycle, it's a terrible thing when I hear of that.

It's terrible how a man who knows the gospel could fall into a depression so deep that he would even think of taking his life. So what do they need? What do preachers need? Well, they need to see faith growing, that's what they need.

You see preachers, just as a matter of fact, Robert Prator, someone that Marty and I know who was over in Shawnee, a wonderful man, good preacher, great Church out there and Shawnee is leaving. He just decided, he's leaving, he's going to work with another church. And my thought on that and you see that all the time if you go to preachers meetings, there are always preachers coming and going from one church to the other. Preachers don't leave to go to another Church necessarily for money because the money is about the same pretty much where you go, it's pretty standard.

They usually go for a better harvest. That's what motivates them. The best way to keep a preacher is to remain faithful, to grow in Christ, to bear much fruit in good works and service and evangelism.

So he says, I can't leave here, there's just too much going on. We're harvesting, I can't leave now. Growing Christians are the reward and the anchor that keeps ministers in one place. I can't leave now.

People are being baptized, they need me because there's so much going on. It's when nothing's going on that preachers get... They say, well maybe I've tilled this soil here a long time and the harvest is.

.. Sure, we get 30 fold and 60 fold and a 100 fold but I'm not willing to stay another five years for 10 fold. I want a harvest. They also need understanding. I don't mean understanding as a person, I mean that people need to understand what their work is all about.

People get mad at the preacher when they're really mad at God many times, but they take it out on the preacher. The preacher's job is to accurately preach the word about all things, whether it is convenient or not, whether it's pleasant or not.

And sometimes believe it or not it's about you. People leave, if it's my turn to preach and sometimes people leave and say, boy, you stomped on my toes today and I say to them, good, repent. Because if you think the message was for you, well maybe it was.

I always say, well there's no name on the bullet, there's no name on the bullet. It's a waste of time to preach a sermon in front of two, 300 people for a single person. Much better call that person up and just go visit with them if you got something to say.

But if you feel the word has touched you, then do something about it. And then they need care like everyone else. There's a joke that preachers tell each other about congregations and what they expect from their ministers.

People in the church expect the preacher, well he'll take at least 20 hours to prepare his sermon and then he'll take several days of visitation per week to visit everybody and pre-dawn vigils at hospitals and of course evening Bible studies, and available at the office of course 9:00 to 5:00 everyday, drop in at any time, working with the young people, working with the elderly, make sure that he's present at all church functions, retreats, meetings, game night, he's there.

Counseling at any time, day or night. But at the same time, they want their preacher to guard his health and spend a lot of time with his family. Now the punchline of this joke is that most preachers really want and actually try to do all of this.

And that's when they pay the price in burnout, depression. The preacher needs a church that will care for him as much as they care for the building. And many times churches care more about the building than they care about their minister.

I've seen many men simply discarded after a lifetime of service to many congregations because nobody ever took the trouble to actually care for them. How are you doing? How is your family doing? What are your needs? Now forgive me if this lesson seems a little self-serving, but I wanted to give you an insight into the true concerns of the minister, and not the stereotype and the cliches about preachers preaching too long or working just one day a week, and so on and so forth, a lot of those jokes.

Most of what I've said is typical to most preachers. But a lot of what I've said, a lot of what I've shared is personal and what I truly feel about my ministry here and what I really do worry about. I do worry about your souls, and when I see you drift away from the church, when I see you becoming entangled in sin, I am anxious for you.

You may not speak to me for weeks at a time for whatever reason but please know that I pray for you, I mention you by name, I go through the directory page by page and pray for you. And I worry that every lesson is accurate, that every sermon is useful, that every blog post, every video is encouraging and that your faith will be built because of it.

And I worry about being the kind of person that can be used as an example for Christ because that's what church leaders must do. I would never want you to be ashamed of me as one of your ministers. It would be for me an incredible failure that you would be ashamed of me as one of your ministers.

So I hope that you will know that every invitation to believe, every invitation to grow, every invitation to repent, to change, to be baptized, everyone of those invitations for me and I'm fairly certain for Marty as well is always urgent and always sincere.

It's not just roped. Every time I say please believe, please repent, please return to Christ, please be baptized if you haven't, it is a sincere admonition, a sincere request based in my concern for each soul that worships with us.

Every encouragement to repent and be restored is based on real concern for your soul. Every effort is to help the Choctaw congregation to grow in the faith, in the knowledge and of course, in the likeness of our Lord.

And so once again, I don't know how many times, certainly the second time today, if you have a need to be saved, if you have a need to be restored, if you have a need to be prayed for, please respond to God and ease somewhat my worry for your soul by coming forward now as we stand and as we sing our song of encouragement.

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