- I don't deserve to be doing this.
I'm a sinner. I sin all the time. I think about things I've done wrong and I am racked with guilt. Then I feel like a hypocrite. No one as bad as me should do what I do, let alone call himself a Christian. Many people through the years have also treated me like I shouldn't be doing this and it seems proud to argue with them. I should just accede to their assessment. So many people couldn't all be wrong.
Then I think of almost every servant of God in the Bible. None of them deserved to do this either. Some of them did worse than I have done. If I stop because I don't deserve it, then I cast doubt on anyone doing the work of the Lord, especially the Apostle Paul, who said he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and did not do what he would and did do what he would not (Rom 7:18-23).
- So many people hate me.
I know for a fact that I am a hated man by many people and to varied degrees. Some who hate me are significant. People who have been close to me hate me. Family members hate me. Former church members hate me. Former friends hate me. Theologians hate me. I'm often treated with hate. I've read hate notes to me. I've received hateful phone calls. I've had people tell me that many people hate me.
Some of those who hate me tell me that I bring it on myself. It seems convincing to me, that I bring the hatred on myself. A prominent fundamentalist told someone that there's something wrong about me. That makes me question myself. I think there's something wrong about me too. I fail. I do things that make people hate me. People tell me that people hate me because of things I do. It's my fault that they hate me. I can give a longer list, because I've heard something in my lifetime in the way of pages, explaining justifiable hatred of me.
I see looks on people's faces. I had a man tell me a few years ago that I was the worst pastor he's ever seen. I can hear a hearty "amen" from many readers. Almost every person who has ever left our church has blamed me for various reasons that could turn into a small booklet at least. Whenever they go somewhere else, it is often reported to me that they took gigantic leaps in Christian growth when they got away from me. Unfortunately, I have had other pastors say that's what everyone says everywhere.
When I think about being hated, I want to quit, but then I think about people in the Bible, and not a single servant of God wasn't hated. Jesus was hated. It seems to be a requirement, to be hated. Jesus said in Luke 6:22-23, rejoice and leap for joy when men shall hate you. Yes, leap for joy. He didn't say, if you are hated, but when you are hated. Jesus said this tell-tale and informative statement about being hated in John 15:18: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."
It seems that Noah was hated by about everyone on planet earth as he built the ark. God's chosen people hated Jeremiah before they cast him into a pit. Nearly all of Joseph's brothers hated him. They wanted him dead. I'm surprised sometimes I'm still alive, because I think people want me dead. Then John had to write (1 John 3:13): "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." Those in John's audience were wondering about being hated. He said, "Marvel not," literally, cease wondering.
I hate being hated. I think I could easily be liked if I tried to be liked. Being liked and doing my job seem to clash. I'm sure many readers disagree with that about me. They're sure that, no, I'm hated because of being me. I'm open to the idea that it's all my fault that I'm hated. I've had people try to help me not be so hated. I have. They've shared some psychology. They've given tips. And after listening to everything they say, I'm sure I would be disobedient to God to do the things they suggest (or stop doing things) necessary so that I won't be hated.
- I see far more failure than I do success.
I've heard the explanation about how that the best baseball players in the world fail almost 70% of the time. Yes, successful hitters connect around 30% of the time. I know about Abraham Lincoln, who failed and failed and failed and failed, and then he became president. I know that story. I've told it. I've had so much failure, way more failure, exponentially more failure, than I have success. And when I've failed, I've been exposed for it. People have reminded me that I'm a failure.
Almost every mistake I make gets pointed out. For as scary as people have said I am because of my voice, visage, and persona, it doesn't stop people from telling me what I'm doing wrong. I had a homeless man tell me that I looked stern. I've been told I'm too strict and that I coddle people too much. I've been told that I'm too emotional and that I'm too dry. Because I haven't seen that many professions of faith, I've had people tell me that I don't know what I'm doing.
After we first started our church, a veteran church planter stopped in on a Sunday morning at the most discouraged point in my first year. I knew I was bitter at the time. He sat in the second row, right in front of me, with a yellow legal pad, and took pages and pages of notes as I preached to a miniscule group in the multipurpose room slash library of a public elementary school. He made dramatic turns of each 8 1/2 x 14 page. Afterwards, he reamed me out up one side and down the other. I felt like Fred Flintstone after Wilma was done with him.
We rarely see anyone saved at our church. We grew very, very slow and I always had the opinion that we might implode and crash and die any week. I just tried not to think about it.
My wife doesn't lie. She thinks not lying means telling the truth. I mean, I asked. If I didn't want to know, I shouldn't have asked. So she told me and tells me. Unvarnished comes to mind.
I'm poor. I don't have social security. I have to do a lot of manual labor myself because I can't afford to hire someone to do it. Sometimes I think that I spend enough time with the building that I must be in charge of a building, not a church. People tell me all the time how I fail. I hear all the time all things could be better. We baptized a couple about a month ago in what seemed like frozen water, because the heater and pump on the baptistry didn't work.
I get some hits. I close my eyes when I swing and the ball bounces off the bat and manages to elude an infielder. My successes remind me of some of the football teams on which I played, small but slow. What I have managed to do is form a biblical view of success that gives me great satisfaction and fulfillment, and I know I'm not lying to myself.
In the parable of the soils, good ground is twenty five percent. Noah brought eight people with him on the ark after over 100 years of preaching. I know that you already know these examples. Paul said that "neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth" (1 Cor 3:7). Planting and watering aren't seeing results, but that's what we do. We plant and water. Paul compared himself to a galley slave, which meant he was just responsible for pulling his oar (1 Cor 4:1-2). He was also a house slave, who was a steward of his master's property, and all that was required of him was that he was found faithful.
Paul later wrote in the same epistle of 1 Corinthians 15, that his labor was not in vain in the Lord (15:58). Most of what's on this earth is vain (Ecclesiastes). Labor in the Lord is not vain. I get considerable joy out of just doing what God told me what to do. That dovetails with being hated above, because a lot of what God requires, people hate. I've seen that again and again, which is why most people don't want to do it. For me, the love of God must outweigh the pleasure of being liked by people.
I may not pastor the rest of my life. If I wasn't pastoring our church, it would be in good hands. That reminds me of Mattthew 7, where Jesus said you'll be known by your fruits. The fruits in that context are your followers as a leader. I've got solid church members, who would carry on if I were gone. I don't think it's because of me, it's because Jesus promised to be with us and the gates of Hell would not prevail against us.
If I don't pastor, I'll evangelize, even be an evangelist, which I think is a missionary. I would go somewhere else to evangelize like my wife and I did in 1987 when we came to California. I think I should throw in the towel. I've thought that for awhile, but I can't do it. They're not good reasons for doing so. I would hate quitting more than I want to quit. They are reasons, but I've got better ones, legitimate ones not to throw in the towel. There could be good reasons for me to stop being a pastor and turn our church over to a qualified individual. That wouldn't mean quitting the ministry. It would mean going on to greater ministry for me either foreign or domestic. I would love that. That might happen sooner than you think.