Rev. Dr. Lothar Schwabe
January 28, 2014
Now, that you have been a pastor for a few months and I have celebrated my 60th anniversary of my ordination I like to share with you some things to watch for. These are traps that can ruin our ministry. What I tell you about I have not only observed in fellow pastors but, sadly, I have been guilty of committing most, if not all, of these behaviours.
It all begins with our desire to be liked by the people we serve. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked and having a good relation with our parishioners, but it can get in the way of doing what we are called to do.
Our job as pastors is simply to help people to connect with Jesus as our saviour and to help them maintain and nurture that relationship. Unfortunately, it is so easy and tempting to engage in behaviours that get in the way of doing that. Yes, it is easy to get between our people and Jesus. We do that every time we focus the attention of our people on us rather than on Jesus. My most ineffective sermons were those when I felt really wonderful about them. I felt wonderful because I could feel how people admired my preaching skills and my sense of humour and my energetic way of presenting my sermon. The problem was that they met me rather than Jesus.
It is also easy for us to use our psychological skills to “play the congregation” the way as a skilled entertainer plays the audience. We can become skilled manipulators and achieve our goal of being liked or do what we want them to do, but in doing so we fail to have our people meet Jesus. Social manipulation is a very dangerous practice. In order to manipulate we have to treat people with less respect than is due to children of the heavenly Father. Manipulative behaviour is not befitting those who represent Jesus. Jesus never manipulated people or played the audience.
I had been a faithful pastor when I shared my faith and not my “brilliance”. It is faith that sparks faith. The Holy Spirit works through people who share their faith relationship with Jesus and their commitment to him. The father of my wife, Hanna, came to faith by hearing a pastor preach who stuttered, but he radiated his love of Jesus. The church of Jesus grows in many places of our world where ordinary Christians share their faith. They do not even have trained pastors. Jesus advised Paul that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2.Cor. 2,19). We do not have to be super-pastors, but we must be faithful and rely on Jesus to be at work among our people.
I want to encourage you to let your faith and love for Jesus shine. You do not have to be the best preacher your people ever had. You do not have to please everybody. I never pleased everybody. All you have to do is to be faithful and stand back and watch the Holy Spirit do the work and give God the glory.
God bless you in your ministry.