The Pastor as Spiritual Trainer
I think I've mentioned before that our family owns a Nintendo Wii, and that one of our primary uses for it is for exercise. We've got a "game" entitled EA Active, which is a fitness program. It includes a virtual personal trainer.
You know what a personal trainer is, right? It's a person that designs your workouts, directs your workouts, corrects when necessary and encourages when possible. In fact, often it seems that the personal trainer is the one who takes the abuse so I can get better physically. It's why I'm glad there's not a real person hearing my threats when I'm doing the lunge jumps or squat-and-holds or whatever else.
Now, if I lived near a gym or fitness club, I could pay monthly for the privilege of such fun. I'd be given a regular attendance schedule, pay specific fees, and have access to the equipment necessary and the expertise I need. There would be specific times that someone with knowledge and skill would work with me, either in a group or one-on-one to help me accomplish my goals.
Next example: I'm also a seminary student. I'm paying for the joy of having someone criticize every word I write, every thought I share, every aspect of what I do. It's annoying. I'd like to remind my professors that I, the tuition-paying student, make their job possible. (Actually, with MABTS, I make like 10% of their job possible. Very generous donors underwrite the rest. Thank you, donors!) What do I get for providing their job? Correction, rebuke, instruction.
Now, I'm sure you're seeing where this is headed. You read the title, right?
Pastors, our work is similar to the personal trainer and the seminary professor. We have the time to hone our Biblical knowledge, prepare its presentation, and demonstrate in many ways how to live it out. We are charged with being the trainers of our congregations. Not to be the only one that does anything, nor to be the "professional Christian" so that others don't have to.
We're supposed to be the one who has enough of a grasp on Scripture and walking with Christ that we're able to impart that to other Christians and help them find what works best. Just as a personal trainer can help both a marathon runner and a tennis player find specific exercises to strengthen their individual skills, so we should help different people find what they need. Not every seminary student is a Biblical languages genius, so the professors have to find ways to get the information into our thick skulls.
Guess what, though?
I exercise alone so that not even my wife hears my anger at my virtual trainer. I mutter under my breath about professors sometimes. The work to make me better doesn't always bring out my best in the moment.
Pastor, your work to help the church be better isn't always going to bring out people's best. They're going to criticize, complain, and fuss. It goes with the territory. If you called Dr. Brawner and told him "Doug doesn't seem to like you" he'd let you know he's there to teach me, not be my friend (by the way, I think I'd like him if I met him. It's a distance class.) My physical trainer isn't there to be liked. Sometimes, my best effort comes to prove the trainers and professors wrong, prove that I can do what they think I cannot.
Pastor, you're there, we're here to strengthen the church for the work of the ministry. We're not always going to be liked. The evaluation comes not in our popularity but in whether or not the church becomes what God has called her to become.
Now, this shouldn't have to be said, but it's also not our job to seek being disliked. You know the clichés: catch more flies with honey than vinegar and so on. (Church members are not flies.) Encouragement goes so much farther than the beat down does. It's our responsibility to be positive forces and not negative ones. Got it? Good. The goal here is to remind us that we are standing up and we will take criticism. Get over it and get on with it.