I am a congregant or lay person or member of your church. I am one of the many faces you see during the week and in the pew on Sunday. We know each other’s names, you may even know an outline of my background and how long I have been at your particular congregation. We might even share a hobby.
You are a pastor. You are my pastor. And for that I must send my deepest apologies. I hope we have managed to pay you a livable wage, but your budget will likely always be described as “tight.” Your job is largely thankless. The sheep in your care will ceaselessly come to complain about all the things wrong with the church. We need more hymns; we need more new songs; we need more young people; we need more programs; we need less programs; the roof is leaking; we need an addition; why do we spend so much of the budget on your salary and benefits? The carpet should be blue; No, it should be red; No! Tan! The building project is over budget. And all this is before we come to you with our personal issues. Jane Doe is gossiping; Jim Doe’s kids just will not behave. This family’s finances are in a mess, that one is on the verge of divorce. And why aren’t we getting bigger? We are supposed to keep getting bigger, right? Fix it pastor. Tell us how to fix it! And do it in a way we like, too; and while you’re at it, juggle these flaming chain-saws.
And every Sunday, I come and listen -- a face, amongst all the faces pulling at your attention. I am not above it all, I have complained about this and that just like the rest. But what you may have forgotten and what I have forgotten is that what I need is not advice -- is not a bigger church. It is not five steps to financial freedom. It is forgiveness.
I am not a good anything -- and it is eating me alive. Sometimes I forget about it awhile, but each night, as the lights turn off and I stare at the ceiling, I replay the wreck I am. The things I said, the things I did, the things I thought.
So, pastor, I plead. In the middle of all the noise and thankless underpaid chaos that your life can be, give me forgiveness. Give me the Gospel. Give me Christ. I cannot tell you it will make your life any easier or even that I will complain any less about carpet color. But I need it. And I think you do to. So give me Christ. Tell me of the splendor of a king dying a criminal’s death being the best news I have ever heard. Do not worry about boring me with repeating it, just keep building it up. Let me sing of mercy shed on me; let me hear the words, “given for you.” Help me fix my eyes on Christ.
And since I may forget later, thank you for doing the often thankless job of preaching Christ crucified for sinners, a stumbling block to Jews, folly to Greeks, and the aroma of death to those who are perishing, but to us… life, hope, and peace.
From a Congregant
-- David Olson