The Ministry brings with it many joys. No doubt about it. There is much joy in unlocking heaven for repentant sinners; much joy in feeding Christ’s sheep with His good gifts and Spirit. But a preacher also bears a burden. When he steps up into the pulpit to proclaim and teach the Word of God, he often does so fully aware of the fact that something he says may cause offense or make someone uncomfortable.
But he doesn’t have a choice. The Word must be spoken. “In season and out of season,” writes the Apostle Paul. I take that back–he does have a choice. He could choose to take the less offensive route. He could choose to take the path of “least resistance.” But then he becomes no better than a hireling.
History has shown that the people entrusted to a preacher do not always receive his teaching with gladness and thanksgiving. Many grumbled against Moses in the wilderness. Many of the prophets were disliked because of the Word they preached. The truth does that sometimes. It divides; it sheds light where people don’t want light to be shed.
No self-respecting pastor goes out looking for that kind of trouble. But sometimes I think that there is so much pressure put on us pastors to take things one step at a time, to “not be a bull in a china shop,” to watch what we say or write so that no one takes it the wrong way, that we drive ourselves crazy second-guessing ourselves when we introduce something Lutheran (but new to the people) in the congregation, or when we address problems head on.
The fact is, the pastor is the pastor. He is the shepherd. He bears the responsibility to teach the Word and to lead the people of God, and the fact is that not everyone is going to approve, or like what he says or does–even if it there is nothing wrong with it.
So, no, we don’t go looking for trouble. And we are not perfect. We make mistakes just like everyone. But it is not wrong to expect the people to hearken to the Word that we preach, if it is truly the Word of God. Nor is it wrong for us to call someone on it if they grumble or complain about it.
Most church members will not ever understand this burden, nor will the pastor’s family understand it. They will, with the best of intentions, try to protect him from it, try to dissuade him from saying “that” or doing “that.” And, a humble pastor will listen to their wise counsel. But at the end of the day, “that” might be just the thing that needs to be said or done (whatever “that” might be). And that, dear friends, is the burden of the preacher.