Last week, I taught FLAME Courses at Frankfort, Indiana. I had a class of 35 outstanding students in Homiletics (preaching) for the first half, and then, in the second part of the week, I conducted a special course for a good group of small town and rural pastors.
The "preachers in training" did much better than expected. I thought I was in for a long line of bad preaching. Instead, we were all surprised, inspired and blessed by the presentations in class. I took notes!!
My heart was deeply moved by the commitment and plight of the rural pastors. They love the Lord. They love their people. They want to serve wholeheartedly. However, they are often in a very difficult situation.
Over half the pastors in my second class have other jobs besides working at the church. Some of them work all day at the factory, school or post office -- and THEN their ministry at the church begins. They are willing to serve bi-vocationally in order to help struggling congregations that cannot afford to pay them anything close to a living wage.
They feel the heavy burden of ministry -- caring for the flock -- but they do not have the time to do it in a way that is satisfactory to them (or, in many instances, their congregations.) As a result, they always feel like they're falling short.
Regardless of the ministry assignment, pastoring, by nature, is a "task undone." There is always a mountain of things remaining. No matter how much you do, you'll always let somebody down. The pastor wearing two hats feels that pressure continuously.
On top of this, some (not all) congregations make unrealistic demands upon their pastor. Churches want and expect a full time ministry, even when they can't (or won't) support it.
When, due to human frailty, the pastor fails to meet these expectations, parishioners criticize, condemn and complain. They pay a reluctant pittance of pastoral support for the "right of ownership" so they can tell the pastor what to do and how to do it.
Seems to me, the only expectation congregations should have for bi-vocational pastors is that they love like Jesus.