The shepherd’s staff serves the dual purpose of rescuing lost sheep when their heads get caught in the hedges and fending off vicious wolves who seek to devour. In the same way, when God raises up a pastor, it is a gift to the people of God – a man who demonstrates God’s love for His sheep and yet also a man fearless when God’s people need protection. A Pastor needs both a tender and a brave heart.
When God raises up a man with a shepherd’s heart, He takes much time to forge him to become more and more Christlike, so that he can more faithfully represent the Lord Jesus as the Chief Shepherd of the sheep. This forging process usually involves tough and difficult times – times even of deep despair, almost to breaking point. The Apostle Paul was brought there (2 Cor. 1:8-10) and God’s ministers are often brought to the same exact place, so that they learn complete dependence on God rather than any kind of man-made provision.
God makes His true pastors, men who love God and people. They portray genuine compassion and tenderness and yet are to be wholly resolute in the face of opposition: a man of tender heart and a thick skin. That is quite the contrast and quite the balance, and for sure, this balance is not always achieved. The best of men are men at best!
A pastor will face criticism often. He needs to know how to handle it. One thing is sure, if he does not, he will not be in ministry long. It is vital that He knows whom He serves and what pleases Him. A pastor knows, going into the ministry, that he cannot ever please everyone. Therefore His priority is to please the One who enlisted him, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If He is sure he is doing his all to please Him (though he never does this perfectly), this is his rest and comfort at all times.
A dynamic pastor (younger than me) in an eastern state in the US wrote the following to me:
“I have a question for you as an experienced pastor…. how does a Godly pastor respond (or not respond) to “Anonymous” to this kind of email (see below)? These kinds of emails obviously hurt and I never know how to respond… in the past I have just ignored them and not bothered to respond, but I don’t know… am I wrong to not respond to these kinds of emails? I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can offer brother!”
I have a minor complaint after listening to one of your online sermons. You claim your sermons are expositional, but you spent most of your time speaking what seems to be a personal rant about how everyone is a horrible failure… I thought pastors were supposed to be at least a little bit loving, uplifting, and positive, wanting to help their parishioners grow… not being judgmental, condescending, or mean, laughing at people’s sin… I hope this was a one-time occurrence and I just wanted to give you some constructive criticism from my viewpoint.
Col. 3:12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”
Eph. 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”
1. Cor. 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love”
Here was my reply:
Hi Pastor ________,
Good to hear from you.
I wonder how I would respond to something like this and I think my answer would be… “I am not sure.” There’s nothing wrong with responding to an anonymous email like this, nor would it be wrong to simply ignore it.
However – if I were to respond, maybe I would write something like this:
I am sorry you did not feel brave enough to reveal your identity in writing to me. It is always amazing how brave someone feels they can be when they can remain anonymous behind a keyboard. The internet is filled with such people. They can say what they like without their words being challenged. I am a real person with real feelings, as I am sure you are. Allowing our identity to be known in correspondence shows respect to the person we are communicating with, knowing that they can then have the opportunity to respond. It allows us to treat each other in love, and as human beings, something you seem unwilling to do from your side, despite your words to me about love.
In that you do not relate to me the actual sermon you heard, it is hard for me (actually it is impossible) to go back to it and hear it again myself to see if your argument has any weight. In that you give no reference, I cannot respond in any way. I am always striving to be useful to the Master and in my preaching, bring out from the Bible text what is there in the Bible text. If I do that, I believe the Lord is pleased. As someone once said, “If He is pleased, it does not matter who is displeased. If He is displeased, it does not matter who is pleased.” If you could point to the specific place where you feel I went on some kind of rant, I would be happy to assess what you are saying and make any necessary changes in the future.
I will say this though: While there are many positive verses and passages in the Bible, there are also an equal number or perhaps even more that reveal the true nature of sin. There’s a reason for that. Just as a jeweler in a store will always use a black velvet background to display the splendor of an exquisite diamond, so the intricate, dazzling beauty of the gospel is only fully seen when we understand what the Bible says about man’s radical condition outside of Christ. That means talking about sin – which the Bible does very often. It is a bleak and dark picture to be sure. Yet only when we understand the immensity of the problem can we find the right solution – and see the futility of all other man made remedies. We need far more than a moral pep talk; more than some medical first aid for our gaping wounds; and more than even an oxygen mask to help us breathe more easily. What we need is a miracle! What we need is a resurrection!
In the meantime, I would ask you, as a courtesy, to have the courage to identify yourself should you wish to converse with me in future. Please do not respond otherwise as it would show a great level of disrespect.
I also would challenge you to look to the Biblical text to see if your ideas about what a sermon should be, may need adjusting to become more biblical. If that is the case, I would say “repent rather than accuse.” If the message of the sermon is in all reality, the message of the Bible text, then it is not the preacher who needs to change, but those who hear him. God has spoken in His word. Scripture alone is the standard – our feelings, even deep feelings about what we think Scripture should say are irrelevant.
So there we go. That is how I would probably respond… Let me know what you think.
He did… He liked it! 🙂