As a pastor you always hope that come Sunday morning you’ll see new faces walk through the door. You hope that the Lord will bring new families to build the church, but more importantly, that people from the community will want to visit, especially unbelievers. Evangelism is, after all, one of the key tasks of the church. But one of the things that you have to guard against is having jaundiced eyes. What do I mean? Well you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “He looks at the world through rose-colored glasses,” which means that a person always sees things in a positive light no matter what. The opposite can also be true, especially for a pastor.
One of my senior colleagues once asked his predecessor (a long-time pastor of nearly fifty years), what, in his ministry, was he grateful for. This pastor responded, “I’m grateful for the families the Lord kept away from the church.” This answer, to say the least, was quite shocking at first. But after further reflection, my colleague realized how true it is. There are many families that can be quite destructive to the life of a congregation, whether because they gossip, spread discontent, or perhaps become a thorn in the pastor’s side for various and sundry reasons. It’s one thing to be grateful that the Lord protected your congregation but entirely another when you look at visitors as potential problems.
I have to admit that after a series of drawn-out counseling problems at my church, ones that drained my energy, patience, and time, I can remember looking at visitors as liabilities rather than blessings: “Great . . . another family . . . I wonder what emotional and theological baggage they’re carrying.” Each time this thought crossed my mind, I prayed for the Lord to forgive me. After all, I had prayed that the Lord would bring new families, he answered my prayers, and now here I was complaining about his response.
The truth of the matter is that pastors are sinful like anyone else in the church, and we have feet of clay. Hence, whether you’re in the pastorate or seeking to be, pray that the Lord would keep you from having jaundiced eyes. You don’t want to exemplify the running cliché that I’ve heard about pastoral ministry: “Ministry is great, I just can’t stand the people.” The people are your ministry! You preach to the people, you talk with the people, you counsel with the people. Remember the little child’s hand pantomime? Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here’s all the people. When you encounter people with problems and when they eat up your time, rob you of sleep, or weigh you down with their questions, rejoice. Rejoice because it means that God is at work in your midst and he is using you as an instrument in his hands to apply the living Word of God to the lives of his saints. If no one ever had a problem, then why would they ever need to come to church? Remember Christ’s words, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).