Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Nobody understands ministers

“Nobody understands ministers”. It's not a statement that you often hear spoken but it is one that does go round the minds of some. Not non-ministers, of course, and not young ministers for that matter. They are too busy working out what a minister does to be thinking that no-one understands.
No, it is usually after one has settled down into ministry, perhaps seven years or ten years in, that the thought may begin to arise - “Nobody understands ministers”. What is it all about?
The minister doesn't have a job like anyone else for a start. It's not just that it isn't a 9 to 5 thing – plenty of jobs aren't that. It's something more.
The minister is directly responsible in his work not so much to the congregation but to God. Yet at the same time he doesn't want to alienate the congregation if he can help it. The minister knows he cannot work all the time. He has to relax at some point. The bow needs unstringing, as Spurgeon once put it. Yet, at the same time, he is conscious that his whole life must be dedicated to this one thing.
The minister, if he is in an independent church, will be used to the (hopefully regular) habit of stepping outside the church meeting while they discuss his stipend (it always takes longer than you expect!).
In most cases he knows that if he should offend the congregation too much then he is likely to be without a roof over his head in a short while.
Another problem he faces is the varied nature of his calling. When he is studying, he often feels he should be praying and when he is praying, he feels he should be studying or preparing or visiting and when he is visiting he feels he should be doing more evangelism and when he is evangelising he feels he should be studying or visiting or praying or preparing or spending time with the family. And if he does relax with the family ... well, you can see why it's not as easy as it may seem.
You can understand then perhaps why this thought will sometimes go round his head. “Nobody understands ministers”. Of course, it's utter bunkum. Okay, may be sometimes church members do find it hard to get and may be they say insensitive things that they shouldn't, at times. But ministers understand and so do ministers' wives to some extent. There's not a minister reading this who isn't saying “Yeah that's how it is” (as well as, “it is, although he hasn't quite described my situation!”). This is part of what makes a ministers fraternal such fun for the most part. I'm with people who get it!
And these are not the only ones are they? Jesus himself understands. After all he is also a minister or servant, to use another term with the same meaning. In Mark 10 he says of himself that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. That is why he says to his disciples whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant or minister. The minister's life is unique and sometimes we can feel rather sorry for ourselves but there really is no reason.
Another one found in the system and never published, as far as I can see. Perhaps I need to change the blog title.

1 comment:

stephen said...

Well said! I'm sure most ministers will be saying 'yeah, I know that feeling, he's right.' Thanks Gary :-)