By J. T. Pugh
The life a preacher lives through the week has a strange way of following him into the pulpit each Sunday. It is impossible for a preacher to separate his ministry from himself. The mechanic may clean his tools, put them in their box, lock it and go home for the weekend. His tools remain outside of himself and he can cast himself in a role other than that of a mechanic on the weekend. His tools do not follow him on his excursions. It is different with the preacher. He, himself, his emotions, his convictions and his reactions are his tools.
Thus the minister’s reputation is first scrutinized before his work is accepted. The craftsman examines his tool before starting his work. In like manner the preacher, as a man, must live on the scales of judgment – his own introspections, and the scrutiny of the public as well. In all other fields and professions the workman is able to divorce himself, at least in part, from the tools and demands of his trade, but with the preacher it is not so. He is the tool, and the tool cannot run away from itself. His sermons and all his work are invariably colored by the honor or dishonor of the man himself. It is impossible for his work, however well executed, to rise higher than the repute of the producer.
The goldfish bowl of his public life allows him no private seclusion where the venom of his worse self can be dissipated in private, hid forever from the knowledge of his congregation. Sin always finds the preacher out; more so, it seems, than anyone else. And if sin could be hidden, its stains would be upon the preacher’s heart and soul. Thus even hidden sins affect their retributive work on the preacher, for his heart, soul and emotions are the tools of his trade. When cankered by deceit and rusted by sin, the work is sure to be faulty. The preacher is “an epistle known and read of all men.” For the life of him, he cannot promote a spiritual good which is beyond his present experience.
This being true, the preacher must spend some part of his time looking at himself. All tools must be well-kept, clean and sharp if they are to produce vessels of honor in the Lord’s house. It would be well to examine some of the qualities that must reside in the life of a minister if he is to be entirely perfect, wanting in nothing.
The minister should be physically strong. Mysteriously, a church pastored for some length of time by one person has a way of assuming some of the traits of the pastor’s personality. The aggressive man of decisive action seems to project this same robustness into the life stream of the church. This being so, for the sake of his charge, the preacher should attempt to stay healthy. His service and preaching being in part a product of his physical body, his health will obviously have a bearing on the same.
A doctor once confided concerning a good preacher who passed away after surgery. “I know the Reverend would not have thought of taking a drink of whiskey, but he has done the same thing that whiskey would have done to some of his organs by his habits of over-eating.” This should not be. For a great and good ministry to come to an end at age fifty or before, because of a physical breakdown, is such a waste.
The ministry is a job for strong men. The muscles, of course, are not those of a log roller, but by nature of his service, the stamina and endurance of a Pentecostal preacher must be good. The Pentecostal ministry is no place for the “Fancy Dans” or effeminate men. In fellowshipping with the brethren about the conferences or camp meetings, once in a while you will shake a hand with calluses and tough fingernails. Let it be so now and always among God’s people! However, there are others who, while not strong in body, are doubly strong in spirit, and seem to do the work of ten. May such manly traits never fade from the ranks of Pentecost.
The pastor and evangelist should, without condemnation from themselves or others, take their vacations each year, and have one day a week off. The minister, because of the nature of his work, cannot always be specific in which day he takes off. Were it not for the fact that church business, plus the sick discovered on Sunday, has to be taken care of on Monday, that would be an ideal day of rest. Monday night is preferred by many for a rest night during revival, since it does give school children a rest on a school night. Inasmuch as Saturday anticipates the strain of Sunday, it constitutes little rest.
In whatever relaxation the preacher engages, it should be different from his routine work. Because of interruptions, it is better to get out of town if possible. A man who has as wide a circle of friends and acquaintances as a minister is subject to company on any day.
Some ministers enjoy hunting or fishing, while others are able to “untie” themselves completely with a short trip, a drive in the country, a picnic with the family or merely puttering about the yard or house. Man is so made that he usually comes to a normal emotional level quicker through employment of his hands and in doing something he enjoys than in any other way.
Perhaps few people, including the preacher himself, realize the beating he gives his body over the process of twenty years of very active ministry. For the Pentecostal preacher, the loss of sleep over a period of possibly weeks is a factor in undermining his health. Luckily, this is not usually continuous and, according to scientific findings, the physical stamina snaps right back as soon as more sleep is available.
The conscientious, productive pastor, who continually fills his pulpit, plus teaching each Sunday, will do almost as much creative work as the editor of a small newspaper. Add to sermon building the administrative side of the church, plus pastoral problems and the mental load. This pouring out of mental creations, ideas and important decisions wrings considerable strength from a man.
But the greatest toll taken on a minister is in the area of his nerves. Nervous energy is lavishly expended in almost every department of ministerial responsibility. There is an invariable anxiety attached to pastoral counseling, to say nothing of other involvements which embrace the entire church structure. Like Christ, the under-shepherd is touched continuously by the feelings and needs of others, each being as near as his telephone. Unlike the workman who punches the clock and walks off the job, leaving all its problems behind, the pastor is on twenty-four hour call. While he walks the streets of his community, he is not relaxed. For the sake of his church and charge, he must speak and be friendly to all at every opportunity.
This being so, not only is a relaxing diversion, participated in once each week, important and necessary, but also some form of physical exercise every day. He can get some of this in the normal process of each day if he is alert to perceive it. The habit of looking for a parking place nearest the door of the hospital or any other place should be broken. He should gladly take each chance to walk whenever possible. A brisk walk at top speed will do wonders to stretch the flabby leg muscles and make the sluggish heart pound. Thus deliberately parking the car a block or so away from his destination becomes a good health aide. Stairs are a preacher’s friend. He should never shun them for an elevator unless he is aged or physically impaired. Many busy people make it a point, for health’s sake, never to ride an elevator.
Besides what little exercise is gathered through the day, there is nothing more refreshing than a good ten minutes of calisthenics immediately after rising, followed by a good shower. Muscle tone is kept, racing blood freshens the body, bringing a sense of well-being, and the brain is made sharp and keen for the day. Precious hours are lost during a week as the result of slow starts in the morning, perpetuated by a foggy brain and a slow heartbeat.
There is not one scale, of course, that all can be judged by to determine if they are in shape physically. The physical needs of the basketball player are quite diverse from those of a preacher. Hence, if a person is physically able to energetically discharge his responsibilities in his given field of labor without undue fatigue or effort, and his weight, muscle tone and other pertinent factors are in good order, he is well on his way to being physically fit.
A Good, Strong Attitude
It is not the work that breaks the preacher but his approach and attitude toward it. If he labors indefinitely under inhibitions of fear and uncertainty, he is sure of an adverse physical reaction. Blessed is the man who learns early that he, as a natural man, cannot affect a spiritual work in a church. In fact, in the final analysis, there is little that any preacher does. The lasting good is done by God, while the minister plods along, adding his little bit. It is a golden day for the pastor when he discovers that all God asks of him is, not his result, but his faithfulness. If a man faithfully discharges his duty in love and wisdom, and things still go to pieces, he can comfort himself in that it would likely have happened, no matter who was in charge. All God expects of any man is his best. It is His church, and if He can’t fix it, what can mortal man do anyway? So long as a man can sleep well, work, relax and trust God for that which he cannot help, there is almost no end to the amount of work load he can bear.
A preacher can be ruined by self-pity. He begins to imagine that, of all men, he is the most overworked. The truth of the matter is that the average Pentecostal preacher carries hardly half the load of any leading surgeon in his town. There should be no room for self-pity even in the lives of the most ill-used. Self-pity saps courage, causes atrophy of the nerves and is the cancer of the will. Self-pity can be a man’s worst enemy, and he mustn’t give place to it – no not for the space of one hour. If necessary, he should speak sternly and unsparingly to himself, or ask another to do it for him.
Since proper emotion is a part of a minister’s stock in trade, he ought to cultivate it. To be effective he must, in some measure, wear these right feelings on his sleeve. Jeremiah, David, Peter and Paul were all men of emotion and tears. However, this tends toward morbidity if the many blessings which Christ sends are not often counted.
It is easy to be spoiled. A minister rides on clergy tickets and hardly stops to be grateful. He expects discounts at stores and for professional services. Church members are often expected to share their commissions with him. He expects a preferred standing in just about all things, and is often irritated if it is not forthcoming.
The preacher who hits the self-pity slide is usually headed for a breakdown, Annas and Caiaphas in the days of Jesus, not to mention the priests of the Middle Ages, expected preferred treatment, and their religion died in their hands. The cloak of the ministry does not hide the pettiness that is often the progenitor of self-pity. Real men do not want pity; they only ask for understanding and a chance to try again.
A school teacher in a certain school consistently had discipline problems, insomuch that her resignation was finally requested. Her trouble was not that she did not know her text, the techniques of presenting it, or her responsibility to the same. She simply could not keep order and hold command of her class. Through the years she had been unable to discipline herself. No man can lead others where he himself has not been led.
How great the compliment Jesus passed on the man who had emptied all Judah into the Jordan River bottoms. “What went ye out for to see? A reed shaken in the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft rainment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:”
One of the greatest virtues that a man’s ministry can be graced with is humility. True humility is not to be striven for as a grace in itself, but is a by-product always present when other virtues have their rightful place in the life of a preacher. Humility is not thinking meanly of oneself but simply not thinking of oneself at all, and allowing self to be swallowed up in an ideal or cause far more important. It is not so necessary for the preacher to spiritually keep his finger on his pulse as it is that he forgets himself in loving God and others. He needs to be challenged from the outside as the soldier is challenged on the field, or the surgeon is in the operating room, when they are asked for their very best.
Flattery is the enemy of humility, and every preacher, whether great or small, gets far more of this than is good for him. After his sermon, whether it was good, bad or indifferent, the people come by and pass along some kind remark concerning it. This does not happen just on special occasions, or even only on Sunday, but the average Pentecostal preacher receives compliments quite often. If a preacher can listen to this all his life without coming to believe it, he has an unusually level head. Most human beings are affected by flattery far more than is realized. Mere constant reiteration has its effect. If, on any particular occasion, the praise does not happen to be lavished, the vain one will feel neglected, though he will probably refuse to acknowledge this even to himself. Vaguely in the sky a cloud hangs, making the rest of Sunday or Monday gloomy and cold.
These kind Pentecostal people who love the ministry are neither insincere nor intentional flatterers. Perhaps some of them did not understand what the sermon was about. Their compliments were meant as a tribute to the position the shepherd holds among them and as an encouragement in what he is trying to do. These good people are for the minister in the same way the minister is for them, and they believe in the thing he is trying to do. Thus each Sunday they leave their personal endorsement. The entire service meant something to them, their best nature was appealed to by Christian worship, and it is only natural that they express this to their leader. They are perfectly sincere, but they are much more impersonal than a minister’s vanity likes to realize, and there is not as much cause to let his chest expand as he too often thinks.
Most men in other walks of life are not subjected to this temptation, at least not in the same degree. When a doctor cures a patient, everyone is glad, but there is no line of admirers drawn up outside the sick room to tell him how wonderful he is. The lawyer does not expect popular acclaim for every suit he argues, and the business man is as apt to be criticized as to the praised for a successful business deal. It is no wonder that the preacher is often grossly deceived in his estimate of himself and his ability.
In every congregation there are several people who can be counted on to come to church in a spirit of prayer, and who are saintly enough to find good in everything, including the sermon, regardless of how poor it might have been. They can be counted on to find something helpful in it and to tell the preacher so. Everyone else, out of respect, did not criticize it, so a gullible preacher, by a unanimous vote of three to nothing, assumes that it must have been great. Since a self-conceited man is so obvious and so disgusting, how important it is that the minister has the right conception of himself and be clothed with humility. Great preachers are always made out of humble men.
The preacher must be faithful. “A bishop then must be blameless . . .” Inasmuch as there are no fixed standards in this profession, a man must be all the more subjective and introspective. Laziness has often been called the preacher’s besetting sin. There is no fixed time to report for work in the morning, no limited lunch hours, no whistle for knocking off in the afternoon, so it is a moral test for one to be in entire control of his time.
Any of the varied and multiple demands made upon a minister is enough to consume all of his time. Preaching, pastoring, soul winning, administration and denominational activities, taken separately, are each fields of their own and capable of consuming all of one’s time. Unfaithfulness in any of them will react adversely on a church’s progress. None of these can be slighted by a preacher without his dereliction catching up with him in various forms of trouble. The long, hard hours of study necessary for fresh preaching, the dedication to the sick and struggling, the aggressive outreach necessary to enlist and win the lost will never be assumed by a selfish, ease-loving, lazy preacher. Only a sanctified dedication to sacred duty will perpetually drive a preacher forward into his field of labor. If he does not love God and his call, and if he has not at some point in his life learned the discipline of good stewardship, he will not keep going.
The lazy preacher has many loopholes in his profession through which he can escape if he so desires. The very nature of his work assures that he could be doing well almost anywhere and at any time of the day. If he is at home, he could be studying. It is easy to answer the door with a book or Bible in hand. If he is seen driving the streets, it is easy to say he has been visiting, though he may have made only one call. Even a trip out of town can be justified. Only God and the preacher know if he is true or a lazy hypocrite. Laziness is not appreciated in anyone, but how impossible it is to describe the contempt people feel for a lazy preacher. A man cannot leave most of the church work for his wife, never turning his hand about the house, sleeping late, and letting go to rot in general, without the congregation knowing. Often such a preacher, strangely, cannot understand why his parishioners turn away from him in disgust and his time is largely spent looking for another place to go.
This lack of ministerial standards applies in many ways. There is not a clear system of measurement to tell him if he is succeeding or failing. The doctor either cures his patient or doesn’t, and if he fails habitually, the cemetery stands as mute evidence of his inefficiency, The lawyer either wins his case or loses it, and the judge or jury pass judgment. But preachers have no automatic measurements, and any that is accepted may be misleading. Mention has already been made of compliments from the congregation as evidence of success. Often success is measured by the ability to care for the interest of the church, raising money, building buildings and increasing the Sunday School. But who can know the quality of holiness in the human heart? Thus, of all people, the preacher is upon his own honor and is trusted. Such being so, how black is discrepancy in matters where faithfulness is so believingly expected.
The strong, leading preacher must be an optimist. This does not mean that he is expected to deviate from facts as they are and eternally gloss over glaring possibilities of danger or trouble, but maturity and close fellowship with God casts out fear. A whimpering and whining preacher seldom gets much done for Christ. If discouragement is the lot of the pastor, he is wise to hide it from the church. If he will only look, always before the next service something can be found to encourage him in the Lord. Taking all into consideration, there is really little to hinder a man of God from being a buoyant and happy Christian. At any rate, if a pastor hopes to shepherd a happy, joyous congregation he must be their example.
People expect the minister to be strong enough for them to lean on and to help them bear their burdens. After all, this is why he is their leader. Everyone has his misfortunes and trials, and is often reluctant to listen to the troubles of a preacher. Sometimes there is no layman in any congregation capable of helping a preacher with his problem. He must look to God and God alone, for his encouragement.
Of all virtues, a minister should strive to add to his life that of honesty. In most all things the average Pentecostal preacher will conscientiously be found honest, but there is a lurking subtle dishonesty that is the bane of the pulpit.
There are many ways to dilute the truth. The approximate number out on a Sunday evening can be glibly and falsely stated. Swept up in the fervor of his message, his heart yearning to persuade his congregation, the earnest preacher can be given, without premeditation, to stretching facts. Untruthfulness cannot be justified by any motive of furthering the kingdom of God. Besides the harm done to a discerning audience, the loss the preacher incurs in his own soul by such misrepresentation of facts is enough to cause him to be very careful.
Great and outlandish moral sins that shame and curse the ministry and church, without a doubt, have their beginning in the preacher’s being untrue to his better self in smaller matters. A preacher should not, under any circumstances, be a liar. Fabricating illustrations and passing them off as experiences, when such never happened, is a misleading thing. He must know that neither the Bible, God, nor one’s conscience will justify his telling a lie, no matter what circumstance, nor how lofty the apparent motive might be behind it.
When a preacher gives his word, it should be regarded as sacred as a bond. If an appointment is made, every effort should be extended to keep that appointment and to be there on time. If the minister sees that he is to be late, he should call at once and let the waiting party know. Letters of recommendation for jobs, letters of membership transfer, and recommendations made to churches for preacher friends can all be pitfalls for lady truth.
Patience is a grace which must be a part of the ministry, for without it the preacher will not possess, for long, either his soul or his church. In the close community of church life many small irritants can easily develop. Under the pressure of important occasions and time limitations, it is easy to reveal an impatient spirit. Pressure reveals the true man. A minister is simply expected to remain calm and collected under trying circumstances. He cannot blow his top many times without “losing his lid” altogether. In time, prayer and daily practicing the presence of Jesus will convert the common tribulations of the ministry into a sturdy, patient personality.
Jesus was never able to adequately meet all the people’s needs in the many dirty villages and towns of Palestine. Beyond lay the far flung boundaries of the Roman Empire, lost to the uttermost. The people about Him were so carnal and so lacking in spiritual perception, craving only that which appealed to their materialistic greed. The crowd before Him pushed, hot and sweaty, against Him. After this sick one before Him would be healed, He know there would be another and then another until the day’s end would drive them home. Tomorrow would be another day, and there were other towns; the continual lifting of a stone that ever must be lifted again. Finally, beyond it all waited the cross. Such was the lot of Christ, and yet He ever remained patient. It is written that “he was moved with compassion on them.” Such an attitude breeds patience. Love engenders the tenderness and helpfulness that often needs to be extended again and again. The man who does not love people in all their limitations had better find a more compatible vocation, for people not covered by love can be a very disappointing stock in trade.
The axiom of a ditch on both sides of the road is nowhere more acutely so than in the realm of a minister’s financial management. The good man can have an income so small that he is forced to frugality in order to live within his means, and is in danger of being labeled a “tightwad.” It is bad when a preacher, because of financial expediency, is forced to act as though he has fish hooks in his pocket when the tab is laid down. He, as any man, should be able to carry his share of a common bill. By virtue of his influence, a stingy preacher can in time kill the liberality of a congregation. The other side of the picture is that of a money grabber and money waster. Between the two extremes a preacher must find a compatible position and stick to it.
The minister should be one of the sharpest buyers in town, yet not using his office for personal gain. If a discount is offered on a given item, it should be graciously accepted, followed later by a mailed note of thanks.
Sometimes it is unethical to ask for a ministerial discount. The feeling of many business men is that the preacher is paid for his services by the people he serves, the same as any other professional man. Inasmuch as discounts are not given to doctors or lawyers, why should the preacher expect it? There is no question that resentment is often felt when it is known that a well-paid minister expects the commission and profit to be shared with him.
Peace in a church, and the good will of the people, are of far more value than a new car or extra fine clothes. Adjusting one’s standard of living to the income is a must for a preacher. He must discipline himself to live without many things that he would like if he cannot actually or ethically afford them. A standard of living which is above what a church is really able to afford is not only unfair to the church, but to the pastor’s family as well. Who can determine where any of God’s men will be one year from now? It is hard to step down to less pay after one is used to lavish spending.
Impulse buying can squeeze a man into financial straits. Clutters of unneeded and unused items about a preacher’s garage and home indicate immaturity in judgment relative to spending. No preacher can afford to thus waste money. This could be set aside as insurance or some form of annuity for the coming day when his earning power is expended. The minister with ample income now is morally responsible to provide for the sunset years of his life.
Who doubts the unfairness of foolish spending now by one who will later become a financial liability to society? The manly trait of providing for one’s own and of being able to stand alone because of sound money management is a trait any congregation appreciates in its pastor.
Many a man has been ruined financially by overindulgence in installment buying. It is not necessary to say that a preacher should never establish a credit account or buy anything on the installment plan. Many, today, would have little or nothing if this provision were not accessible. Yet it is easy to overindulge, and preachers are not invulnerable at this point.
However, to become too money conscious is to lose the effectiveness of a ministry. The waters become muddied, the stream polluted, and soon the congregation sickens over the love of filthy lucre infesting the ministry. It is said that when, for money’s sake, an artist begins to paint canvas by the yard, he is through as a promising man in his field. His interest has been diverted from his first love to something that is not art at all, but greed. The same is true and more so of the minister.
The prophet’s association in the civic life of his community must be conducted with care. There was a time when the minister was regarded much more highly than he is today. He was looked up to as one set apart. Conversation was kept on the highest plane while he was present. However, such is not altogether so today.
A contributing factor in this decline of respect is the laxity of ministers of various denominations in points of social conduct and association. Very few clubs and civic organizations in a town can offer fellowship on the ministerial level. To be sure, they welcome and encourage the membership of a preacher, but sooner or later something will be offered which the man of God could not, for conscience sake, condone. Embarrassment will inevitably shame him back to what God has called him to do.
If a preacher gave his ear, time and pulpit to every suggestion and need of civic work, the preaching of the gospel would be left out. He should choose discreetly that better part, and determine that it shall not be taken from him.
One wonders why it is thought so needful by the organizers of various functions that the preacher should be there to bless it with a prayer. Such desire is not altogether an indication of Christianity, but more of a ritualistic formal procedure that smacks of paganism. There are some things God’s man cannot ask God to bless.
The preacher must be true to his convictions and to his better self, and his position should not be cheapened by offering a prayer that cannot, because of the nature of the case, be sincere. Hollow mockery, either in life or in prayer, has no place in the ministry.
This article “The Minister as a Man” was excerpted from the book For Preachers Only written by J. T. Pugh. It may be used for study & research purposes only.