Dear pastor (an imaginary letter)

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Dear pastor,

I’m writing this letter to you not because I don’t value you and thank God for you. Quite the opposite. You are God’s gift to us at church. Your leadership and love and teaching have been used by God in many ways to help me and those around me to grow.

I’m writing because there are some things that pastors tend to do and say that perhaps have unintended effects on those they lead. So please read this in a spirit of charity. Some of my generalisations may be wrong. But I hope raising it with you will help you be even better at ministering to the people God has placed under your care.

So here goes.

Dear pastor:

When you frequently refer to the Greek and Hebrew (or the ‘original’) in your teaching, it can make me feel like I’ll never really understand the Bible I’ve got in front of me.

When you speak or post on Facebook about your wonderful wife and adorable kids, it makes me feel like a failure because my marriage is a struggle and my kids aren’t that gorgeous.

When you elevate the importance of full-time Christian ministry, it makes me feel like there’s not much I can do to serve God in my secular employment except to give money.

When you emphasise the importance of Word ministry but come under-prepared to teach and preach, it makes me wonder how important it is to you.

When you ask us to invite unbelieving friends to church, but when they come, you don’t really make an effort to meet them and greet them, I feel a little betrayed.

When you guard your day off as something so sacred that you can’t even take a phone call, and yet our church regularly schedules activities and meetings on everyone else’s days off (i.e. weekends), I feel it’s quite unfair.

When you appeal to cleaning or morning tea rosters needing to be filled or finances needing to be raised but never appear to be leading by example, it makes it hard for me to joyfully serve and give.

When you push the importance of training but don’t demonstrate growth in your own skills in leading, counselling, preaching or teaching, it demotivates me to take time out to upskill myself.

When you always appear tired and busy, it makes me afraid to approach you for requests, trouble you for a conversation, and feel like I have a right to take up your time.

When the only times I hear from you is to plug an event or organise a meeting (including on Facebook), it makes me feel a little used in our relationship.

When you talk about the importance of confession and repentance, but never share about your need for grace, it makes me wonder if you need the gospel as much as you say we do.

Dear pastor, I understand that some of these things will be really difficult for you to read, because they are intensely personal and probably mostly unintended. But I write them because I know that while God gave you to us as our leader and shepherd, you’re also our brother in Christ. And so part of our role in the body is to help you as much as you’ve helped us.

Thanks for reading.

Your faithful member, brother, and friend.

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About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on February 15, 2014, in Church, Ministry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I actually love it when ministers talk about the greek and hebrew behind the english translation of the bible we have. So many non-Christians criticise the english translation of the bible, saying it has been twisted from the original versions and we can’t really trust it. If we know more about the original versions of these books I think we can defend the bible better! Also, some translations of the bible quite simply use words that actually aren’t the most accurate translation of the original greek/hebrew and it’s helpful to know that when trying to understand what the passage is saying. Particularly as some of those words just don’t have an equivalent in English. I don’t think it means we can’t understand the bible for ourselves. It just think knowing those things mean we understand it BETTER.

  2. To Leah, still Greek and Hebrew need to mentioned in public with extreme caution and scarcity.
    To the imaginary writer,
    I know this letter of reply may appear extremely defensive and offensive at the same time, and may sound like another typical example of the minister failing to listen or sympathize with people in the pew, but can I say, at the outset, that I really really appreciate your love and trust of me, not least in the courage of approaching me with this candid letter, which is full of good points. I shall certainly endeavor to correct and improve myself with God’s gracious help, and with the best of my ability. Please continue to pray for me, which is best help you can give to your pastor.
    Can I also say that I am also a fallible and flawed sinner in need of God’s forgiveness/correction as well as the forgiveness/correction of other people, especially people God has placed under my care. So if I have hurt-ed or disappointed or neglected you in any way, let me offer my sincere apology. Please forgive me as a fellow-brother, and please continue to open toward me, not least in pointing out the areas that I need improvement.
    These said (and sincerely meant), there are a few points in your letter though, that I still feel obliged to make a response, not really to defend myself, but to make it fair to my fellow-ministers, many of whom don’t have the good fortune of having an honest and courageous parishioner like you, and consequently have to suffer criticisms at their back.
    1st, on the point of day off. Yes I do guard it as sacred, because while Sunday is a day off for most people, it is my busiest and most draining day of work. So theological reasons aside, physically and mentally I do need that day to recharge by putting off the nitty gritties of ministry. Believe, this will be good for the church (you included) in the long run. However, I don’t personally believe that ministers need to guard their day off to such an extend that no phone call can be taken. Hence if you couldn’t find me, it’s either the phone is switched off or I happen to be somewhere else. So if it’s really urgent, do contact me and try other ways if the phone doesn’t work.

  3. I was going to continue commenting but the computer started to glitch. So after rebooting, I left some simpler comments on the FB instead, which should be enough.

  4. Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ’s affection,
    Greetings you in the precious Name of Lord Jesus Christ. Please
    pardon me for taking liberty to introducing myself If to your
    benevolent presence.
    This is pastor John Namavarapu. Likhitapudi Village, Saripalli Post,
    Narsapur Town, West Godavari District A.P. State, S.India. Our Church
    situated in Likhithapudi Village. Among Idol worship communities. We
    named our Church, SEA COAST GOSPEL MINISTRY. Our’s is voluntary
    service. 70 pastors were working under our ministry and individually
    performing Gospel Service.
    Our Service performing regions are all River and Sea Coast areas.
    Dwellers are 75% heathen and Idol worshippers. Many of them earn
    their daily bread through various labour works including fishing work.
    (Fishermen). Among them our gospel preachings were going on.
    Many people very anxiously receiving our teachings and who ever deeply
    inspired and coming in and taking Baptism. We are exciting
    towards our doing work and for the favourable consequents.
    Many of our pastors going by walk, village to village and preaching
    the good news of God’s kingdom. Because due to poor state of living
    and lack of any support they are not being suppose to deserve a own
    Bicycle.
    Livelihood of all of us (Pastors) depend upon the subscriptions of
    Gospel work. Very often cyclones occurs in Bay of Bengal. Eventually
    continuous rainfall, floods, devastations of corn fields and Fish and
    prawn tanks. At this Natures hits Labour detain at home and starve
    for food with families.
    When the subscribers in catastrophe how can they offer subscript to
    the gospel worker, and how will be the living state of pastor, you may
    please imagine. We too some times confronting hungry circumstances in
    family.
    More over Destitute widows were in our Church. They were converted
    into Christian faith. At this old age they can’t labour for daily
    bread. They need at least one time bread per day until receive the
    call from Lord.
    In addition to that, during Gospel campaigns we are noticing orphan
    children while roaming with half necked wearings without proper care
    and literacy and nourishment. On Identifying such children our
    hearts were breaking in grief. But what can we do how can we sustain
    for them? Except pray our Lord to show them a way of future life. If
    possible, we are impressing together all of them at one place and
    provide their needs and take care to lead them towards education,
    Devotion and discipline for their future.
    I request your Devine and spiritual prayers support viewing our
    pastors monthly help, or bicycles, much more financial assist for
    Destitute widows 15 in number and an orphan home for 24 children
    comprising boys and girls.
    By God’s grace, if God touch any ones benevolent heart, I am requeting
    them to please support financially also as possible as you can by
    selecting any one project of the above.
    Our prayers too sending God burdenly to open His treasures, through
    any of His blessed children to support the above needs.
    Thanking you in Jesus Loving Name.
    Yours in His Service,
    (Pastor N. John)

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