He was a charismatic personality with a great, handsome smile. He sang and played the guitar like an angel. He always dressed sharp and had a commanding, Alpha presence. He noticed my ability to sing at that age, and quickly involved me with his teenage daughters, who also played musical instruments and sang.
To me… Pastor Nuñez was almost like a Moses on steroids. At that age I had assumed that Pastors were closer to God than the rest of us mortals…and so I had concluded, that if I wanted to be as close to God as they, that I should enter the ministry. After all these years, I’ve become very sure of my Pastoral call… And yes, whether people want to believe it or not, it is true that most Pastors are more aware of the divine than most. This is true, not because God treats Pastors with preferential treatment, but because God-fearing Pastors suffer a great deal, and oftentimes, the only friend they have that they can trust, is the God that hides in the darkness of our bedrooms.
The Pastor I admired so much fell into an adulterous affair that destroyed his growing, store-front ministry in Brooklyn, N.Y.
My young heart was devastated, and I remember crying, even though I really didn’t understand what adultery was. I just knew that it was “bad.” Of course, the other adults that went to church and were friends with my parents, made no secret of their disappointment… which was heavily accompanied by merciless criticism and judgement. To most, Pastor Nuñez was simply another “hypocrite.” But in my little heart, I knew that there was more to the picture than meets the eye.
After growing up, and growing old in ministry… I’ve come to realize that at the tender age of eight, the Lord was already preparing me for my own future ministry, and even the lack of compassion and the loneliness that one experiences as a faithful Pastor. Yes, there is more to the picture than meets the eye.
Out of all the dangers that one must strive to survive and overcome (and they are countless), the greatest of all is ending up with a hardened heart that is hidden underneath a perfect facade. In fact, many a Pastor have come to lose their own soul in the ministry. Others have to leave the ministry in order to save themselves and their families.
No one in this world gets trampled as much as Pastors do- especially Pastors of small, problematic congregations. You will be used, humiliated, treated like a dog and spat out when no longer useful. Your well-being will come second to everything else, and you will be the emotional punching bag of the church’s control freaks.
At first, you will have a lot of people who “love” you… but after a while of preaching the Bible without compromise, you will find out that most people sitting in the pews do not go to church for the same reasons that you became a Christian, or even entered the ministry. Most churches are social clubs made up of “friends” or “cliques.” Any Pastor who seeks to transform a congregation from a “clicky” social club, to an assembly of DISCIPLES, will suffer…guaranteed.
The good news is that most Pastors who stick it out through the hard times of a congregation, eventually gain an enormous amount of respect and admiration from the community, and even a loving group of disciples who will cherish his or her teaching. But the danger of developing a hardened heart is still there, in spite of all the eventual success.
There are 2 things that we can do in order to prevent a hardened-heart:
- Immerse yourself in the Bible- Believe it or not, most Pastors do not read the Bible beyond the readings that they will use for their Bible studies and/or Sermons. Nothing in this world should be more important to a Pastor than reading the Scriptures. Immersing our lives in the Word will keep God and his will fresh in our minds and heart… And not only that, we will be able to draw comfort from the parallels between what we read and our ministries.
- Burn out rather than fade away- I know…most people will disagree with this advice. But part of the problem with Pastors is that we live guarded lives. The Christian life is a Cross… The only way that we will see the Resurrection is if we’re willing to die to ourselves and give all to the work of the Gospel. When talking about God becomes “shop talk” that should be suspended for secular entertainments, then we run the danger of living a double life… There is no such thing as being crucified “part-time.” Of course, we should rest… but even when we rest, we should not try to disconnect from what and who we are. We are PASTORS- 24/7. We are shining stars in Christ’s hand 24/7.
The error of my first Pastor was to feel sorry for himself… A sense of “deserving better” is detrimental to the ministry. His adulterous affair was a quick-fix for his sense of being defrauded by those he was serving. It was a form of suicide… only worse, because he “killed” what he loved most… Being a Pastor.
When you signed up to be a Pastor in Christ’s Army, you did so knowing that the only thing guaranteed to us is the Crown after the Cross… Not success… not a fat paycheck… not a retirement plan… and certainly not a big church.
To love like Christ loved oftentimes leads to death. Don’t resent the evils and betrayals of fellow humans… Doing so will harden your heart and you will become worse than them. Forgive…Love…Accept your lot… Let go of resentment and feel sorry for those who get out of their way to hurt you, for in the end… Christ WILL RECOGNIZE YOUR SACRIFICES before everyone- while humiliating those who did you harm.
No matter what… Don’t let your heart harden… Give yourself entirely to the ministry and leave the rest to God.