In the last month I have had the blessing of hosting 3 different preachers in my home. The first was a preacher who had been laboring in South Africa for the last three years and is back in the states for the first time. The second is someone who has preached the gospel for several more years than myself (he was in Iowa for almost as long as I have been preaching). The third has not actually started preaching. He was in the middle of a move and needed a place to sleep. It was interesting to me to listen to the stories that we have told about various hardships we have faced while preaching the gospel. In same ways, I was able to do something that I haven’t done in a really long time. I was able to be open and honest with someone about what was going on in my life.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love the saints here. I appreciate all that they have done for me and my family. But the life of the preacher comes with “strings” attached that the average Christians simply is unaware of.
Did you know that your preacher feels like he lives in a fishbowl? Yes, Paul taught Timothy to be an example unto the believers (I Tim. 4:12). However, the pressure he feels as he lives in that fishbowl is extremely difficult. Often times preachers are not just feeling the pressure to be an example, but he feels like is to be THE example. He is to be so perfect that the members of the local church do not find any weaknesses in him at all. He can’t appear to struggle with temptation, he can’t appear to actually sin, he can’t appear to have any doubts whatsoever. And it is not just he that lives in the fishbowl. If he is married, his wife lives in that same way. If he has kids, they too must live in that fishbowl. The preacher often carries with them the pressure of having not just a perfect life, but a perfect wife, perfect kids, a perfect marriage and so on. The wife must perfectly compliment the husband. The children must be perfect in their obedience to their parents. The preacher often feels that any failure on this means that he is unsuited for preaching.
This leads many preachers to feel isolated from those whom he seeks to serve. How many times have you called up the preacher asking for advice, asking for help, asking for prayers? How many times have you opened your heart to your preacher because you feel that you are at your wits end? You call him because you trust him. You turn to him because you feel that he can understand. You look to him because you know that he won’t judge you for feeling this way. But, who can the preacher turn to when he needs help? If he is having marriage difficulties the preacher is often afraid to confide in another because he is worried that this seeking of advice might detrimentally impact his position of influences with a congregation. If the preacher is tempted by sin, who can he turn to for spiritual strength in the local congregation? Often times the answer is no one. Sure, he might have a buddy from college, he might have a preacher mentor he can call once in a while, but those friendships are not the same as friendship that is developed through intimate conversations over the years (something that most non-preachers will develop). But, not preachers. They are often too afraid of the consequences of pouring their heart out and just leaving themselves bear before anyone in the local church.
What can you do to help your preacher? I wish I could you an easy answer. Yes, every preacher wants to hear those encouraging words of good job. Every preacher wants to hear that they are appreciated. I am personally comforted when a person mentions me in their public prayers. However, that is not the same as saying, I am here for you. I am not here to judge you. If you sin, I won’t be casting any stones. If you aren’t perfect, that is okay, I’m not either. Or, how can I help you? And even more important than that, to actually mean those things. In the end, you have to ask yourself, what type of environment are you providing for the preacher and his family? One that cultivates his spiritual growth or one that cultivates his spiritual demise by trying to live up to a standard that only Christ can live?