It’s Thursday morning. Pastor Doug has a clear calendar, an aberration in his busy schedule. Actually, the calendar is not really clear; he has set aside time to finish his sermon for Sunday. His Bible is open; study aids are nearby. He begins to study.
Then the phone rings.
His assistant tells him about a car accident involving a family in the church. The ambulances are already on the way to the hospital. Doug leaves all of his study material on his desk and jumps into the car.
On the way to the hospital, his assistant calls him again. The entire Godsey family of five was in the car. None are seriously hurry except Gary, the father and husband of the family. His condition is grave.
Pastor Doug walks into the emergency waiting room. The family has just been told that their husband and father did not make it. They see their pastor and run to him sobbing, in total shock. Doug is there for them. He stays with the entire family for three hours until he is certain that enough people are around to care for them.
He stops by his home to see his wife and grab a quick sandwich. It is now afternoon. He’s not sure if he can return to his sermon preparation, but he knows he must. He must fight the emotional exhaustion of the morning, and finish the message. But as he walks back to the church, his assistant apologetically tells him that two people need to speak with him. They consider it urgent.
Doug meets with the two men. One of them is the worship leader of the church. He is struggling with his ministry and is considering giving up. For two hours, Doug listens, consoles, and attempts to encourage the staff member.
The next visitor then catches Doug off guard. George is one of the key lay leaders in the church. Doug considers him a friend and an incredibly vital person in the overall leadership of the congregation. George struggles to speak: “My wife is having an affair . . . “ There are no more words for 15 minutes. Just tears and sobs.
Doug stays with George for over two hours. They pray together and talk about next steps.
It’s nearly five o’clock in the afternoon. Doug is too drained to attempt to get back to his sermon. Instead he begins to look at his crowded email inbox. He cringes when he sees one of the senders of an email. But he cannot stop himself from opening the message. It’s from one of Doug’s most frequent critics in the church. She has two complaints. The first irritation was something he said in last Sunday’s sermon. The second complaint addressed Doug’s failure to visit her sister-in-law who had minor outpatient surgery yesterday. The sister-in-law is not a member of the church. And Doug knew nothing about the surgery.
And Now Evening
Pastor Doug shuts the laptop cover and moves to his car slowly. He’ll stop by the house to grab a quick bite to eat. He needs to check on the Godsey family. He will stay with them for a while, but he must leave prior to 7:30, when he is to give the invocation for a local high school basketball game.
Several people get his attention at the game, so he doesn’t get home until after nine o’clock. He goes to his small study in his home, shuts the door, and begins to cry.
Gary Godsey, the father and husband who was killed in the car accident, was Doug’s best friend.
This was the first chance Doug had to grieve.
A Call to Pray for Pastors
The story is true. Only the names have been changed.
In a few weeks, I will be initiating a call for church members to pray five minutes a day for their pastors. Will you make a commitment today, even before the initiative? Will you commit just five minutes a day to pray for your pastor? Will you ask others in your church to do so? Will you pray for their strength, protection, wisdom, and families?
Will you pray for just five minutes?
Posted on May 16, 2012
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Hi Dr. Rainer,
This particular entry is of personal importance to me because I am a current doctoral student and the focus of my dissertation research is in preventing pastoral burnout. I have been looking all over the site for a personal email address in which to send you a correspondence related to this, but have been unable to find one. I “took a guess” based upon other Lifeway emails that I have seen on the site and I sent it to that address, but if it doesn’t get to you, is there possibly another email that I might be able to send it to? Thanks!
You are welcome.
Absolutely. Thanks for asking.
What a great last name.
Thanks for sharing.
Wow…Conviction has set in. I am not a busybody nor a complainer in my local church. In fact I feel that I strongly support my Pastor and try to make his job easier by not being “needy”. But oh my does my prayer life not refelct the effort it should for the man chosen to lead the church I am so blessed to be a part of.
Hi! Dr. Thom,
I would like to thank you for your blog, it is such an encouragement to me!! I also would agree with the previous bloggers, but I don’t mind you looking over my shoulder.
May I copy this and send it to a friend, who I think needs the encouragement? I will be sure to lead him to the blog.
Yep. I know what a mean and bad and tough preacher your are : )
What I really know is how much you love the people of your church, how much your heart breaks when they hurt, and how much you sacrifice for them every day.
Yep, I’ve been to your church. I know. I know you. I know what God is doing through you. You may not see it in the trenches every day, but God is changing the world through you and pastors like you.
By the way CB, this post will be part of a little book I’ve written called “I Am a Church Member.” I’ll send you a copy when it’s released next April.
I don’t have to look over your shoulder. I know how much you labor for the Lord’s flock in the Northwest. I am aware of some of the sacrifices you have made. People like me may have some level of visibility and notoriety but, in God’s economy, you are the real hero. Thanks for all you do friend.
This story is a very true reflection of many such days in my life and the lives of countless others, a great number of whom are now just broken and gone from their ministries that started out with such great desire, hope, and promise.
Thanks Thom for writing this. I wish there was some way to put this article in the hands of every member of Southern Baptist churches in this nation.
I have known and witnessed many good men who broke under this load. They did not want to break, but they did. They did not break because they did not love Jesus, their wives or children enough or because they did not spend enough time in prayer and Bible study for personal edification. They just broke.
Even I have come close to breaking a few times through the years and, as you know, I am known as the meanest, baddest, toughest Baptist preacher in the history of the world. (I hope you know that last statement was an effort at humor as I read and respond to this gut wrenching, reality post you have so well written. I don’t really believe I am any of that and hopefully I am not.)
Again Thom, thank you for writing this and maybe some laymen somewhere will read it and be reminded of these realities in a pastor’s life and some young fellow full of hopes and dreams will be spared a road so many before him have followed to a world of hurt and despair.
Good work, Thom Rainer and well done!
In Christ Free,
Gee, Thom…have you been peeking over my shoulder? Though some of the events you described may not capture some of my days, it sure sounds familiar. Thanks for your work in encouraging folks to pray for us!
You’re so right. I didn’t have to look far to find the story. There were many more poignant stories I could have cited.
My husband’s father is a pastor, and this could easily be a day in his life with no exaggeration. The superhuman expectations placed on a pastor by his flock exceed what is realistically possible, and when these expectations are not met, criticism abounds. If we prayed half as much as we criticized…