June soon will be “bursting out all over,” and across the ecclesiastical landscape many ministers will be moving to new assignments, or at least many Methodist ministers will be.
The Methodist way of managing its minister members is a wise one. After consultations with local church leaders and ascertaining their needs, the conference bishop decides when pastoral reassignments are appropriate.
The system avoids the conflicts and sometimes split congregations that occur in some denominations over the tenure of their pastors.
In other denominations, especially Baptists, preachers change churches when God or the congregation tells them to, or they get “called” to a better paying pastorate.
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I greatly admire ministers. Occupying a church pulpit is no piece of cake.
Ministers spend long hours preparing sermons, some of which is lost on the desert air of indifference of some congregates.
They have to be politically astute, careful not to offend or ignore their parishioners, most of whom expect to be addressed by name within two weeks of a new minister’s arrival.
Preachers frequently have to compete for attention against the wails of discontented babies, restless teenagers or drowsy parishioners who stayed out too late on Saturday night.
Speaking of diversions, I recall an incident that occurred in the rural church of my childhood.
One Sunday as the choir was making a joyful noise unto the Lord, a couple of women down front were avidly exchanging gossip. When the anthem ended, one woman’s voice echoed across the church, “I always fry mine in lard!”
The clergy is a 24/7 profession that calls for diversity, ranging from sermonizing to eulogizing, baptizing to confirming, comforting the bereaved, uniting in holy matrimony, ministering to the sick and afflicted. Ministers are held to higher morals than any other profession. They have to be politically astute, careful not to offend or ignore their parishioners, most of whom expect to be addressed by name within two weeks of a new minister’s arrival.
There are always critics, some of whom would find fault with The Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus Christ himself.
I know of one church member who was irritated because the minister consistently misused “lie” and “lay.”
“I was glad when he moved on,” he said. “I tired of my teenage son elbowing me in the ribs every time the minister muddled the grammar.”
A December 2015 Gallup poll on most ethical professionals, to my surprise ranked the clergy sixth, behind nurses, pharmacists, doctors, high school teachers and police officers.
I think it incumbent on me to inform you that journalists rank ninth on the perceived ethics scale.
Fortunately, today’s ministers are allowed to live more normal lives than their predecessors of yesteryear. I recall an incident in which a Raleigh minister dropped by the liquor store to pick up a bottle of Chianti.
Fortunately, today’s ministers are allowed to live more normal lives than their predecessors of yesteryear.
As he moved down the aisles, he ran into one of his church members who exclaimed, “Why, reverend! What are you doing here?” to which the quick-witted clergyman responded, “Well now, I might ask the same question of you.”
A sense of humor is a professional requirement as the profession, like lawyering, is often the butt of jokes.
I remember one anecdote in which a the minister announced at the end of his sermon that he was leaving for another church.
“Jesus,” he said, “has called me to a church that pays twice what I’m paid here.
“Jesus has called me to a congregation that provides me four weeks vacation.
“Jesus is providing me with a parsonage much more impressive and better furnished than yours. Jesus is furnishing me with a Cadillac instead of a Ford.”
The preacher than strode down the aisle and out the door, leaving the stunned congregation sitting in silence
Finally, the chairman of the board of deacons arose and said, “Let us now stand and sing all four verses of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
So, in closing, I suggest we lift a glass of goodwill and appreciation to those who seek to make us better spiritually, whether they’re serving one of the mega-congregations of America or the membership of a “a little brown church in the valley by the wild wood.”
Snow: 919-836-5636; firstname.lastname@example.org