What Pastors Have Never Learned

June 7th, 2011
Pastors are Not Magicians.

I learned a lot in seminary.

It’s a good thing too, because it cost a lot of money.  Chances are, your pastor paid a lot of money to go to seminary too.

During that time, I learned how to read the Bible.  I learned how to perform weddings and baptisms.  I learned how to protect my church from scam artists.  I learned how to counsel couples, singles, and addicts.  I learned how to B.S. a research paper whose topic I found trite and useless and still earn an “A.”  I learned how to serve communion, give a three point sermon, deal with conflict, and visit a sick person in the hospital.

All in all, I learned a lot about how to be a good pastor.

But there was one thing I did not learn.  Not after three years, ninety credit hours, and thousands of dollars, the one thing that would make being a pastor a complete cakewalk . . .

The One Thing I Didn’t Learn

. . . I never learned how to force people to have a deep spiritual experience.

There were no lectures or class notes on how to call down God from heaven and make him change your life.

I have still not figured out how to make God strike your brain with lightning and give you a life-altering epiphany.

At best, I can try to scare you, or attempt to make you feel emotional or sentimental for a few moments.  But I can’t do anything beyond that.

Seminary seems like kind of a ripoff when you think about it that way.

You Can’t Make Me!

Things would sure be tidier if running a church was less like herding cats.  But your teachers could never make you learn, could they?  No, they could make you do the work, but if you were bound and determined to remain an ignorant little cuss, that was your choice.  And your parents could never make you like vegetables.  You’d have to eat them, but you didn’t have to like them.  And your coaches could never impart talent to you, right?  I found that out through many years of P.E. classes.  I learned on probably Day Two of my marriage that I couldn’t make my wife do one thing I wanted.  Despite everyone trying to control you from the day you were born, most everything about who you are has been completely up to you.

The Most Important Part

Maybe your pastor can actually call down fire from heaven or heal people or walk on water.  He’s probably spending the next twenty-four hours preparing his message and coordinating with the worship leaders and making sure everything is just right . . .

. . . But he can’t make you care one ounce about any of it.  He can’t make you believe what he says, or do what he says you ought to.

The most important part of worship, more important than the singing, the preaching, the money, the communion, the coffee, the side-hugs, is the one thing the pastor can’t influence or control.  Only you and God can change your life.  Plenty of churches want you to think they will change your life.  They are lying.  Churches can change your schedule, and that’s about all. Maybe we’d solve some problems in our lives just by believing that church can’t change our lives.  

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