TEN WAYS TO KILL A PASTOR
By Reverend Christopher I. Thoma
102 pp. Grail Quest Books. Available from AdCrucem.com
Rev. Chris Thoma’s book, Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor, contains a series of bleak sketches that chronicle unspeakable cruelty in Christ’s own church. After the tenth vignette you’ll understand why so many churches have adopted corporate structures where the pastor is a CEO with a contract rather than a mere called and ordained shepherd.
The book is partially autobiographical, but amounts to a small repertoire of gruesome stories that most pastors are all too familiar with. Just one Winkel could likely produce 100 additional stories about the creative ways in which pastors and their families are tortured and maimed by their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Invisible” wives, scrutinized children, pathological parishioners, supercilious supervisors, greedy congregations, destitute parsonages, anonymous bomb throwers, punishing schedules, ungodly church leadership, thoughtless peers, and general dishonesty — it’s all in the book, which can be read in a couple of hours.
Sadly, the church militant is frontier territory with plenty of rough characters dishing out retribution whilst singing hymns and filling the offering plate. Many parishioners will surely recognize local versions of the stories, and perhaps even find themselves in them. Unless, however, you are, or have been a pastor / pastor’s family, it is impossible to fully empathize with the victims.
Pastors and their families occupy a no-man’s land in their calls. The pastor is supposed to be focused on stewarding the mysteries of God so that poor, miserable sinners might be sure of victory over sin, death, and the Devil. What really happens is that we demand men who are expert theologians, academics, administrators, logisticians, friends, confidantes, counsellors, confessors, trouble-shooters, psychologists, law-givers, disciplinarians, entertainers, peace-makers, politicians, dispute resolvers, and many dozens more roles and vocations.
Since the pastor is always preparing you for death, you can never be his BFF, no matter how congenial he is. The office is simply unapproachable at a certain point unless you are a fellow pastor. So it is an office also burdened with a measure of loneliness. When you pile all the other stresses onto it, it is clearly only by God’s grace that any of these faithful men survive to retire in the pulpit.
Pr. Thoma notes that he was never prepared for the “trial, strife, discord, anger, venom, and yes, even violence,” during his Seminary training. Fortunately, there are organizations like Doxology, which provide spiritual care and counsel to pastors and their families.
Since your pastor can’t always be on retreat, your first duty is to not be a twit. Treat him with the dignity and respect he deserves because of the Office he occupies. Hold him in awe because he stands in the stead and by the command of Christ, able to grant and withhold forgiveness. Take time to understand his family’s welfare and happiness, and treat them with special consideration. Why? Because they often feel like orphans to the late night phone calls, unnecessarily long meetings, counseling sessions benefitting strangers, weddings, funerals, Synod bureaucracy, isolation from friends and family, and many more stresses.
More than anything, make sure that your pastor also gets to regularly hear the Gospel for himself. Help his wife and children to hear the Gospel, and not just the words of a husband and father on just another day of the week.
Note: the author is an owner of AdCrucem.com