It’s hard to be a pastor, but not for the reason you think.
DECEMBER 5, 2023
It’s hard to be a pastor, but not for the reason you think. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
This is Key Life with our host, author, and seminary professor, Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru, he’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.
Thank you Matthew. We’re studying Proverbs, and if you were here yesterday, and we’re doing it by subject, not line upon line and precept upon precept. The Book of Proverbs doesn’t lend itself to that kind of study. It’s almost a study of subjects, not of themes. Well, at any rate, yesterday, if you were listening, and some of you weren’t, you never listen to me, we were looking at Proverbs 3:3 through 4, which is a great statement.
Let mercy and truth forsake you, or let not mercy and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.
And if you were listening yesterday, I talked about my friend Rosaria Butterfield, who is a former professor of women’s studies. An activist, lesbian, who Jesus found and radically changed her. Has a Ph. D. from a, and we, and I told you about how she mixes mercy and truth. It’s not easy. We land on one side or the other. We either speak truth and offend everybody. Or we give mercy and we cop out on truth and people don’t even know what we believe. And what the Book of Proverbs says is that bind both of those around your neck. How do you do that? Well, it’s hard. In fact, that’s one of the hard things about being a pastor. You know, I want to be loving and kind and forgiving, but I want to speak truth and I don’t want to compromise truth. And I want to do that in my ministry, but I certainly want to do it in the pulpit when I’m teaching Scripture or preaching. For instance, when I would teach on the subject of divorce, the Bible is really clear about that. And there isn’t much wiggle room, don’t do it. But I was talking to a congregation, in fact, every congregation I’ve ever served, and I’ve only served three or four. Every congregation I’ve served had a significant number of people who were divorced. So, how do you deal with that? Well, sometimes I would open up the service and say, If you’re divorced, and you’ve married somebody else, I don’t want you to listen to me for the next 15 minutes. Because this is not meant for you. And then I would say something like, if you’re thinking about divorce, don’t do it, or you’ll get the hives or something like that. I mean, I was really hard on staying, the most important thing about marriage is don’t leave. And I would really lay that out strong. And then I would say, now, if you’re divorced, I want to say something specifically to you. God loves you. He loves you more than you could possibly believe, and you’re forgiven, okay? You’re forgiven, and he starts where you are right now. So, run to him. He’s a good place to go with the things that have hurt your life. And when I did that, that was wearing mercy and truth. around my neck. Now, I could give you a thousand examples of places where I haven’t done that. And so you’ve got to ask God, you’ve got to say, God, help me to take this lesson that you teach so often and you modeled in your Son, Jesus. Take those lessons and apply them in my life because I get it so wrong, so often. Sometimes the mercy causes me to sell out, and sometimes the truth causes me to hurt people. And I don’t want to do either one. And I believe that God does that. I told you yesterday I’d tell you the story about my encounter with the editor of a gay lesbian newspaper in Miami when I was a pastor there. We had a man in our church who was a politician and he had gone after those who were in the gay and lesbian community and said some pretty harsh things. In fact, he got the truth right, he just didn’t get the mercy right. And so, this newspaper decided to do a hit piece on him. And they decided to do some research. They found out the church he attended and the name of the pastor, which was me. And the editor called me and said tell me about, and then mentioned my member’s friend. And I said, listen, I know what you’re doing, you’re going to hit him hard and I can understand why you’re doing that. But you’re not going to get any information from me. He’s my brother. And I don’t talk about my brothers to other people ever. So, call somebody else, don’t talk to me. And the editor was kind of taken back. In fact, he was kind of harsh. And I said, but if you got a little bit of time, I’ll explain my friend to you and what he’s doing, even when he messes it up. And he said, well, okay, I’ve got time, explain it to me. So I did. I said, the first thing you need to know is that I’m not throwing rocks at you. I can’t. My sins are worse than yours. I mean, I, if I start doing that, Jesus is going to be ticked with me and I don’t want that to happen. Because I bring my sin to the table, the message of the gospel is that we’re great sinners and we have a great Savior. And that is what it’s, I don’t care what anybody told you. I don’t care what you thought or the narrative you believed about the church. That’s what the church is. And I told him, in fact, when somebody joins the church, in essence, they’re saying to the world, I messed up. I’m a horrible sinner. I’ve got to get someplace where people understand and I can be forgiven. That’s what the church is about. Now, people get better, or at least some of them do, and some of them don’t. But that doesn’t change the truth that’s in the Bible. And then I told him about some passages in the Scripture. And I said, that’s not to beat people over the head with. That, those passages are there, like all of the laws in the New Testament, to send us to Jesus, and to get hugged, and to be forgiven. So, my friend understands that, but he doesn’t say it very well. He understands the truth part, and he speaks that too harshly. But that’s where he’s coming from, and I wanted you to know. I wanted you to understand him before you do your piece on him. And as I was talking, and we were talking back and forth during that conversation, it sounded one sided and it wasn’t. As we talked, he got softer. He got kinder. He, and you know what happened? They put the piece that they were going to do, the hit piece against my brother, they put it aside, and they never used it. It’s an example. It’s Proverbs 3:3 through 4. And notice how that ends.
If you put mercy and grace around your neck, on the tablet of your heart
then the writer of Proverbs says
So find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and of man.
I had high esteem from that editor. And Rosaria Butterfield, that I was telling you about yesterday and mentioned in this broadcast, she has high esteem. In fact, when she became a Christian, and it really messed with her career as a professor of women’s studies and a lesbian activist. It really did. She didn’t lose her friends. How do you pull that off? She must have compromised. No, she didn’t. She’s in your face, man. She speaks the truth so clearly that there’s no wiggle room. But there’s so much mercy, and there’s so much love, and there is so much gospel in what she does, and sometimes in what I do, that Proverbs 3:3 through 4, becomes a reality in our lives. And so, looking at this subject, ask God to give you mercy, and you’ll never get it unless you know how much mercy he has shown you. And then ask him to give you the truth, so that you never compromise it, so that you never shilly-shally, so that you never back off. Once you see truth, he can’t unsee truth. And that’s what Christians are called to be in our world. We’re supposed to be people who bind mercy and grace around our neck and write them on the tablet of our hearts. When we do that, when we demonstrate that, the world changes. You think about that. Amen.
That was Steve Brown continuing to guide us through the subjects found in the Book of Proverbs, a series we’re calling Street-Smart Christians. More from Proverbs tomorrow, hope you’ll join us. Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it challenging to get my heart ready for Christmas. There’s so much to do, so many places to be, so many cookies to eat. It’s a lot. If that sounds familiar, then you are the exact person I want to speak to. We’d like to send you a special free gift from Key Life. It’s a booklet called Christmas Meditations, and it’s a reprinted collection of Steve’s writings on the real meaning of Christmas, the Incarnation of God in Christ. The booklet also includes Scripture and devotional questions to help you focus and reflect on the impact of Christ’s coming. Get it now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. If you’d like to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Again, just ask for your free copy of the booklet called Christmas Meditations. Finally, if you’re still listening to me, then you must really value the work of Key Life. And if that’s true, would you support that work through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card, you can include a gift in your envelope. Or you can now give safely and securely by text. Just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950, then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.