Sometimes the news recycles – and the second time around can hurt worse than the first.
There was a story that hit me hard in 2013. Teddy Parker, 42, a pastor in Macon, Ga., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the driveway of his home while his members at Mount Zion Baptist Church and his family waited for him to show up to preach on Sunday morning. Parker was described by church members as a “very caring, upbeat guy that cared for people, especially with the kids. He was a good man.”
It breaks my heart when a pastor journeys so deep into darkness they can’t see the smallest ray of light.
What I had missed in the 2013 story was a statement from Parker’s long time friend and fellow pastor, Dr. E. Dewey Smith Jr., senior pastor at The House of Hope in Decatur, GA. Pastor Smith said,
“He was suffering with emotional issues. He was in treatment, but he just couldn’t step away from ministry. He needed to take a break from ministry and the way our culture is, the culture forbids that. How much do you share? How much grace do people allow? It’s hard to be honest. It’s difficult for some preachers to be honest. Every pastor needs a pastor to lead and guide them. But it’s hard for us to really find that relationship because often pastors are trying to compete with you or cremate you. And so it’s difficult to find camaraderie.”
There are three specific points in Pastor Smith’s words that echo the heart of PastorServe. These words highlight basics needs confronting every pastor.
First, pastors often need a break from ministry but there is overwhelming pressure to never step away. Pastors need rest! In far too many churches, the pastor’s job description is unrealistic, demanding an ungodly amount of hours to fulfill both requirements and expectations. Few pastors realistically possess the capacity to accomplish what a congregation demands. A pastor’s capacity is not unlimited. If you are a pastor, make sure you are taking regular time to back away from the rigors of pastoral ministry. If you are not a pastor – give grace to your pastor when the work becomes overwhelming.
Second, it’s hard to be honest in ministry. It’s hard to find a place to go where you can receive grace rather than condemnation. Every pastor needs a gospel-centered, confidential, grace infused person with whom to share their deepest secrets, fears and hurts. Purchase your pastor the gift of PastorCare, a PastorServe tool that provides coaching, care and resources. Don’t expect your pastor to share everything with church members, elders or denominational leaders. Pastors are often in need of a third party with whom they can share their heart.
Third, every pastor needs a pastor. God never designed pastor’s to walk alone. Pastors need friends. Pastor Smith’s words struck me, as they are the heart of PastorServe. We exist because every pastor needs a pastor. Whenever someone asks me about PastorServe and our purpose, I simply explain that everyone needs a pastor, and every pastor needs a pastor.
I am so sorry that PastorServe never had the opportunity to care for Pastor Parker. If we had, he would have known that there is love, grace and friendship nearby. In 2016, I am praying that pastors will know rest, care and friendship.