December 16: “Behind the Curtain of Ministry”

Today’s Bible Reading:

2 Chronicles 18
Revelation 7
Zechariah 3
John 6

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

John 6:70–71 (CSB): “Jesus replied to them, ‘Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray him.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

I was in a conversation once with a Jesus-follower. He was contemplating whether or not God was calling him into ministry. So, I led in some honest discussion. I wanted him to know what he was getting into if he entered the pastoral ministry. We talked of church and pastoring, both the “front-stage” and the “backstage” of ministry.

“Front-stage” is performing arts vernacular and refers to what the audience gets to see. “Backstage” is what happens behind the curtain that the audience never knows about.

While ministry is not a performing art, there are aspects of ministry that the congregation sees and there are aspects of ministry at their church that they may never see. And just as the backstage of a performing art theater is messy and sometimes chaotic, so is the backstage of ministry.

In Jesus’ backstage, there was a Judas. No one knew about this. No one suspected it. But Jesus knew! I suppose that every time Jesus looked at Judas, He knew that this man would one day torpedo His ministry. In fact, when Jesus looked at Judas’ heart, He said out loud that he was “a devil.”

John 6:70–71 (CSB): “Jesus replied to them, ‘Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray him.”

Things have not changed. While church should be a place where people are loved and made whole, and while this happens very often, the pastor sees a different side of the ministry. He sees the backstage.

There is almost certainly something going on behind the scenes at your church that your pastor knows about and is forced to live with. He sees someone with unresolved anger issues who lashes out at him behind closed doors. He sees someone who is proud and will work to undermine his leadership until they, themselves, are in authority. He has someone who continually hurts him simply because they don’t like pastors because they were once hurt by one.

The list of possibilities could go on and on. I have experienced most of the previous scenarios and have heard so many pastors confide in me that they, too, have experienced them.

As the pastor is aware of these Judases in the church, he realizes that his backstage view allows him to see their heart. But he also realizes that the vast majority of the congregation only sees the front stage and doesn’t realize what’s going on. They don’t see Judas’ heart. They only see the beloved church member (front stage) when the pastor knows what they have done (backstage).

This is nothing new. The Apostle Paul pleaded three times for the Lord to remove a “thorn in the flesh” that hurt him so badly. What was the “thorn in the flesh” that he referred to in 2 Corinthians 12. Just read the previous chapter. Second Corinthians 11 tells us that evil men had infiltrated the church and were torpedoing Paul’s ministry.

It’s been my experience, and the experience of most pastors, that the greatest stress we have to deal with is not outside the church. It is a person, or persons, inside the church who have bad hearts and are wreaking havoc backstage. If trouble comes from outside the church and the congregation gets behind the pastor, most pastors will choose to take the hits and wear them as a badge of honor. But, if trouble comes from inside the church, the very place where he is called to love, lead, and feed, it may send him to an early grave. I’m not joking. You may be surprised how many pastors are on anti-anxiety meds. There are people in their congregations that are wearing them out backstage.

You need to realize that every single church has a backstage. I’m writing from experience with four churches and after possibly as many as a hundred honest conversations with other pastors. If your pastor, or his wife, or any of the others in leadership look tired and a bit stressed, realize that they see a very different picture of your church than you do. You show up to church to enjoy the Lord while they show up wondering if they’re going to have to fight another battle. You show up to church to get filled up while they show up to church to get emptied out. They love Jesus and the church and are fighting for truth and righteousness but they are often hanging by a thread.

So pray for your pastor. Pray for his wife. Pray for the rest of those in leadership and their families, too. Almost certainly, you have a “Judas” in your church that you don’t know about but your pastor knows his/her name. He’s seen their heart and has almost certainly already been hurt by them. He also realizes that given the chance, they will consider torpedoing his ministry.

Without knowing all of the details in your church, why not simply, regularly, passionately pray 2 Timothy 1:7 over your church’s leadership and their families:

2 Timothy 1:7 (CSB): For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

Then look for ways to be an Aaron and Hur, holding up their hands (Exodus 17:10-13). Your church’s experience of victory or defeat has everything to do with the well-being of those the Lord has put into leadership over you. Hold them accountable when they sin but love, and affirm, and help, and follow them if they are honoring the Lord and his Word. Let them do their jobs with happiness (Hebrews 13:17), not anxiety and all sorts of other negative emotions.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord Jesus, I want to pray 2 Timothy 1:7 over my pastor, the rest of my church’s leadership, and their families. The Holy Spirit, that You have given to them, is not a spirit of fear. So, Lord Jesus, I pray that you would strip them of any fear or anxiety. If I see either of these in their eyes, help me to think of creative ways to encourage them and lift them up. I also pray that the Holy Spirit will provide them with an overflowing well of power, love, and sound judgment. Your church and your kingdom need healthy, strong, compassionate, Spirit-filled leaders. So I commit to praying for my church’s leadership from this day forward. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Photo by team voyas on Unsplash

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

2 thoughts on “December 16: “Behind the Curtain of Ministry”

  1. My friends and I have tried many times to come to a conclusion as to why you left Westside….we all loved you and your family so very much….my feeling is that it had to be a series of things….you were overwhelmed with work, we did not give give you a much needed assistant! I know there were some problem folks in the membership too! I know you aren’t going to reveal the reasons to me….just know that we still miss you, we still pray for you and your sweet family and your ministry!

    Merry Christmas! Allison

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Allison, you and the ladies in your group have always held such a special place in Kim’s and my heart. Your continued encouragement, your obvious love for the Lord, the fact that you showed up weekly to the church sanctuary to pray, … all of this and so much more make you all a blessing to any pastor.

      Regarding Westside, we left because we believed the Lord was done with us there. While there is always more to the story of a pastor’s departure for another ministry assignment, we essentially believe that God’s oversight and calling are the reasons for those transitions. We submit to His authority and our answer should always be “yes” when He speaks.

      Finally, this article isn’t directly tide in any way to my current church or any of my previous church assignments. It is a general principle that applies to virtually every congregation and pastor. I believe it to be periodically helpful to usher my readers into the backstage of church life so that with a greater understanding, they can pray for their pastor, his family, their other leaders and their families, and their churches as a whole.

      Thank you for being such a blessing.

      Like

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