A Glass of Water
Many years ago, I saw a gifted pastor do something remarkable. At the time, Cindy and I were going to a large church that was in the process of searching for a new senior pastor. The interim pastor, Dan (not his real name), was a middle age man who had decades of experience in the clergy. He was also a spellbinding preacher; one of those public speakers who could enchant his audience and have them hanging on every word. We didn’t understand why Pastor Dan wasn’t offered, or didn’t accept, the senior pastor’s vacant job. The congregation loved him and he seemed like a perfect fit for the position.
One Sunday Pastor Dan marched to the stage and placed a clear glass of water on a stool beside him. During the sermon he would occasionally stand back and gaze at the half-full glass of water. Near the end of the sermon, it dawned on me that he was saying goodbye. At the conclusion of his sermon, he said no matter how hard he looked at that glass of water he saw a half-empty glass. He said he was going to take a hiatus from preaching and working in the church. I never heard him preach after that sermon. In fact, he seemed to drop completely out of church life.
At first, I was indignant. I thought Pastor Dan was being selfish or spiteful. We wondered if the church governing board had treated Pastor Dan poorly or if there was some unsavory power struggle going on behind the scenes. But now, with the benefit of years of hindsight, I realize that Pastor Dan had done us a kindness. You see, preaching and being a pastor is no different, in some regards, than any other job: pastors can burn out. They might still be able to dazzle the congregation with their preaching or teaching, but their internal passion is not immune from hitting the wall of burnout.
Pastor Dan could have stayed on as the church’s pastor, but he was wise enough to know that it eventually wouldn’t end well. His personal negativity and malaise would have led to letting his responsibilities slide. Eventually, church leaders or the denomination would have been forced to ask him to leave, and that would have caused many in the congregation to leave the church out of anger with church leadership.
I still marvel at Pastor Dan’s understanding of human nature and his selfless desire for the congregation to have the best Sheppard possible. That’s remarkable!