I just had a conversation with a student pastor serving in another part of the state. He is doing a great work serving God and discipling teenagers. He shared with me that recently he came home from time away with his ailing father, which followed time with students at camp and on mission trips. Upon arrival home he was notified that he needed to come to the church for a special meeting.
“Special meetings” are rarely good.
As is often the case, this meeting was called because some parents and teenagers were “concerned.” That’s Baptist church-speak for “We don’t like you or what you’re doing.” The concerned people had called the pastor, had voiced their complaints concerns and were expecting something to happen immediately to rectify the situation.
This pastor weathered the storm presented and remains at the church now. As with any “special meeting” full of “concerns,” there are often constructive items presented. You may have to listen more closely, but since none of us are perfect and we all can do some things in ministry better, a discerning ear is helpful.
As this brother shared the story of this very depressing gathering with me, I affirmed his calling, his qualifications, his ministry, and the fact that from all I could tell (from my perspective) he is exactly where he needs to be. He is in the center of God’s will and as we in ministry all know, that is not a safe place, but it is a good and right place.
Whether an associate pastor, a senior pastor, a church planter, or ministry lay leader, there are always those who tend to show up, wanting a “meeting” so they can “share” how you have failed them. In some cases, the insight is needed. In others, it is detrimental.
I am reminded of Nehemiah. The story of Nehemiah is incredible and should be preached and taught regularly and not just when a church is trying to build a new building. As Nehemiah was working to repair and build the wall around Jerusalem, per God’s orders, there were some who wanted to have a “special meeting” with him to let him know their “concerns.”
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were three concerned citizens. They hated Nehemiah. They hated what he was doing and desired to stop him at all costs. There’s much to the story, but I go to the passage where Nehemiah apparently had had enough. He saw through their ruse and spoke clearly to them with power and strength. It was an Old Testament mic drop.
Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:1-3 ESV)
Nehemiah basically said “I don’t have time for this. There’s work to be done.”
Sometimes we just need to say to those seeking to keep us from the work God has called us to do “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
It’s easier said than done and as an associate pastor or one under the leadership of another, not attending such a meeting may not be an option. Yet, it is wise to remember that the enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy…and sometimes he does so by distracting us from the work of the gospel God has called us to.
Every pastor and ministry leader will have a Sanballat, Tobiah, or Geshem in their ministry. I would not recommend calling them by those names, but it is wise to recognize them. Otherwise, you may spend all your time in “special meetings” seeking to make a small group of “concerned” members happy and the work God has called you to do will remain undone. Oh, and remember this – you will never please Sanballat, Tobiah, or Geshem. Ever.
So, keep working. Stay on the wall. Press on and know that the work you do is more than special.