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Why art thou downcast, O preacher? Oh, should’ve guessed — it’s us, right? Yes, yes, we the people of God are a stiff-necked-bow-legged flock, prone to not only wander but to waffle as did the fathers and mothers who so sensuously begat us. You’re in a hard place, we realize that, what with the megachurch being so passé these days and everybody going small church, but let not your heart be troubled because it won’t be long until some remember the reason they left the little church was the hootenanny music and potluck heartburn. We applaud your efforts to make us fully devoted followers but we see ourselves as part-time saints at best and that suits us fine, just fine. Tell you what, here’s a bit of advice, please "receive it in the spirit in which it is intended" which we all know (wink) is logorrhea for "this might hurt." Nevertheless, hear us out. This is what we need from you:

Remind us of the mercy.

Please, please don’t stop doing that, whatever else you may do (and we’ll put up with quite a bit because for the most part we’re docile) but please don’t stop telling and retelling us that God loves us, better yet that He even likes us. Behold, we’re in the ring with the bulls, O preacher — the neighbors can’t afford a school backpack for their little girl and the other neighbor lost her husband last week (only forty-nine, by God) and the troubled man two streets away split with his gentle wife and the ink’s not even dry on the paperwork and he’s already got an old flame burning via Facebook and us, well we’ve put our hands to the family plow only to find that briars and thorns are the usual reward of our labor and we’re just about to get the kids through school and wouldn’t you know it, the parents start breaking down and now there’s trips back home to hold Daddy’s hand as he slips beneath the surface of time and Momma is gradually forgetting the names of the children she nursed at her breast and we could go on but you know most of that because you always ask with the sincerest eyes. Still, we don’t always tell you everything that’s going on because sometimes the woolen-shame of our lives leaves us cotton-mouthed; we have lips but cannot speak.

So regardless of what bright-lights-moderate-ego conference you attend and even in spite of what the elders may say (and we’ve heard they’re squeezing you for measureable results), just keep telling us of the mercies of our God, how wide and deep and grand and fresh-each-morning they are, because that’s what’s getting us from Sunday to Sunday, that’s what’s getting us from breath to breath. And that’s really your calling. Sure, we say we want other things from you, but most days we’re mostly bluff, so do a little of that active listening you’re so skilled at and hear between our lines and don’t be disquieted, O preacher, for you see we need you, not to play the game for us, but to play it with us, to help us remember the God who so loved this cockeyed world that He gave and gave and gave and giveth still. His mercies they fail not and His faithfulness is great indeed, but we get spooked easily and thus forget. Point to the cloud by day that covers all.

Hope thou in God, O preacher, for it is He who healeth our countenance, and that includes yours, too. Amen.

P.S.:  We pray for you every day. Don’t give up.

John Blase preached for over a decade but then he thought he'd go where the money is, so he started writing poetry. He's a lucky man with a stunning wife and three kids who look like their mother. John lives out West but he'll always be from the South and that suits him just fine. His books include Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas; Start With Me: A Modern Parable; and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (co-written with Brennan Manning)

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Pastor Sandy .

commented on Oct 9, 2012

I loved this article, John. We all need to be reminded once in a while of the unknown sufferings of our folks. I usually/almost always include a messsage of love in my sermon, but this will serve to remind me that in addition to His love, God actually likes us! Blessings

Myron Heckman

commented on Oct 9, 2012

I wonder if while God's love is steadfast, His liking us may be more conditional. Anyway, as the article points out, it always helps to keep in mind that there are broken hearts in the majority of seats, and a deep crisis in every pew. We can comfort His people by faithfully declaring God's faithfulness and the hope that is in Him.

David Buffaloe

commented on Oct 9, 2012

Good points. Love you, Brother! Keep praying for us, too. I've been chewed on by more cannibalistic sheep than you can write poems about - as have many of us pastors.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Oct 9, 2012

Not quite sure what to think of this article. Do we need to preach mercy? Of course! We all struggle with sin because we still live in this sinful world in our sinful flesh. I never preach that we will be perfect until we get to heaven. God's love for us never changes no matter what we do. But we need to understand, when we are saved we are saved from the penalty of sin, then as we grow in our walk with Christ we are being saved from the power of sin, and one day we will be saved from the presence of sin. We are now in the part where we are being saved from the power of sin. God expects us to grow. And although I am not what I should be, thank God I am not what I once was! I have grown in my walk. I have gotten victory over certains sins that once ensnared me, and we as preachers are to encourage people to grow in their walk. To encourage them that they too can get victory, which means we preach against sin. We should never let people feel comfortable with the attitude of "we see ourselves as part-time saints at best and that suits us fine, just fine." We are to preach the full counsel of God's Word which includes, reprove, rebuke, and exhort. (2 Tim. 4:2). We need to preach mercy, but we also need to preach the need for holy living and God's chastisement if we fail. (Hebrews 12:5-8). So while I agree that we need to preach mercy, I'm not sure I agree with the overall content of this article.

Gary Millar

commented on Oct 9, 2012

Well done for a plea from the pews! Too often preachers want to tell what they've learned from their sermon studies. Or the sermon is disconnected with what life throws at us on Monday morning. God does love us. His Word applies to every aspect of our lives. Preachers do need to see past the bluff and show us that in Him we do live and move and have our being. Thank you for a great, short reminder of that.

James Flint Mccormick Iii.

commented on Oct 9, 2012

Great points by all. I agree with Bro. Dennis concerning ministering the whole counsel of God, which includes the mercy aspect of God's nature. But, in my ministering of God's mercy I usually stress that, If our Christian walk is one of not putting much value on obedience, which will bring the blessings of God into our life, then we will be men most miserable. Why? Because as important as God's mercy is, God is not obligated to show us mercy every time that we stand in the need of mercy. So learn to live depending on God's covenant promises and not on His showing mercy in order for us to survive day in and day out.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 9, 2012

@Dennis, I too was somewhat uncomfortable with the statement about being fine with seeing themselves as part-time saints at best. As a teacher, I constantly witness the power of having high expectations for my students. I tell them repeatedly, from the very first class period and throughout the semester, that I believe every one of them can earn an A in my class. Not all of them do, of course. But there is always one or two each semester who, in spite of many unfavorable circumstances, do get an A who might not have done so otherwise had someone not opened up that possibility to them! So as a teacher, I refuse to allow my students to be satisfied with "part-time" effort. I would hope pastors would do the same for those of us under their care. But as I think about it, preaching mercy becomes even MORE important in the context of high expectations. Because we will fall short of those expectations, we also need to be reminded that God does not give up on us, even when we are tempted to give up on ourselves. I think that is the overall point of the article. So while I agree with you about that unfortunate sentence, I'd assure you that that is not the main point, and I wouldn't let that turn me off to what the author is trying to say.

Dan Jackson

commented on Oct 9, 2012

I'm fully aware of all the qualifiers. But this message hits the spot. What the world hungers for is God's mercy as expressed in Jesus' attitude toward common people gone wrong! Thanks! I'm sure the woman at the well and the thief on the cross would say, "Amen"

Dennis Cocks

commented on Oct 9, 2012

@ Bill, one unfortunate sentence? I think it goes much further than that. The writer makes pastors out be be unfeeling, uncompassionate people who are more worried about their "ego" than the people they pastor. I think it is a rather condescending article. There is a much better way to remind pastors of the need to preach mercy. And let me add this, I really don't think you can be certain of the author's intensions in what he wrote. Only he truly knows what they were. Don't get me wrong, we as pastors are not above criticism, but this article just doesn't seem to show "mercy" to pastors. We are not all alike.

Doug Conley

commented on Oct 10, 2012

Ezekiel 33

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 10, 2012

@Dennis, I really don't mean to get into an argument with you. I spent most of my comment describing how I agree with you! And yes, only an author can say for sure what he or she intends to communicate when writing. (Of course, that sword cuts both ways--you also can't be certain that the author intended to come across as condescending, or that he intended to depict pastors as unfeeling, uncompassionate, and more concerned with their egos than with the people they lead. It's possible that BOTH of us misunderstood the author.) Yet, discerning what an author intends to communicate is what reading IS. If we can't have some degree of certainty that we have understood an author's intention, then what's they point of reading? You understood the article a certain way, and have the freedom to comment accordingly. I understood the article a different way, and I also have the freedom to comment accordingly. Finally, as to whether the article showed "mercy" to pastors. Perhaps you're right. At least, I understand why you might think so. On the other hand, I've seen plenty of pastors on this site be quite unmerciful to authors and their articles, so I guess it goes both ways. Not to say that it's right. But if pastors who make comments that could be interpreted as showing little mercy can defend themselves by saying that they are well-intentioned, perhaps they can give that same benefit of the doubt to those authors who do likewise.

Pastor Sandy .

commented on Oct 10, 2012

The author says We applaud your efforts to make us fully devoted followers but we see ourselves as part-time saints at best and that suits us fine, just fine. He is admitting that we, as preachers, attempt to make them fully devoted followers, but they resist. Isn't that the case, always, and isn't that why we have to repeat the same lessons over and over and over? And do it willingly and lovingly?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Oct 10, 2012

@ Bill, I wasn't trying to start an argument with you, just expanding on what I had said in my prior post because I do believe it goes further than one unfortunate sentence. Once again we see how writing something can come accross in a way not intended, I didn't intend for this to be an argument. I do believe that you can tell an author's intentions for writing something most of the time. But I also believe it is possible to not know fully what he was saying and why he is saying it. I was simply pointing out the possibility of that fact. Do you not agree? You did say you can understand why I would think this article didn't seem to show mercy to pastors. Also I did say that we as pastors are not above criticism. So again, I wasn't trying to start an argument with you.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 10, 2012

@Dennis, forgive me for any misunderstanding on my part. @Pastor Sandy, those are some good thoughts. I can say from experience that repetition is one of a teacher's best friends!

Frank L Johnson

commented on Oct 10, 2012

I really appreciate the fact that he chose his true calling. Using literary license which he is very good at:) In my view his considerable pastoral experience is illuminated in a insightful but humorous manner. Simply another way of recognizing "we all fall short." Yes it is serious business this exhortation for the sinner to salvation. The burden is heavy for those who tread out the corn. Hearts are hard, necks are stiff! I have experienced it repeatedly. But honestly, the levity gave me respite and a brief chance to give pause and reflect. I could use it. Finally, he prays for God's preachers and encourages us to not lose hope. That takes care of any misgivings or misunderstanding I may have. In His Grace!

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