The Power of Loving Your Church

Dr. David Hansen's book, The Power of Loving Your Church, was sent to me by a dear friend and fellow pastor, with whom I had shared some of my problems and pains in ministry.

As soon as I started reading, I felt a kinship with Hansen as he described "the ball cap controversy" in a former church he pastored==a conflict that nearly destroyed the church and his ministry. He went on to describe a disenchantment with many members of his flock that will ring true to anyone who has pastored for any length of time. But he didn't stop there. He described his discovery of the shepherd's task of loving both the members of the flock AND the flock as a whole. He does it by exploring and expounding the different words for love in the Bible, and how each must be shown in pastoral ministry.

Most striking was his chapter on the "'Church' With No Lampstand," his contention that "Some churches don't deserve a pastor," and his exposition of the spirit of Belial, a contentious and destructive spirit that, once it gets into a church, can destroy pastors, one after the other. It was an eye-opening and prayer-prompting chapter.

I also thoroughly appreciated Hansen's emphasis on prayer--and, in particular, "long-wrestling prayer" for the church. Referring to one difficult church he had pastored, he says,
I decided that all I could do for the church was pray. I decided to spend so much time praying that if the prayer was ineffective my ministry would fail. I still prepared rigorously for preaching, because the ministry of the Word needed to play a major role. And I still called on the sick and disabled people. But many things were simply left undone. I spent much of the time I would normally have spent trying to fix people, by praying for them. (Every time I went against that principle, the counseling failed.) I didn’t spend much time preparing for council meetings; I spent time praying for council meetings. I didn’t [Page 138] spend a lot of time showing laypeople how to do things in the church; I spent time praying that they could figure things out for themselves. This meant I had to let people fail (which some did), and then I had to take responsibility for the fact that they had not been trained properly to do their job.

If the prayer failed, the ministry failed. Then again, the way I figured it, if prayer doesn’t work, what good is pastoral ministry anyway? If prayer doesn’t work, then pastoral ministry is nothing but a chronically inflamed cultural appendix. So I stood to win either way. If long hours of praying worked, the ministry worked. If praying failed, that was fine too. I could quit pastoral work and join my former colleagues by getting a real job.

The prayer often felt so meaningless that I hoped that the project would fail. But the prayer worked. I found that I could not eject myself from the ministry by praying too much.
And, near the end of the chapter, in a spirit of humility and candor, he speaks of his propensity to often think and do the wrong thing in a crisis, and says,
Without a doubt the best venue for being an idiot is before the Lord; in some ways that is what long prayer is all about. Of course, the more crazy thoughts you have in your head, the longer you have to pray to sort them through.
The Power of Loving Your Church is itself a loving act toward pastors and the Church. It can help to heal a pastor's wounds even as it leads him or her to a new season of sacrificial Shepherd love.

No comments:

Post a Comment