“Connor, I detected anxiety in your voice when you called,” said Gable as he greeted his colleague with a warm handshake. “Move the books off the chair and have a seat . . . what’s troubling you?”
“This question may sound odd, but is it normal for a preacher to get depressed?” Connor sank wearily into the chair. “I feel like such a failure . . . I can’t please anyone in my congregation.”
“News flash, pal . . . even preachers get the blues . . . we experience hurt just like everybody else. Critics exist in every congregation, but if you expend all your spiritual and physical energy on pleasing others, you lose your effectiveness for God.”
Connor sighed. “Although I work to the point of exhaustion, I can barely muster fifty souls on Sunday mornings . . .”
“Whenever you’re tempted to dwell on numbers, think about the verse that says ‘wherever two or more are gathered.’”
“Yes, but every sermon is criticized. Some folks want me stand behind the pulpit and talk for the prescribed thirty-five minutes and then dismiss for lunch. If I ruffle their feathers, offerings decline. On the flip side, the kids are bored with the traditional messages. Lately, there has been a mass exodus of young people from our church.”
Gable nodded empathetically. “Go on.”
“The petty stuff is maddening. Several church members started saying I’m being paid too much simply because I bought a new car, but I need something dependable because they all expect me to be available 24/7. Everything I do or say is under scrutiny. If I spend more than five minutes talking to someone, somebody else feels slighted. One lady keeps a running tally on the number of times I do home visitation. She actually gets on the phone and polls other members . . . can you believe that?”
“Sounds familiar . . . how about the deacons?”
Connor grimaced. “They’re disloyal backbiters . . . a visitor called my office to share that she was interested in joining the church until she overheard two deacons making fun of my wife’s voice as she sang a solo. Their cruelty deterred someone from joining our church! Oh, I know this all sounds so petty, but, I’m to the breaking point.”
The chair creaked as Gable leaned forward. “When a church is in turmoil, it becomes like a frozen pond in the winter, cold and treacherous. Only the warmth of the Son can thaw the winter chill. Look out the window . . . what do you see?”
“It’s a typical winter day, cloudy and cold.” Connor shrugged.
“Do you see any leaves on the trees?”
“No, the trees are dormant.”
“The word ‘dormant’ is exactly what I’m looking for.” Gable struck the desk with his fist. “Your church has gone dormant. The question is . . . will it survive its winter season and emerge with new growth, or will it wither and die?”
“I don’t know,” Connor said sadly. “Maybe I’m not meant to guide it . . . despite my best efforts, the growth just isn’t there.”
“Ask God for guidance . . . you can’t do it all by yourself.”
“I thought ministry was about preaching and shepherding . . . I had no idea that my worst enemies would be found in my own flock!”
“It can be difficult to distinguish the sheep from the wolves. I’ve weathered many such storms in my ministry . . . the devil loves to stir up dissension. If you give in, you’ll give Satan the victory. If you have the faith of a mustard seed, your spiritual strength will grow strong enough to move mountains in your path. Believe me, this mountain is not insurmountable.”
Connor promised to heed the advice and keep in touch. One day, he received disturbing news and called his colleague. “Gable, I heard that you were in a bad fall, and now you’re bedridden.”
Gable’s voice sounded weak. “I have a spinal injury. The doctor is not sure if I’ll be able to walk again. What am I going to do?” He began to sob.
Connor said a little prayer and then spoke. “’News flash, pal, even preachers get the blues, but if you have the faith of a mustard seed . . .”
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