“Don’t put your pastor on a pedestal.”
“Worship God, not the preacher.”
“Remember, he’s just a man, just like you.”
We repeat the above clichés to remind people that clergy have limits, to warn admirers not to GIVE too much to the preacher. That’s a danger, a real possibility that I’m sure happens in some congregations.
But most of the preachers in my circle of friends do not have to worry about their congregations forgetting their limits and GIVING too much. Most of us have to worry about people forgetting our limits and EXPECTING TOO MUCH.
Acts chapter 2 records the great Day of Pentecost, when the disciples of Jesus, led by Peter and the rest of the Twelve Apostles (clergy) had launched a Holy Spirit empowered revival in Jerusalem. Peter had preached a powerful, multi-lingual (Acts 2: 5-14+) sermon that brought 3,000 new members into the New Testament church (Acts 2: 41). The new church then launched a campaign of giving that brought in huge donations to support new community ministries to the poor (Acts 2: 44, 45).
So it’s no wonder that in the very next chapter, a brother on disability stopped by the church to ask Bishop Peter and Apostle John to give him “a little something just to help me out for a little while.”
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. (Acts 3: 1-3)
Everyone in Jerusalem had heard about the phenomenal growth of their church. When you have great worship, and great fellowship, and new people joining every day then word gets around.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2: 46, 47)
So here was this disabled brother already waiting in Peter’s and John’s office when they arrived to prepare for worship----- and he assumed, he EXPECTED these two preachers to have some money.
Cause: “If your church is growing then you must be getting PAID.”
Cause: “Preachers make all the money.”
Cause: “If ya’ll can help all those folks, you must have some money to help me.”
Cause: “You’re the pastor, ain’t you? Then you decide what they do with the money.”
But wait. Remember where we started.
Pastor is just a man (or woman) ----- like you. A human with utilities, a lease, bills, debts, and a credit score that may be way lower than you suspect.
An anointed man or woman of God draws from a bottomless well of Holy Spirit power, but not from a bottomless, self-refilling bank account.
Most preachers receive a salary, that is not keyed in proportion to the wealth of the church.
And, a deeply ministry minded church may give away quite nearly as much as it takes in.
Plus there’s the fact that most churches have their own institutional utilities, lease, bills, debts, and (yes) credit score.
And though far too many preachers are stingy and selfish. A negative response to your request does not necessarily mean that the preacher is being stingy or selfish.
Sometimes it just means that the preacher is BROKE.
And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have...” Acts 3: 3-6)
Peter said, “Sorry, bro. I ain’t got it.”
Because he didn’t.
No preacher should be treated like he/she is entitled to everything from you.
And no preacher should be treated like you’re entitled to everything from him/ her.
Sometimes a preacher doesn’t give material help because the preacher just CAN’T.
But the truly anointed men/ women of God should not be judged solely on their capacity to provide immediate material assistance.
The truly Holy Spirit called preacher operates in a realm of spiritual power and authority that can reach deeper than your overdue power bill and get to the root reason why you keep getting behind on your bills.
Truly called clergy are not gods, but we do work for God. And our Boss has authorized us to effect change in a willing heart---- change that won’t necessarily have a job waiting for you in the morning but can open the door for deliverance from the addictions, anger, and foolish decision making that got you fired from the last 3 jobs.
But, of course, that’s not what you expected when you stopped by to ask for help.
Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. (Acts 3: 6, 7)
When God calls a man or woman to be a shepherd of God’s people, the Lord already knows both the limits of the shepherd and the needs of the flock.
God knew that Peter and John would be broke on that Sabbath afternoon even though their church was experiencing exponential growth. But God also knew that what the disabled beggar needed most wasn’t a donation. He most needed deliverance.
The man stood on his own legs for the first time in his life. He walked. He leapt. He launched into a freestyle praise dance. He became a living testimony of God power, God’s grace, God’s provision. (Acts 3: 8-10)
But he was still broke.
The answer may be, “Sorry, bro. I ain’t got it,” but that should only be the beginning of the answer. And if it isn’t, keep asking.
Ask, “Well, what did Jesus give you to give me today?”
Receive that. It might be even better than what you asked for.
---Anderson T. Graves II is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church (5220 Myron Massey Boulevard) in Fairfield, Alabama; executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO); and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).
Friend me at www.facebook.com/rev.a.t.graves
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Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064