I have been reading, “On Preachers,” by John Wesley. It is a treatise written to all preachers but in particular his own Methodist preachers. In speaking expressly of hindrances to the pastoral ministry, Wesley made one statement that caught my attention: “Should not compassion, should not tenderness, hinder us from giving pain? Yes, from giving unnecessary pain. But what manner of tenderness is this? It is like that of a surgeon who lets his patient be lost because he is too compassionate to probe his wounds. Cruel compassion! Let me give pain, so I may save life. Let me probe, that God may heal.”
This aspect of pastoral ministry is hard for many pastors and congregants. No one likes to be the cutter or the cuttee. But what many in the pews don’t understand is that the sword of the Word is always a two-edged sword. The man or woman behind the pulpit will bleed as much, if not more, as the persons being ministered to. I can’t write and preach a sermon and not take a look at the man in the mirror. God has not called perfect men and women to preach His Word. They are his spokespeople, who must weigh the power and authority of the Word in their own lives, as well. The congregation may hear the sermon once, but the preacher has rehearsed it many times before it reaches their ears. So the next time you feel the preacher is picking on you, know that they have also picked on themselves getting it ready for delivery.