To my fellow ministers I always say, “you are my hero.” The truth is ministry is hard work—often underpaid and under-appreciated. One of the things I love most is “pulpit ministry” which basically means I like to stand up and talk to people about the God I know and how amazing life can be when you reconsider whatever it is you believe about condemnation and reconsider a God of love.
For most of us, we are speaking to a room full of people that we can see. It’s sort of like the actors in a play performing to an audience with the house lights on. That means I see yawns, smiles, interest, indifference, boredom, tears, laughter, and that guy who look like he’s passing a kidney stone as I speak.
Some ministers with active churches feel as if they are held hostage—beholden to an erratic and fickle Board who can turn on them at the drop of a hat. I’ve been on both sides—as an irate Board member and as that minister addressing its Board about matters of church and state. I am sorry—so sorry—for ever being that heartless Board member and pray for my former minister’s success whenever I think about her.
I once presented a “tithe” program to my Board which was designed to emphasize the importance of supporting the church as a source of “spiritual food.” Here’s what happened:
“If you presented this to me I would run screaming from the church!”
Thank you millionaire Board member. I hope your beach house in Miami doesn’t get washed away in a hurricane.
“$25 a week? I can’t afford that!”
She says waving one of her French-manicured hands while holding her $7 Starbucks venti-mocha-extra-shot-extra-pump-extra-hot-nonfat-soy-latte in the other.
As I pause to collect myself and recover from the retinal burn caused by the sun reflecting off her 4-carat diamond, I think, “Screw this!”
Ministers invest more than just time. They invest their hearts and souls and are both idolized and minimized—sometimes by the same person at the same time. Go figure.
It’s not easy to stand up every Sunday and be dazzling, but it is easy for each and every member to set an intention to show up on Sunday with an open heart and open mind. I understand we all “have our days” and that’s just fine. Even if 25% of the congregation showed up full of joyful anticipation, imagine the ripple effect. At least the minister can look at those happy faces while silently praying “this too shall pass” for the dude with the kidney stone.
I refuse not to be authentic, to play “church games”, or water down my message because I’m playing to the masses. I will not tiptoe around the Truth so you’ll be entertained and not challenged to "do your homework." And while I appreciate your “reviews” after service, I’d rather you share a hug and a smile—and a generous donation.
To all the ministers, stand strong. To all of the Boards and members and critics, stand down. These folks have put in long hours training for ministry and continue to put in more time than you’ll ever know keeping a church running. Yes, your minister is expected to lead by example, but effecting transformation in the hearts and minds of those listening is up to every individual. We can’t make you change.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Humans want to feel good, to change for the better, but humankind turns on its heroes because it’s far less painful to tear down others than make the effort to tear down walls within themselves.
Ministry is hard.
Becoming a better person is harder.
Rev. Scott DeMarco is an ordained Divine Science minister and founder of The New Thought Spiritual Center of Eastern Long Island. He enjoys doing workshops, marriages, and saying what needs to be said as a guest speaker at other churches across the country. Due to family circumstances, Scott had to leave his church in New York and has pursued a non-church, personal ministry in Cincinnati, OH ever since. One of his favorite sayings is: “Just because they’re a not-for-profit doesn’t mean I am.”