Brooks: Pastoral Whiplash Syndrome

Published 12:22 pm Saturday, October 21, 2023

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By Michael J. Brooks

Thom Rainer in his Oct. 7 Church Answers blog called it “pastoral whiplash syndrome.” He told of a pastor receiving two emails in a single day—one from a recent and complimentary visitor, and the other from a disgruntled leader resigning his post. Most ministers have experienced something like this. A friend defines it another way; moving from hero to zero and from big shot to buckshot!

Ministers must maintain good mental health in order to cope with various emotions. Of course, there’s the joy of children, the joy of new Christians and the joy of weddings. But there’s also the sadness of disease and death. I remember several weekends in which I had both a wedding and a funeral, plus a full day on Sunday.

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A local pastor told me about an email he got from a lady who chaired the search committee that brought him to her church. Baptists understand how we elect a team to go find a pastor to replace the one who left. It used to be that the team would surprise the prospective pastor by showing up unannounced in a service, although one committee came to hear me and drove the church van with their church’s name plastered on both sides! Today most of us are online, so these surprise visits, along with the expense of them, aren’t as necessary.

But back to the local pastor. The lady emailed to tell him she and her family were going to the bigger church down the street. The pastor said he was sad since he and this family had become good friends. He thought they might sit down with him or call rather than send an email. I agree this exchange seemed a bit distant. People do go to different churches sometimes, but there are better ways of doing this considering that a local church is a spiritual family who’ve bonded through weddings and funerals and baptisms.

Rainer used another unique phrase in his blog: “keyboard cowards.” It’s true that a keyboard can make one feel “ten feet tall and bulletproof,” as Travis Tritt sings. Sometimes there’s no accountability nor emotional attachment in a keyboard message.

I used to get news from a social media site and enjoyed the instant updates. But often the posted replies were pretty vile. Someone described this site as “where kindness goes to die.”

Focus on the Family designated October as Pastor Appreciation Month. Not that we needed another emphasis since most churches have more than enough. But this is a good time to send a kind email to the pastor, or a handwritten note, to thank him or her for being there for every wedding, every funeral and every baptism.