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The Secrets of a Pastor’s Heart

“Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

They were killing Jesus. They would run up and spit on Him, then back off and laugh and call Him blasphemous names. They would quote His words back to Him and dare Him to come down from the cross and prove Himself.

They were mean-spirited and ugly and hate-filled.

Jesus loved them.

As they killed Him, He prayed for them.

That, my friends, is a pastor. A shepherd. A lover of God’s people.

The heart of a pastor is a thing of wonder.

Something inside me wants to say preachers either have hearts of a pastor or they do not.  And if they do not, they should reject every invitation from search committees to become pastors because it’s a perfect set-up for disappointment on his part and disaster on theirs. The preacher who can deliver a fine sermon but who is unavailable and ineffective during the week one-on-one should ask the Lord to show him other ways to use his gifts and calling.

The pastorate is not for him.

On the other hand, I imagine a large segment of pastors have dominant urges to study and preach, but with a minor, if you will, in the actual pastoral work. Even so, any minister of the Gospel without a strong appreciation for the people of God and his accountability to God for their care and nurture is missing something essential in his makeup.

Case in point.

Hunter and his wife have been family friends for many years. But from our frequent conversations over the last few years, Hunter’s pastor seems to have been AWOL the day Heaven handed out the quota of “pastors’ hearts.” (That would be one per person, presumably.)

For reasons unknown, he did not get his.

Hunter says his pastor insists he received a calling from God and a love for God’s word. What he missed out on, however, was a love for God’s people with the accompanying desire to see them prosper in Christ. (Please allow me to give no more specifics on this. Even though it may appear otherwise, my purpose here is not to dump on this brother. He is not on trial and I’m no prosecuting attorney.)

I do grieve about this, however, because Hunter and his family need a pastor now as much as ever in their lives. My friend is being brought down by a terminal disease. We’re told he has one year to live at the most.

The hospital where my friend has been treated is some miles away from their small town. But their pastor has been mostly a no-show.

A close friend of mine who serves a church in the area has been calling on Hunter and praying with him and his wife. One morning this week, Hunter’s neighbor, an 84-year-old pastor of another denomination, walked into the hospital room at 8 o’clock. He ministered and prayed with Hunter the way pastors do.

Two hours later, I walked into Hunter’s room. After an exhausting weekend of ministry, I had driven 200 miles the night before in order to spend a few minutes with my friends who are going through the darkest valley of their lives.

It’s what pastors do.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.