Spring is slowly awakening my garden. We don’t plant much food. A little lettuce. Some beans. Still it is nourishment. In order for us to get the nourishment from this small plot, we need to tend the plot, ensure adequate water, and get rid of the weeds. It is neither instant nor effortless.
Often times the image of feeding is used to speak about preaching. The words we speak as preachers are intended to “feed” the congregation with the life-giving Word of God. In other words, the congregation comes expecting that there is soul-food for them on Sunday. They have been busy and occupied, but come in expectation that the food is ready for them.
But let’s extend the image. If providing nourishment is neither instant nor effortless, the question is what does the congregation need to do to ensure that the nourishing food will be there for them? How do they “tend” the pastor? I know what I need: time for study, time for mulling things over, time to hear God address me. I need resources – like books and programs that help me sort things through. I need people who reflect with me about life with the Lord – both colleagues and members. In others words, every sermon is a result of a process of prayer, study, reflection, and interaction. It seems to me that if a congregation wants food on Sunday, it ought to nurture the process that achieves it.
Our church culture does not always do this. Between the demands of pastoral care and teaching, administration and denominational obligations, and a host of little things that impinge on our lives there are numerous ways in which the process is not protected or nourished. As a pastor I am reluctant to bring this matter up, especially since my own elders may want to take this as a hint. It is not. I feel supported and encouraged. But I bring it up so that elders can fulfill their obligation to provide encouragement to their pastors.