Leaders’ call

I am writing in response to religion columnist Terry Mattingly’s piece (Jan. 19 Tribune) about pastors who are, essentially, afraid to do their jobs because disgruntled parishioners will make it difficult for them through criticism, intimidation, etc.

Toward this I have a few points I would like to make:

1. While it is true times are tough for churches and hard on pastors, we do it because we are called to it. A true call trumps the challenges every time.

2. While it is also true that in this new millennium in America there is a culture of entitlement and incivility, it is still usually only a slight few who make it so difficult. By and large, it has been my experience that churches are still full of the very best people who truly want to make a positive difference in the world.

3. Clergy are not the only people who find it impossible to please everyone; try talking to anyone who deals with the public and everyone in a challenging leadership role. Coaches, political officers, hospital and school administrators, the college presidents and many, many others — including newspaper editors — all face the same kind of challenges of trying to impart vision and lead an often resistant community of constituents with limited resources. A true leader will never please everyone, but trying to do so will lead to all kinds of misery.

I would like to close with a quote from my colleague, United Methodist church pastor Adam Hamilton, who spoke at the recent President’s Inaugural Prayer Service on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday: “Imagine how the world would be different today if Dr. King had bowed out of leadership because it just got too hard, had he not stopped to pray, to seek God’s reassurance.”

Thanks be to God for all our great leaders who possess a tough skin and a tender heart!

Tony Dawson, pastor of Hastings First United Methodist Church

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