by Tracie S. Burns
Last year a church in a nearby state invited our church’s ladies to their annual ladies’ conference. I have always loved ladies’ conferences with great enthusiasm. Not only do we get to hang out with other ladies, but we also get to hear great Bible truths relating directly to ladies. As soon as the announcement was made in church about this particular conference, I was more than ready to sign up to attend!
On the first day of the conference and after a long, several-hour drive, my carload of ladies arrived in the town of the hosting church. We quickly checked into our hotel, freshened up, and headed to the church for dinner and evening sessions. Stepping through the door, I was immediately impressed with themed decorations! The hosting church must have had an army of ladies working for many days to decorate and to make the church look as beautiful as it did. It was evident that this church wanted to make sure the delegates felt special and wanted. I made a mental note to find whoever had done all of this meticulous planning and work and to thank them.
We all received a bag of small gifts at registration and were provided a delicious meal before the sessions began. The evening was filled with fun, games, contests, and lessons tailored just for ladies by ladies. Clearly, this church had been planning this event for many months, and many of the church’s laypeople had worked hard to make it happen successfully.
The last of the first day’s sessions ended late in the evening. As we stood around in the foyer discussing what we had learned and making arrangements for attending the next day’s morning sessions, I briefly thought about how tired I felt and how I was looking forward to getting to sleep. I looked at my phone. It was almost 11p.m. I was anxious to get these ladies loaded into my car and to head to the hotel.
Movement from the corner of my eye distracted my gaze.
I turned my head to see what it was. Down the hall of the church a man was vacuuming. Now, we all can appreciate when anyone of the male species will vacuum, but I was taken aback by who was vacuuming. It was this church’s pastor. Back and forth he went, singing to himself and seeming joyful in his task. Despite the late hour and the fact that he was the pastor, here was the man of God doing a thankless but necessary task.
I thought about this beautiful church, decorated for the conference and ready for the next morning’s sessions. That hallway might not have been the nicest part of the decked-out building, but it mattered to the pastor that it was clean for the following day.
My dad started a church when I was eleven years old, and he pastored that church for almost thirteen years until God moved him elsewhere. He never had paid staff members. Our family did most of the day-to-day work, along with the help of volunteer laypeople on occasion. My mom was his secretary, and I grew up helping in the church office and around the church property with whatever Dad needed.
Shortly after I graduated from high school and was preparing to go to Bible college, I spent an afternoon helping my dad pour concrete for a sidewalk in front of our church building (this was basically me handing him tools while he did the hard work). The California desert sun was hot, but Dad continued to pour and meticulously smooth the wet concrete while chatting away with me, his favorite daughter. He laughingly said to me, “Well, Trace, I didn’t take a class for concrete pouring at Bible college, so you’ll be ahead of the class when you get there!”
Now, years later, on a late evening, I stood in a gaggle of ladies in a distant church’s foyer, and I listened to that vacuum hum its way around a hallway, pushed by a tired man of God. This weary but happy pastor wanted that carpet to look clean for a bunch of ladies, many not even from his church, because this church, this ministry, and those ladies mattered enough to this humble man.
To the preachers and pastors out there who work and love their people tirelessly, please know that we the church folks—we the laypeople—see you!
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see your tired face on Sunday night after you have preached God’s Word and have loved on your people all day, hoping someone was helped or rescued from making choices that could ruin a life.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see your dusty, worn shoes after you have knocked on tons of doors and have passed out flyers all week for the big day, hoping and praying that the pews will be filled and many will be saved.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see you driving that church bus before you have to preach all day because the bus driver is sick; and those kids are looking forward to one day a week when they get to hear “I love you” from caring bus workers.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see your broken heart and worried brow after hours of counseling church members who are hurting and damaged by Satan and the world.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see your concern because you have been up at the church helping others all week, and you may be worried that your family is not getting enough of you.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see the hurt in your eyes as you preach with an aching heart because the person who needed to hear this particular truth did not come to church that day.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see you spending months and years helping and loving a person, only to hear them hurl hurtful words and watch them leave the church over a simple disagreement.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see you while you hold our babies at the church baby dedication and look into their eyes and see the promise and potential there. We see you believing in them.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We see your tears as you hand our kids their high school diplomas and send them off to college, hoping they will take all the hard work you have put into them and make a difference in this world.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We need you. We need your preaching: the nice, happy sermons, the sermons that hearten us when our heads are held low, and even the scathing ones that step on our toes and warn us of sin. We need your prayers over our families. We need your handshakes, your encouraging words, your heart for the lost in sin, your burden for the backslidden, and your tears as you help to bear our burdens.
Hey, Pastor. We see you. We will not quit on you or on God; but, we need you to stick by the stuff, too. Please, do not quit.