IN SPITE of all that is said regarding the secluded life of ministers, probably no person sees more of real life than the busy minister.
A noted minister put it like this: "Many people believe that clergy men are covered with some such material as cellophane at birth. Sometimes I think that if one more person comes to talk about the moral, spiritual, sexual, economic, or ethical problems and says, 'Of course, you have never been through this,' I'll have a mental breakdown! Why does any man assume what I have experienced or not experienced?"
This same minister goes on to say: "I went to a wrestling match once with a friend who said he thought it was good for a preacher to see real life now and then. I recalled some of my recent pastoral experiences. I had conducted a funeral service and tried to comfort a young mother and two children who had been left with out means of support. I talked with a young man who had been drunk for a week trying to forget a girl with whom he had been living, and who had finally walked out on him. And my friend could say that at a wrestling match I would find a chance to see real life! My guess is that the average clergyman sees more of real life in a week than the average layman sees in a year."
So professors put forth their theories of how a church should be run, how sermons should be preached, and what the conditions of life are like. Politicians point out what they in their secluded situations think the condition of our communities is. Researchers bring forth their observations and solutions to the problem of society. All of these can be of some help. But no one lives closer to real life as it is really lived than does the minister who moves among his flock and community.
Who relates more to the well and ill, the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the child and the adult, the infant and the aged, the mature and immature, the alcoholic, drug addict, the well-adjusted, the disturbed, the moral, and the immoral? Who knows more of what the real life of sacrifice, thanklessness, and criticism is? Who knows more than the minister the deep hurts of humanity? There is no area of real life left outside the touch and concern of the minister of God. He is called into the courts to stand beside the offender. He is called to sit by the bed of the dying and by the side of those whose existence is worse than death. The minister is called to share the sorrow of parents whose child has gone wrong. He is called to share the deep anguish of a dying marriage.
It isn't just hurt and anguish that he knows, however. No other person shares so many of the joys of real life. Birth, graduation, marriage, and helping people grow into mature and strong persons all are privileges he uniquely shares.
So the ministry does not limit life. Nor is it a dreary, difficult unrewarding work. It is, under God, a thrilling, unending, and ever-challenging call to real life. No wonder Phillips Brooks wrote: "If any man is called to preach, don't stoop to be a king."