Towing the Tow Truck

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Leadership, Life, Ministry
Tags: , ,

A few years ago, I was on my way to church to celebrate my Pastoral Anniversary. Customarily, this is the time of year when the church pauses to honor and appreciate the work and ministry of the Senior Pastor. While this should have been a time of rest and relaxation for me, I found myself in a semi-depressed state. I had been dealing with several challenges in my personal life, as well as in the ministry, and, quite frankly, I was in no mood to celebrate. In fact, prior history had taught me to expect at least one major crisis to creep up during the week of my anniversary.

Can I get a tow?

As I drove to church pondering these thoughts, I noticed something out of the ordinary on the side of the highway. A huge tow truck had broken down and was stuck on the side of the road. The instrument designed to help others when they were broken was now broken itself. I immediately began to think of myself and other pastors and spiritual leaders who have devoted their lives to helping the broken. Many pastors serve as “spiritual tow trucks” helping to transport people in their churches and communities from brokenness to healing. But what happens when the tow truck is in need of a tow? Where does the pastor go when he or she is broken down on the side of the highway of life?

Recent revelations of indiscretions and failings amongst prominent men and women in the pulpit only serve to highlight the need for all clergy to have a safe place where they can go, be open and transparent, and, ultimately, be healed. While there is no excuse for sin, we must be careful that in our haste not to CONDONE sin in the pulpit, that we CONDEMN the servants in the pulpit. Pastors, like the parishioners in the pews, are human beings with flaws and faults. It is imperative that we do not flaunt the flaws of others nor magnify their mistakes.

While the individual is held personally responsible for his or her actions, we do all hold a corporate responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all – including men and women of the cloth. Clergy and congregations must provide mechanisms for the pastor to find healing when he or she is broken. The Army sends wounded soldiers home, but most pastors are required to heal while still on the battlefield!

The highway of ministry is littered with broken down tow trucks of pastors who, for whatever reason, were never afforded the opportunity to heal. While it is important that we provide mechanisms for these broken down tow trucks to be towed to safety, it is even more important for us to provide preventive maintenance to ensure that no pastor finds him or herself in need of a tow.

While many in the pulpit and pew hold a “Physician, heal thyself” mentality, there are some things that require external assistance. Even doctors have to go to the doctor sometime. Every pastor needs a pastor. Additionally, every pastor should invest the time and money in seeing a professional counselor. Many pastors spend a lot of time engaged in the counseling of others, yet never receive counseling themselves. As a Nationally Certified Counselor with a Masters in Pastoral Counseling, I was required to go through counseling. When you spend so much time dealing with other people’s issues it is often difficult to deal with your own. Counseling helps.

In addition to counseling, many pastors and spiritual leaders simply need rest! The vast majority of pastors are overworked and overwhelmed. Many do not have the luxury of a sabbatical or retreats, but these are essential aspects of a healthy spiritual life. Like that old tow truck, if we don’t take time to REST, we will eventually RUST.

Those of us who have ever been towed back to health by one of these “spiritual tow trucks” must do our part to ensure that they never find themselves broken down on the side of the highway of life. An African proverb states that, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it often takes a collaborative effort to tow a tow truck. Clergy and congregation, pulpit and pew, must work together to ensure each other’s collective mental and spiritual well-being. When done correctly, it probably looks something like this.

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Comments
  1. Ronnie Edge says:

    Very poignant, timely and honest. By showing your vulnerability, you also show others how to achieve victory…

  2. nelson says:

    thank you for this. I plan to share it with my pastor.

  3. J Steez says:

    Very profound Dr. Hanchell and a very relevant subject for today’s Pastor. I WILL share with my own. (Looking for the “Towing the Tow Truck” book to come out!)

  4. Phil Stukes says:

    Very good article! In light of recent events (Pastor Timms, Long etc), timely as well. It takes Godly humility and wisdom to proactively take this path especially when so many think the Pastor is “Superman”. Liberated and empowered people/congregants also help, my opinion.

  5. Bishop Walter Hanchell says:

    Congratulations on your new blog. This article really ministered to me in particular the section that dealt with rest. By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dr. Hanchell. Hope you enjoy a no-agenda day.

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