When I was a kid one of my favorite TV shows was “Twelve O’Clock High.” The show was a drama set in World War II. I didn’t pay much attention to the actors. I loved the B-17 Flying Fortresses. I thought they were graceful and cool.
Each show usually featured several bombing missions. Sometimes the squadron went on a “milk run.” That was a mission to a lightly-defended target. But most of the missions were to heavily-defended targets. As the bombers neared these latter targets, they encountered flak, or anti-aircraft fire. With calm and precision, the pilot flew his bomber through the explosions all around him. He did his best to lead his bomber team to the target and drop the bombs. The cockpit rattled as the aircraft shook from the force of the flak. Sometimes the bomber was hit, damaging it. If it was badly damaged, the crew might have to “bail out,” jumping out and hoping their parachutes would open!
As I think of pastoral ministry today, I think of those bombing runs. Some days I feel like the B-17 pilots in their cockpits nearing the target. The puffs of flak are all around and the aircraft is being buffeted by their explosions. The flak comes from many sources: people who think we’re too liberal, people who think we’re too conservative, people who think our music is too contemporary, people who think our music isn’t contemporary enough, and so forth.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with two good Baptist minister friends. All of us were at fairly healthy churches. Yet both of my friends were fed up. One was making preparations to leave church work entirely while the other was considering it. Sadly, I hear much same sentiments from other pastor friends.
Ministry is tough these days in most Baptist churches. It’s definitely no milk run. When I get ready to “bail out” I try to remember my call to ministry. It happened when I was about 16 years old. It’s like a fountain I return to when I’m empty and dry. Another thing I’m trying to do is develop more supportive relationships with other ministers. It’s interesting that whether we’re Southern Baptist, CBF Baptist, or whatever, our problems are mostly the same.
I have to go now. It’s time to crank the engines for another run!