That’s “attitude” brethren, not “altitude.” It’s presumed that all SBC pastors will be “high” on Sundays when they are with the assembled congregation and when they ascend to the pulpit and preach God’s Word.
But what about attitude? It’s important and I confess that some of the 48 or so Sundays each year I arrived at the church building with a bit of an attitude problem. Here are a few, not in any particular order of frequency or importance:
1. All messed up about numbers. When attendance had been good, had been up, when a large crowd was expected, I generally had a more optimistic attitude. When attendance was down, there was less of a positive attitude. There’s no good reason for either of these other than that we are trained, sometimes overtly, sometimes subliminally, to feel successful if numbers are up and unsuccessful if numbers are down. Since most SBC churches are flat or declining, most SBC pastors will view flat or declining numbers this Sunday and most every Sunday. There’s no credit with either the Lord or the congregation for being angry, depressed, or self-pitying about this. Do your best. Be at your best. God will be present.
2. Cracks in the model family. It’s tough that your wife and kids have to attend the same church as their beloved husband, father, and pastor. Sometimes on Sunday mornings the lovely household is hectic, frantic, surly, or generally not at their best. There’s nothing wrong with your wife and/or kids staying home on a Sunday. You, pastor, rarely have that option. Do your best at home. Support your family when they need it. If you have well-meaning (or nosy) matrons in the church who want to walk next door and check on your wife or kids, tell them you think she has ebola and it would be better to phone later in the day.
As an aside, there was hardly a Sunday for thirty years when my family and I went together to church. I always left early. I will not live long enough to repay her for handling all that for so long…but I’ll try.
3. You have issues with some people in church? Shocking. There are people you will necessarily interact with who don’t like you, who don’t appreciate your work, or who don’t agree with your decisions? In a Southern Baptist church, you say? Such is the pastoral ministry, ever and always. So, love God. Love your congregation. Do your best to be at peace with all. Don’t let it affect your attitude on Sunday.
4. Mad at Obama? Do you really get all stirred up by the latest culture war defeats, the latest executive order by our president, by whatever is flaming across the fruited plain? Do you feel compelled and impelled by righteous indignation to take it all out on your group of faithful followers of Christ as if they are the enemy? You’re going to yell, scream, pop veins, and issue a tonsil-throbbing, bellicose harangue to your wonderful congregation. Why? Makes you feel better? It’s not about you, bro.
5. Depressed? I wish it were so that pastor depression was consigned to Mondays only and never on Sundays. Unfortunately, some Sundays there is a heavy weight that can’t be left at home or in the church office. You cannot avoid dragging it to the pulpit. Chances are people will recognize something but there’s no need or profit from self-abasement in a sermon. Preach Jesus. That’s always uplifting. Go to the doctor on Monday if it persists.
6. Unprepared? You know it. You feel it. You feel guilty for being underprepared to preach. You cannot have a re-do on the week. You’ve got to go with what you have. Do your best and be prepared next Sunday. In time, most of us will have a number of such Sundays, mostly our fault but occasionally because of a completely ridiculous prior week. It’s OK to preach an old sermon, just make sure it is one that is worth preaching again.
One help in curing a bad attitude on Sunday is to get to the church early. Do some praying on your own. Pray with some of the deacons.
Take time greeting the members when they come in. Many of them will genuinely be happy to see you. They have been praying for you during the week. They love you. They want you to succeed. They appreciate your devotion to the Lord and ministry among them. You’ve probably touched a few of them in meaningful ways that they will never forget.
Then lead the church in worship and preach with God’s help.