Today will be the last of five intense days of teaching aspiring ministers the art of Christian Leadership and Preaching. This group is quite diverse in age, ethnicity, and perspective. Yet, we share a common love for Christ and the Church. As I think about some of our dialogue from class sessions and meals together, I can't help but wonder if I may have scared some of them away from ministry.
In the Church Leadership class I communicated the following:
-"Leading the people of God to align with the purposes of God is hard, laborious, and gut-wrenching."
-"If you step up to lead people through the wilderness of status quo and into the promised land of missional vitality you will take hits that hurt."
-"When you pastor a church you can't punch out at 5:00 and go home forgetting that Joe ran off for an affair with his co-worker, leaving his wife Jane and their 5 kids, or that 16 year old Brian is addicted to heroine or that 40 year old Sally is being eaten alive by cancer. Though we realize that Christ is the ultimate shepherd and that we are limited in ways he is not, we carry the burdens of the people we serve."
In the Preaching class I communicated:
-"Using words to try and impact lives is like trying to put out a thousand acre forrest fire with a garden hose (Will Willimon), yet we keep dragging ourselves up before the people hoping that the power of God will grace us and grip them with words that lead them into a new reality, a new kingdom."
-"Once we deliver our sermon on Sunday, we experience a few moments of sweet release that comes from delivering our homiletic baby. Then Monday comes and we wrestle with the demons that tempt us to doubt whether or not we really said what God wanted us to say or whether it was even worth saying anything at all since nobody seems to be listening. What is more, in the midst of these battles with the demons we call the 'Monday morning blues' we've got to prepare for another sermon all over again since Sunday is only a few days away."
Yeh, I think I may have scared a few of these aspiring ministers, unless, of course, they are called by God to this vocation. You see, if you're called by God it doesn't matter how challenging, heart-breaking, exhausting, and frustrating pastoral ministry may be. We do it simply out of loving obedience to Him.
In short, pastoring is not for the weak and wimpy. I would also add that, while pastoring is a rough line of work, the joys and delights far outweigh the pains and disappointments. When God uses your pastoral leadership to inch his people closer to the promised land of missional vitality, you will experience the kind of joy that makes pastoring worthwhile. When you sense that God is using the words he gave you to proclaim hope to individuals and renewal to a community, there is deep satisfaction.
Pastoring the church of Jesus Christ is a daunting, scary line of work. But if you're called by God to this vocation, go for it! When you know you're in the place God has called you, doing what he has called you to do, and making a difference while doing it, you'll be glad you said "yes" to God's call to Pastor.