So you are interested in pastoring, eh?
Paul says you desire a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1).
And I think many of the tasks involved in pastoral ministry can be seen as noble from other believers on the outside looking in. After all, you get to stand on a platform week in and week out and herald the marvelous riches of God’s Word. You get to lead in prayer meetings. You teach Bible studies. You’re involved in other public aspects of worship.
You get to see people come to Christ! You get to baptize people. You get to serve the Lord’s Supper.
You get time during the year for attending conferences and sometimes evening speaking at one or two. You’re the point man, the leader, the overseer, the man who doesn’t have all the answers but is the guy who points to that Guy.
Sometimes people buy you meals, buy you books, write you thank you notes, and tell you how blessed they are to have you in their life. I even know of a deacon who sent his pastor on a trip to Hawaii once.
Man. Who wouldn’t want to be a pastor!?
Pastoral ministry is a noble task. It’s a wonderful task. And when discharged faithfully, it’s a Christ-honoring task. But if you want to be a faithful pastor, you need to understand the whole story. Pastoring isn’t just about what everyone else sees you doing.
Oh, sure. You also have to study, study, study! Read books, read commentaries, parse Greek and Hebrew words.
Actually, that’s not what I’m getting at.
Oh. You mean we need a dynamic prayer life. We wake up early so we can pray. We pray for our ministry, our people, our community.
Actually, I don’t mean that either. Although, I do want to mention here that I agree with all the above. But, I’m going a different direction in this post.
You see, pastoral ministry is so much more than what everyone else sees. That’s just the “tip of the iceberg” as they say. A lot of pastoral ministry is only what very few people see. We could actually say that much of being a pastor is truly loving the people God has entrusted to your care. And that involves situations at times that are less than glorious.
It’s one thing to preach a pristine sermon that will be shared on the internet full of dynamic illustrations, alliterated points, and a closing poem. But it’s quite another to sit with a grieving family while you wait for the hearse to come pick up a saint who you watched pass into glory fighting for his last breaths in gasps.
- Having the Johnsons over for lunch after church and their child breaks your wife’s favorite vase. And the blinds. And spilled his juice. Twice. And let the cat out. I don’t know why you’d own a cat in the first place, but there it is.
- Having anyone over to your home during a time that’s less than convenient.
- Taking a saint to his colonoscopy because he has no one else to turn to.
- Spending all night with a family at the hospital who just lost their baby girl.
- Praying with a weeping mother whose son has abandoned the faith and turned back into the world.
- Getting ready for an evening at home and having that phone call about the wreck, or the fire, or the fight, where you are needed.
- Planning a day to study only to be interrupted by a situation that needs your immediate attention.
- Stacking firewood all afternoon for the couple that needs it.
- Helping feed a newborn calf and getting cow colostrum all over you. (True story)
Ugh. These people. But that’s what pastoral ministry is about. Shepherding people. And there is no way that happens only during the public phases of your ministry. Yes, the public phases are vital. They are non-negotiable. Your study time is important. But actually, what’s more important than your name being known, your sermon being remembered, your biography being written, is that you faithfully love the people God has entrusted to your care.
They are not your stepping stone for a better gig. They are not an inconvenience to your important tasks. They are your task.
Pastoring involves situations that you wish you had an official handbook for. It involves situations that you wish they would have prepared you for in seminary. It involves scenarios that you might not even believe unless you have been in the ministry. But, my brother pastors, if we aren’t willing to love the people God has entrusted to us, what are we doing?
Don’t stick around in ministry if you’re in it for the glamour. The church Christ bled for deserves better.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to learn to say “no” at times. You do need to learn that too. Mrs. Edith’s aching bunion can wait while you watch your son’s little league baseball game. But sometimes things can’t wait. Sometimes you are needed because you are the pastor and God has placed you in your place of ministry for this exact reason.
Yes, other men and women can and should help in the above scenarios and many others. But don’t think for a second that “word ministry” and “pulpit ministry” are the same exact thing. Pulpit ministry is part of word ministry. Being a pastor means applying the Scriptures with people in real life situations. And sometimes it just means being there to listen.
If you have a pastoral heart, you will still get frustrated at times. We are still in the flesh, aren’t we (and they are too!)? But as I heard Nate Pickowicz say recently, “the worst days in pastoral ministry are better than the best days somewhere else.” Pastoral ministry truly is a noble task. It’s a worthy calling. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s a 40-hour week in two days. But it’s a good work. It’s a labor of love.
And really, that’s the point of this post: to love people more than your own reputation, fame, or glory. If you are qualified to serve as a pastor but have not Christ-honoring love for your people, maybe you should repent and perhaps look for a different profession. Love your people enough to labor in preaching and teaching sound doctrine. But you must also love them enough to serve in the ignoble duties with joy.
I want us to have a full-orbed understanding of pastoral ministry. It truly is a noble task.
And no, I’m not writing this post from my high horse. I’m writing it in an ER waiting room. Let us love our people well brother pastors. To God be the glory.