I appreciate so much Justin Kollmeyer’s recent column on “I know what your pastor did last year. Do you?” I sometimes have to help people understand how I spend the time between Sundays.
By nature, the work of ministry is never done. At day’s end, there is always one more visit or call you should have made, one more project you could have started, a little more reading you could have done. Yet certain tasks must be accomplished before next Sunday comes. Pastors live with a weekly deadline. No matter what else happens during the week, Sunday is closing in, and you must be prepared to preach.
Describing the pastorate is hard. One pastor shared, “My kids don’t know how to explain to their friends what I do. One is always asking me, ‘Hey, Dad, when are you going to get a real job?’”
The pastorate is unlike any “real” job. The pastor should have a divine calling, a “tap on the shoulder.” Roy W. Hinchey, my childhood pastor, shared in Plain Talk About the Pastorate about the encouragement he was given. Seeing his giftedness, members of his home church said, “We believe God wants you to be a preacher.”
His pastor added, “If you can’t be sure, don’t.” Another man shared something similar with me: “If you can do anything else, then don’t go into the ministry.” I discovered that I could not be happy doing anything else because God put the local church on my heart.
Dealing with unrealistic expectations can be challenging since pastors are not Superman. They are human.
Ruth Truman wrote, “There is no other job on earth that expects a man to work every possible waking moment, to comfort the sick and dying, to be the tower of strength for the bereaved, to counsel the maritally afflicted, to pray at a moment’s notice, to be all-wise in the problems of child care and in-family jousting, to administer a (large) budget, to raise money for loan payments without issuing bonds, to run a church program efficiently with an all-volunteer staff that serves when it feels like it, to act as building and grounds maintenance supervisor, to prepare miraculously and preach eloquently, to dress meticulously but not too well, to be a saint in all interpersonal relationships with language that even your grandmother couldn’t question, to be never grossly (or netly) in debt, and to set a pattern of living that all can follow in personal faith and spiritual development. In case you have forgotten what I am talking about, the above is the job description in abbreviated form for the . . . Man of God, commonly known as ‘minister.’” (Ruth Truman, Underground Manual for Ministers’ Wives, p. 26).
Also, we live in a consumer-driven society that looks at the bottom line. Pastors are given little authority, but are held responsible for results. How does one measure success?
I like the image of the pastor as farmer in partnership with God in working God’s field. The farmer has a part, and God has a part. The farmer plows the field, sows the seed, and cultivates. He does all of this work, knowing that his success is dependent on powers and circumstances that are beyond his control.
The farmer can’t direct when or how much it rains, or whether or not the sun shines. He can’t make the seed germinate nor the crop grow. Yet, the farmer knows that unless he does what he’s suppose to do, he can’t reap a harvest.
He does what he can, and then trusts God with the results. A pastor can’t make people show up for worship, be active in service, do their part in financial support, develop their personal devotional lives, or invite prospects to church. But he can love the people, pray for them, encourage them, instruct them, and be there when needed.
Always challenging, yet richly fulfilling. Why? Because there’s no better place to be than right where God wants you. The pastorate is not a job, but a calling. As someone said, “If God calls you to pastor, then why stoop to be a king?”
Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them for Bible study each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Join them for Vacation Bible School June 7-11, 9 a.m. – noon.