Pastoring is a tremendous blessing and privilege. Paul says it well in 1 Timothy 3:1, “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a good work.” The opportunity to help and assist others on their spiritual journeys is invigorating, inspiring, and exciting, but it is also challenging. To me there is nothing more rewarding than helping people find and follow Jesus by living on mission, focusing on Jesus, and committing to making disciples who make disciples through a community of believers.
My prayer is that we will never forget the high calling on our lives and what a joy it should be to serve Him in this capacity.
As a pastor I can tell you that it is also a very daunting task. There are seasons of great victories and there are also seasons of discouragement and defeat. You must make sure to remain healthy during both seasons. Resist the temptation to be corrupted by the applause during the victories or crushed by the criticism during the defeats.
The role and responsibilities of a pastor are very complex and were never meant to be carried by the leader alone, but sometimes we do not give ourselves permission to be human. Acts 14:22 reminds us, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
Pastor, first and foremost your identity is found in who you are in Christ Jesus. Your identity is not what you do but who you are. Are you being fully present with the Lord? A huge part of our spiritual walk is our willingness to slow down long enough to worship and adore Him. What do I need to notice about God today while I am in His presence?
Isaiah tells us, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.”
Mathew says, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
There must be a daily commitment to the transforming process of being rather than just doing. Your identity is that you are a child of the living God; don’t forget it.
A good friend recently reminded me, “Trusting and obeying are habits that are lived out through the micro-decisions made over and over again in the moment.” Routine develops resilience as you schedule time to sit at the feet of Jesus and be in His presence. Do not quit, do not stop, but continue to pursue Him daily.
Predictability develops persistence as you continue to show up faithfully and strive to be fully present in God’s presence. He knows to expect your arrival. Structure develops steadiness as you remain dedicated to the spiritual habits of prayer and Bible study not because you are a leader but because you are His child.
As you walk with God, He protects you from burn out, going in the wrong direction, pride, and a host of other temptations. Another friend shared with me a great message he heard years ago about the different seasons of a pastor:
In the early years a minister must be very careful of the temptations of the flesh. How quickly mistakes can be made in this area.
In the middle age years of ministry he must guard against the temptation of pride and ego. May we never think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.
In the latter years of ministry the temptation is to become cynical. May we remain full of faith and hope.
Of course we must be careful of “Role Immersion” but “Role Complexity” is equally important to guard against. The term has an element of unrealistic expectations that one man should be able to do it all and do everything well. Pastoring requires, at times, wearing many hats with multiple responsibilities. There are seasons where you will feel that you are juggling way too many ministries and filling way too many roles.
The remedy is training up others to carry the load and distributing the responsibility just as Jethro instructed Moses. If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Resist the temptation for everything to flow top down.
Then there is the challenge of “Role Ambiguity.” Very few really understand what you do. This is not a knock on anyone’s intelligence, but the reality is that you do not understand the work loads of the people you pastor either. You have not walked in their shoes and neither have they walked in yours.
All pastors have heard, “It must be nice to only work one day a week,” but people cannot be expected to know what they do not know. Do not be frustrated by their lack of understanding but rather be challenged to not whine, gripe, or complain. Lovingly educate and inform them of the multiple tasks and burdens that you bear.
Remember (and it is not always easy) to be patient and longsuffering. Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 1:15 just how exceedingly patient Jesus was with him. Has Christ not also been very patient with you? Your identity is not what you do but who you are. It is far too easy to rely on our own intellect, skill set, personality, and ingenuity instead of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
God has called you to make sure the flock is cared for and not for you to personally care for every sheep. Define realistic expectations that are sustainable, that challenge your people to work together, and that ensure they trust you to know when you need to step in and when you do not.