This is a video I recorded via Facebook Live today from my home office. Check it out, and feel free to share it with others!
October has been Pastor Appreciation Month. I am thankful for those who have reached out to me this month, and I want to express my appreciation for those who have pastorally poured time, love and energy into me.
A question that people sometimes ask is, “How do you know if you’re called into pastoral ministry?”
Spurgeon’s advice to his students was: “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.”
He continued, “If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor or a grocer or a farmer or a doctor or a lawyer or a senator or a king, in the name of heaven and earth, let him go his way.”
In other words, only those who believe they are chosen by God for the pulpit should proceed in undertaking this sacred, yet difficult, and sometimes wearisome calling.
Why You Should Do Anything Else if You Can
Earlier this year, I shared the tragic story of Andrew Stoecklein — see: Pastors, Depression and Suicide
Pastoral ministry is taxing on the pastor’s family. The church is not only the pastor’s “workplace” or place of ministry, it is also their family’s own faith community. There is a social element to it as well. When people leave the church, your kids suffer because they lose friends.
I came across these posts from pastors on social media recently, reflecting some of why people in pastoral ministry struggle:
Being a local Pastor is a constant plunge into loss and rejection.
Regularly people come into your life for a season and then leave because you don’t meet their expectations.
Pay attention to this pain, process it with others, seek healing.
— Dan White Jr. (@danwhitejr) October 24, 2018
Why There’s Nothing Else I’d Rather Do
My point here is not to complain but to acknowledge that pastoral ministry can be difficult. There is something cathartic about hearing someone else say these things out loud.
However, there’s nothing else I’d rather do.
This is the genius of Spurgeon’s statement: If you can do anything else, do it. There are plenty of other ways to serve God. The role of pastor is only one of many roles in the body of Christ. And yet, there are those who find themselves convinced that there is, in fact, nothing else they can rightly do but answer God’s call to serve His people through pastoral ministry.
These are those who say along with the Apostle Paul: For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if it is not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (1 Corinthians 9:16-18)
They say along with Jeremiah: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
It isn’t only a duty, it is also a joy. It is an honor and a joy to be able to lead a group of God’s people and regularly get to be an instrument through which God helps people grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is an honor and a privilege to get to be involved in the most meaningful moments of people’s lives as a representative of God’s Kingdom.
There are very few things in life that are truly meaningful, which are not also difficult.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1)
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)
So, to all you pastors out there:
Take joy in being a pastor! Keep fighting that good fight, keep running that race, keep looking to Jesus. Seek your acknowledgement, affirmation and appreciation primarily from Him. Go to Him with your frustrations and hurts. Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
And may we say along with the Apostle Paul:
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!
Every week on Wednesdays we are releasing new episodes of the Longmont Pastor Video series. This week is we discuss the topics of calling and vocation and how the two are related.
For email and WordPress subscribers, click here to see the video.
One of the things we’ve been doing at White Fields Church is giving people the opportunity to text or tweet us questions during the sermon.
Yesterday morning I taught 2 Samuel ch 7, which is the time when David had a desire to build a house for the Lord, but God said “No!” That has some interesting implications, because what David wanted to do was a good thing, and it was a biblical thing – yet God said “no”.
This question was texted in during that sermon:
This morning in the sermon, you discussed having a desire to be a missionary, pastor, etc. If we have that desire in our hearts, didn’t God put that there? So why would He close The door if He put that desire there?
That is a great question! The first question is a particularly important one: Did God put that desire there? I believe that as we get closer to the heart of God – delighting ourselves in the Lord, as David said (Psalm 37:4) – that our desires are changed and become more aligned with His desires.
In the story we studied yesterday in 2 Samuel 7: David had a desire. It was a good, noble desire – it was even a Biblical desire. Did God put that desire there? Maybe! Or maybe not. We don’t know for sure. There is a way in which we could argue that God did put that desire in David’s heart – but that David’s role in fulfilling that was not to be directly involved in the building of the temple, but indirectly – as we saw, how David got the ball rolling with the building of the temple and had all of the items made which would be used in the temple.
Let me share an example from my own life: I gave my life to the Lord when I was 16, and almost immediately I developed a desire to minister to the people of the former Soviet Union, specifically Ukraine, where my family had immigrated from. When I was 18, I was invited to go on a ministry trip to Budapest, Hungary – to a conference for Calvary Chapel churches from Hungary and Ukraine. It was the Ukrainian part which I was interested in, and I went there with the hope that I could connect with some ministries in Ukraine. I was able to do that, but interestingly all of the “doors of opportunity” for me to serve in Ukraine seemed closed, however there was an incredible open door and an invitation for me to serve in Debrecen, Hungary – the pastor there told me he had been praying for someone exactly like me to come and work with them. I had no real desire to go to Hungary, my desire was to serve the Lord in Ukraine – but I prayed about it and came to the conviction that this is what God had for me at that point, and after serving there for a little while I could move to Ukraine, where I really desired to be. I committed to go to Debrecen, Hungary for 8 months. During those 8 months, I prayed for Ukraine constantly, I even tried to go to Ukraine to work with some of the people I had met the year before at the conference in Budapest, but once again all the doors of opportunity were closed! My feeling was: God, why did you give me this desire to serve you in Ukraine, and then close all the doors before me?! Yet, in the meantime, I had become very proficient in Hungarian and was involved in some very exciting and fruitful ministry in Hungary. I came to see that perhaps God had given me that desire to serve Him in Ukraine in order to get me to pray and to get me to Hungary – which hadn’t even been on my radar, but which ended up being the “land of blessing” for me, where I met my future wife, where I became a pastor, where my 3 kids were born, where I was involved in years of fruitful and wonderful ministry. Was it God who put that desire to serve Him in Ukraine in my heart? I’m not sure. But He certainly used that desire in my life to lead me to where He wanted me to be.
My desire to serve the Lord in Ukraine never went away; I still have it. But I have come to rest in believing that God gave me that desire not in order to move me to Ukraine, but so that I would carry the people of that country on my heart and pray for them, and support what God is doing through other people there – which is exactly what I strive to do! This desire to serve the Lord in Ukraine led me to start taking teams from our church in Eger up to a Hungarian-speaking region of Ukraine, where we would do evangelism and support ministries in that region. I also had the opportunity to take extended trips to Ukraine and teach in a Bible school there. Who knows what God has for the future, but I very much can relate to David – who, although he was not allowed to be directly involved in the building of the temple, found a way to still be involved in it in a signifiant and meaningful way, indirectly.
So, to the question: If you have a desire to be a pastor, missionary, etc. – did God put it there? If so, why would he then shut the door? I think that 2 Samuel 7 shows us that even if God is the one who put that noble desire in your heart to serve the Lord in a particular way, perhaps the fulfillment of that desire is not found in you fulfilling the role you specifically have in mind – perhaps the fulfillment of that desire will come in a way that is completely from God, and has a greater impact, even in your own life, than you could have ever imagined.
About 2 months ago I got invited to a pastors’ lunch up in Berthoud. There were about 12 of us there from different churches in Northern Colorado – I was the only one from Longmont. There was a guest speaker, Ray, who pastors a large church in Sacramento.
I’ve been to these kinds of meetings before – but this one was different, because Ray asked a question that I wasn’t expecting:
“What is the best thing happening at your church?”
That was the question which he opened the meeting with, and it caught me off guard! I had expected Ray to talk about the great things that he is doing, or to ask: ‘what needs to change at your church?’ – but I wasn’t ready for that question: “What is the BEST thing happening at your church?”
It seems that the other pastors in the room were caught off guard by it too, because many of them didn’t know what to say. Quickly though, momentum picked up and everyone had plenty to say on that topic – including me.
Ray went on to explain that we need to stop focusing on what is lacking, and we need to start focusing on what is right – the areas where our church is knocking it out of the park and killing it, the things that we just naturally do well, and we need to do those things more and better!
I have found this concept to be so freeing, so invigorating and exciting and so vision-focusing – not only when it comes to visioneering for church, but when it comes to life and who God has called me to be.
The essence is: Who is it that God has uniquely gifted and called you to be? What is that niche that God has created you for and called you to? You can’t be everything – but you can be something, and if you learn to focus on being and doing what God has uniquely called and gifted you to do and be, then you will thrive, and it won’t be contrived, it won’t be a burden – it will feel like you just stepped into the fast-current on the lazy river ride at the water park, rather than being stuck in the whirlpool.
This is important when it comes to church, because the fact is that there are other churches out there. And there are many churches that are doing things that we aren’t – or can’t. BUT – there are things that we can do better than any of them; there is a culture that we have, that they don’t. There is a place and a role that God has uniquely given us in the Body of Christ in this place. There is a reason why people come to our church – and it’s not because they don’t know that there are other churches out there.
So I’ve been asking the question: What are the greatest things happening at White Fields church?
And THOSE are the things I want to be focused on. Those are the things I want to turn the dial UP on and make better. Rather than focusing on what we aren’t (yet) – I want to focus on what we ARE and what makes us great, uniquely – and turn up the dial on that! When you start thinking that way, you are no longer “competing” with other churches, but you realize that you are each filling a different role in the Body of Christ.
The danger is, that if we spend all our energy focused on what we aren’t (yet), we can neglect the things which to us are as easy and natural as falling off a log – and then those things will suffer as a result. The end result of that? We are mediocre at EVERYTHING and great at nothing. Rather, our focus should be on being GREAT at the things which God has uniquely gifted us to be and do – and those are usually the things which come most naturally to us – which are as easy as falling off a log.
People wanted David to fight Goliath the way that Goliath was good at fighting. David knew that he could probably do that – but it wasn’t what he was good at. He knew that he wasn’t Goliath. But he also knew what he was: he was David. And he had certain abilities and strengths, that he was uniquely gifted at: he could sling a rock like no one else! So he went out to battle with his strength, and ended up victorious.
It is important to know who you are, who you aren’t – and how God has uniquely gifted and called you. Go to battle with that, and you are much more likely to be victorious.
This doesn’t just apply only to church – it applies to many areas of life, business, etc. Who has God uniquely called you to be? What is the niche that God has called you to fill? You don’t have to be everything! But God has called you and gifted you uniquely for somethings. Focus on those things. Go and kill it in those areas, and focus on developing those areas and being GREAT at those things.
Leave me a comment below and tell me: What’s the BEST thing happening in your church?