I read a handful of blogs geared towards pastors and recently I've noticed more of a negative tone from some of them regarding pastoral work. Some of the posts are about the woes and difficulties of pastoral ministry. They can be helpful at some level, especially when you know that others share some of the same difficulties and discouragements. But I wanted to bring a positive perspective, at least in my own thinking. Besides, much of what is written on blog posts that I read are directed towards American pastors. And compared to other parts of the world, pastors in our nation have it pretty good I think. Seldom if ever do I hear of pastors going to jail or facing martyrdom for their witness in United States. And even pastors on meager salaries probably eat very well, especially when it is a potluck fellowship in our baptist circles.
With that said, here is my take on the joys of being a pastor. Psalm 23 sets the tone for my thoughts.
1. Providing for the sheep.
It is a joy to provide. I see this provision primarily through prayer for the people and ministering the Word of God every week to them. This work brings great joy to my heart. I realize that each week it is part of my responsibility to provide the sheep with an accurate picture of who God is and the gospel. And by the power of the Spirit this changes people for eternity. Nothing should bring a pastor more joy than seeing real lives that are being transformed by the living and active Word of God.
2. Protecting the sheep
Though not all may appreciate my analogy, I am a gun owner. This means that each night when I go to bed there is a sense of peace that comes to me knowing that if someone attempts to break into our house, I can attempt to defend my family from harm and violence. Part of the shepherd's role is to defend the sheep. Sometimes the shepherd needs to take some rocks and throw them at wolves. There is a great sense of joy a pastor should have in protecting the sheep from error. So much garbage floats around in the sea of American Christianity. From the prosperity gospel to watered down liberal interpretations of the Bible to big entertainment based productions in churches that are completely void of the gospel message. Thus, it is a joyful thing to faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God regularly in the local church (Acts 20:27).
3. Walking though the valley of death with the sheep
I have not had to go through funerals in our church because we are small and mostly a younger congregation. But I have been at the hospital bed on occasions with our people. And I have ministered to the dying outside of our church. It is a joy to visit the nursing home and see how someone's day has changed because they felt your love. Only in eternity will we know the true weight of this. But there is a particular sense of joy when a pastor walks with someone in their darkest hour nearing death.
4. Feasting with the sheep
As far as my gifts for ministry, I feel the most useful in the pulpit and find tons of joy in the labors there. There are many things I'm not so good at but I'm growing and learning. But there is one thing I love doing. If I were only allowed to do one thing in the church other than preaching, this would be it: administering the Lord's Supper. Our church comes to the table once a month. I love the sense of unity and community this creates and it is one time where we are so particularly Christ-focused. It is a time when we remember why we exist, that we were bought with a price and have eternal assurance through the atoning work of Christ. We reflect on the incarnation, how the eternal Son of God took on literal flesh and blood. His body was broken and His blood dripped down from the cross to give us life. And we will enjoy this feast for eternity with our Good Shepherd and all His sheep from every tribe, tongue and nation.
If this does not light your fire as a pastor and give you joy, then your wood is probably wet!
Well, these are my thoughts about some of the joys of being a pastor. Next week our baby is due so I will be taking a break from blogging for this summer. Thanks to the handful of you who read my thoughts. I hope to be some sort of encouragement to others who are seeking to live ordinarily by His grace.
*special thanks to my son, Elijah, for posing as the shepherd-boy in this photo and the Schuller farm for the sheep.