This past month, our church ordained our long-time volunteer youth pastor to the gospel ministry. The ceremony was the culmination of a process of a couple of years as we have worked out his sense of calling. It’s a great honor to help someone realize that God has placed his finger on him and called him to service.
The ordination service itself is a time to reflect on the awesome privilege and responsibility of serving as a minister of the gospel. This sense of blessing in the calling is easy to lose, however. The life of a pastor can be difficult, and we in the ministry can often undermine belief in our blessedness by the way we speak about our calling, our churches, and our lives.
Yet it’s vital for us to believe we are blessed to have this calling on our lives. If we don’t, the difficulties will overwhelm us, and we will be in danger of ruining our witness to the abundant life that we should be leading our churches and our neighbors to embrace.
Here are four basic rules to believing in your blessing as a pastor…
1 – Don’t complain about your job to people outside the ministry
After being a part of our youth pastor’s ordination, my dad remarked to me about an ordination service he had attended in the past when the charge given to the candidate was a list of woes in the life of a pastor. Instead of speaking about the greatness of going to work with a God who promises never leave you, these pastors’ focus was how hard it is to be a pastor. I was horrified.
There is no doubt that the pastoral ministry is stressful. You are a target for Satan and anyone he wants to use to hurt you. The demands are often unreasonable, whether they come from your congregation or from within yourself. Congregations should have a sense that a pastor’s job can be a grind… just like their jobs.
A pastor’s life can be hard, but we have to realize that everyone’s life is hard. Life is hard. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus promises, “but take heart; I have overcome the world.” We as pastors should expect hardship and also expect that your people are experiencing their measure of hardship, too. Don’t complain. Don’t grumble. If anyone should be demonstrating what it means to believe that Jesus has overcome the world, it should be us. If we communicate that we are constantly overwhelmed, what hope does that give everyone else?
2 – Don’t join in congregation-bashing with other pastors
When guys get together, one common topic of conversation is their wives and girlfriends. One guy starts complaining, and everyone is tempted to join in, sympathizing through a game of “top this” as they complain about the women in their lives. As pastors, we preach for husbands not to join in such conversations for the sake of their mindset about their wives and their marriage.
When pastors are together, one easy topic of conversation is our respective churches. And the same pastors who will preach to their congregations to never say a bad word about their spouses to other people will join in the equivalent conversation about their churches, playing the victim in these stories in order to solicit sympathy or laughs from their colleagues.
The parallel is obvious. How you speak about people shapes your attitude about them.
3 – Find ways to brag on your congregation
I honestly believe that I don’t have much to complain about when it comes to my people. I couldn’t win any “woe-is-me” contests with my church, even if I tried. They are easy to brag about–they are generous, supportive, and loving. But I believe my attitude toward my congregation has been shaped as God has given me the ability to see the best in my people.
Ask God to show you how to be thankful for every person. Find reasons to speak good things about your congregation and town to people in other contexts. Express how blessed you are to be called to your church, both to outsiders and directly to your people. As you do, God will bring you to appreciate his blessing, even when things are hard.
4 – Have an outlet
A pastor’s life is hard, though, and it does you no good to pretend everything is easy or that you wake up every morning and clap your hands with excitement for a brand new day. Sometimes the burden gets heavy, the steam of frustration builds up, or you get mauled by the bear of discouragement.
You need an outlet–someone who is also in the trenches, who isn’t looking to share a joke with you at your church’s expense but instead is ready to share your burden and to carry it with you to the Cross.
In these times of outlet, we do laugh, and that’s good. Sometimes we need to laugh at the absurdity of life, if only to keep from crying. Sometimes we need to cry, too. The point is to have a place to authentically bear our soul to someone who will care for us in the name of Christ, so that we can move forward in the sacred and blessed calling God has placed on our lives.
As I write this blog, my life has been through the ringer in a lot of ways recently. I feel worn very thin. But at the same time, I fully believe I am profoundly blessed. I have been called to bear the name of Jesus. There is no life better than that.