Being a Pastor Again
I love leading a large church with all the challenges and complexity that it brings. But sometimes, the management demands of such a ministry can make it hard to remember why I went into this profession in the first place. There is the call of God, of course. I sensed clearly that God was calling me to pursue seminary. When I visited Bakersfield a few weeks back, I took my son to the very place where, on a warm spring morning in 1978, struggling as I was to figure out my future, I heard a nearly audible message from the Lord saying, “There is nothing that you would be happier doing in your life than pastoral ministry.”
Thing is, meetings, budgets, strategic plans and the like, though they are essential, weren’t what I thought I was signing up for when I became a pastor. Candidly, no young pastor has a clue regarding this other and necessary face of ministry. Still, I wanted to be a pastor because I loved people. I wanted to share Christ with people, disciple them, care for them in times of pain and loss and be there to celebrate the victories.
This recent season of ministry has been a chance for me to get in touch with those early stirrings that drew me to the pulpit in the first place. Perhaps it was the Encounters sermon series where you shared with me, by the hundreds, your stories of greatest loss, fear, failure and shame. As I mentioned, at one point I literally wept over that stack of emails and felt more like a shepherd of my flock than I had in many, many years.
Or perhaps it is this season of mourning through which we are walking. Shortly, I will have performed six funerals in as many weeks. This is no big deal for some pastors in some older churches… but for me, for us…it is the most death we’ve dealt with in a short time since I became your pastor.
Or perhaps it was the greater amount of visitation I have done recently: holding the hand of a dying patient, praying with a woman who will never leave the rest home or kneeling with parents in the Emergency Room as we begged God to spare their child who lay curled among the three of us.
Whatever it is, I’ve felt more like a pastor these last months than I have for a while. It’s not the end to meetings or budgets or strategic plans, but it is a sweet reminder of the gift it is to be invited into the deepest and most tender part of people’s lives. Thank you for that invitation.