We hear a great deal about the perils of pastoral ministry—and there are many. We constantly run the risk of becoming so preoccupied with serving others that we ourselves spend little or no time at the feet of Jesus. We also face the ever-present danger of neglecting our own families in an unbalanced attempt to care for our church families 24/7. It is so easy and professionally acceptable to neglect appropriate self-care while encouraging others to intentionally replenish physically, emotionally, and socially.
These perils, and others unnamed, are very real and need to be candidly discussed and intentionally avoided. You’ll appreciate the lead article by Willie and Elaine Oliver. They provide a strategy for avoiding many perils in ministry: the art of strategic neglect.
While recognizing and addressing the perils of pastoral ministry, we would also do well to remember and appreciate the wonderful privileges that come with our pastoral assignment.
Many years ago I served as a local church pastor in Allentown, Pennsylvania. There I was blessed to meet a young adult named Nathan Krause. His day job was at a local foundry, and he taught martial arts in the evenings. I shared the truths about Jesus with this young man and eventually baptized him.
My pastoral care for Nathan didn’t end there. I encouraged him to attend a Christian college, spoke at his graduation, performed his wedding, and offered prayers of dedication for both of his children. Then our friendship took an interesting turn. When I moved to the Washington, DC, area to assume my current responsibilities, Nathan became my pastor. This gave me another opportunity to reflect on the privilege of pastoral ministry. Seeds sown years ago can yield a bountiful harvest. While we know this is all God’s work, we can rejoice as we see the miracle of God in progress.
For the past few months, I have assisted as a volunteer interim pastor in a local church. My primary responsibility is to preach on a regular basis. Once again I am challenged to search the Scriptures, search my own heart, and be attentive to the lives of my hearers in order to share the Word of God. What a sacred responsibility and joyful privilege.
In connection with this pastoral assignment, I was also asked to speak to the students and teachers at our local church school. It brought joy to my heart to hear the students singing their school song: “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” I was familiar with the Scripture passage, but I had never heard it sung with such enthusiasm or seen such energetic hand gestures. After my worship talk, several students came over and greeted me. The little ones hugged my waist, and the more mature students shook my hand. Their etiquette teacher would have been proud of them. I was reminded once again of the privilege of pastoral ministry.
Each Wednesday evening we have a House of Prayer in our home. This midweek prayer service is open to anyone in our community. Recently, we shared a prayer quilt with a young mother facing a major health challenge. Our home was filled with Bible study partners and friends, along with our regular attendees. As I saw the love of God poured out and listened as prayers ascended in the name of Jesus, I was reminded once again of the great privilege of serving as a local church pastor. I’m not sure how long my responsibilities as a volunteer interim pastor will continue, but I’m thankful for the opportunity. I have been reminded once again that pastoral ministry has joys as well as sorrows, privileges as well as perils, and blessings as well as problems. So when you’re having a hard day, a hard week, or even a hard season, remember to look at the big picture. Allow the Good Shepherd to walk with you through the perilous dark valley, and take time to reflect on and give thanks for the privileges of pastoral ministry.