When I began pastoral ministry, I met Todd,1 a crusty old pastor, close to retirement, who had an overdose of the saints of Israel. I think they called it “church member fatigue.” His view of life and the ministry had become somewhat tainted, and he wore his skepticism like his threadbare polyester suit which he wore to every occasion and visit. As we went from home visits to social functions, his favorite phrase was, “Well, we sprinkled some pastor dust there!”
What I think he was saying in his own cryptic way was that the minister is supposed to carry some type of holiness, sanctity, or spiritual presence into every meeting. I could never put my finger on what exactly we were bringing to each living room as we sat and visited. Was it some type of piety or holiness that implied that God was now here?
Over the years of my ministry, I have struggled with this concept of “pastor dust.” What is it that the presence of a minister brings to a crisis—a hospital bed, a family, or a marriage? As a pastor, why am I there? What is my role? As Jesus traveled from town to town and city to city, His presence brought not only physical healing but joy and happiness through His very persona. But is that not the role of every Christian—to sprinkle the “dust of heaven”?
I must admit that there are moments of discouragement that are almost overwhelming. Satan’s favorite tool with pastors is twofold: “You are not fit for the job,” and the clincher, “You are a terrible example.”
I am not a pastor by choice. My alternate self is a gentleman farmer, perhaps with a little counseling, and a lot of business ventures. I have tried all of them. In the west, where I pastored, when the fields turned to gold and the combines rolled into the fields, a strange power took possession of me. I would lose perspective, want to abandon pastoring, and long to sprinkle grain dust instead of pastor dust. With farming, you see concrete results as streams of rich wheat arc through the air, pausing to fall into waiting trucks. But God called me to march to the beat of a different drummer; why, I do not know. If I were not convinced that the call to be a minister was from God, I could not, would not, carry on. My theology professor once told me, “Don’t be a pastor unless you cannot, not be one.”
It is easy to measure the tangible: baptisms, church growth, successful church leadership, organizational leadership, compelling sermons, Bible studies, and ceremonies. But for the majority of time, the role of a pastor is hidden from view and from measurement.
You see, there is a miracle that takes place on a regular basis. With all my shortcomings and inadequacies, when I walk into that emergency room where the family is waiting to hear news of their loved one, there is often a sigh of relief: “Oh good, the pastor is here.” There is a presence a pastor brings that fills me with a sense of wonder. I have concluded that what I bring to the role of ministry is the presence of comfort, a sense of the nearness of God, and an assurance that He has not forsaken people during trial or sorrow or even joy. My called role is to instruct, counsel, encourage, rebuke, guide, shepherd, love, and show Heaven’s grace to the flock. I am not the presence of God, but I represent grace and caring, forgiveness and comfort.
Is it difficult? Is it challenging? Am I adequate for the task? Yes, yes, and no. But that is what makes it such a humbling, awe-filled vocation—to experience and to understand the awareness of the Holy Spirit at work through such a sinful instrument is one of the gracious gifts of heaven.
You go, pastor! You are called to sprinkle the dust of heaven on your flock. Do it with humility but assurance that you are called to this task.
- Not his real name.