I am not sure what I expected life as a pastor to look like, but here is something I have learned in my first year in the pulpit.
First of all, that whole working-one-day-a-week thing, is a big fat lie; but I already knew that. I have had some excellent pastors over the years and they were some of the hardest working men I have known. Pastors may or may not have dirt under their fingernails, but good men labor for hours in study and prayer and counseling as a shepherd for God’s people.
This lesson has come home to me in a profound way this year as the Preaching pastor at Cornerstone. Now, over the last 10 years I have served withing the church in many capacities: Pastoral aid, secretarial assistant, volunteer teacher, youth worker, worship leader, part-time youth minister (whatever that means), Associate pastor, minister of education, outreach coordinator…Ok, I’ll stop there. Despite absorbing the roles within the church over the years, none of them fully prepared me for what it means to be the primary preaching pastor. What do I mean?
Serving in these various roles taught me to focus on individual ministries, doctrines or issues and to go after those things with all my energy. If the need within the church was a strategy for evangelism, I was the one who studied, thought, prayed, dreamed and put together a strategy for evangelism. This practice did much to make me a specialist in certain areas, but it did little to broaden my usefulness in others.
Now, as the pastor for preaching in a congregation of 100 or so, I don’t have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others; especially when it comes to preaching expositionally. Where I was once expected to become an expert on one issue at a time, I am now charged with being able to handle difficult doctrines and unstudied passages week in and week out.
I am learning to go where the Lord and the Word guide me, rather than going to where the nearest fire is burning. In reality, this means that some weeks are better than others, but most weeks are spent in labor over the Word and prayer. Which is a good thing, a really good thing.
Good for four reasons:
- I am being stretched through study and prayer to become a more well rounded and capable shepherd. There have and probably always will be subjects that I am not intimately familiar; but God is growing me through this process and for that I am thankful.
- My congregation is being stretched as well into a more well balanced faith family. No doubt, Cornerstone has been well shepherded over the years by gifted and godly men; but no church is exempt from becoming stagnant. When men stop growing in their knowledge and application of God’s word, they begin to retard. When those men lead churches, the result is a church that focuses on a few things to the neglect of everything else. This results in a church that is not healthy, not growing and will die as soon as the passion for those issues begins to wain.
- Humility is on the rise. Facing new challenges week in and week out has helped me to realize once again just how much I do not know. Arrogance has brought the ministries of many men to an end, but thanks be to God that he has kept my arrogance in check by humbling me weekly and causing me to wrestle with Him repeatedly so that I could have something to bring to His people on the Lord’s Day
- Stronger Community will also result. There will undoubtedly be members who come forward with ideas, dreams and concerns; but as one of four elders who must not neglect the “Ministry of the word and prayer (Acts 6:4)” I foresee that delegation will be in order. And in time, this will help to foster a stronger sense of community through the sharing of gifts and ministry.
I have spent the last ten years of my life learning and training to be a pastor and now that the first year of ministry is behind me I have come to understand that the life of a pastor is one where the learning will never cease.