I love being a pastor. I’m especially grateful to have pastored Woodland Church for over thirteen years now. When I was preaching to our congregation Sunday morning I realized just how much life our family has shared with them. When it came time to serve communion at the end of the message Sunday morning, I looked at couples who were serving the symbols of Christ’s body and blood. We have experienced life together. With them I have lived and served God. For each of them, I covet a deeper experience of the Father’s love in their homes.
At a personal level I’ve shared life with most everyone there, some more than others, due to life’s ups and downs. Some of those experiences can only be described as a “high,” like John Denver’s delightful song, Rocky Mountain High! We’ve laughed with great joy and delight at God’s blessings. Others we have walked through deep and dark valleys reminding us of David’s valley of the shadow of death. Evil has attacked, but by God’s grace we overcame fear and came through. There are so many stories that will only be known by us and God. Stories to precious, tender, painful and intimate to be shared by anyone but God and us. Maybe someday they will share their story when it is obvious to them that God will use their painful experience to help someone through the valley of the shadow of death to green pastures.
These wonderful people give me the opportunity to teach them God’s Word each week. They give me the trust of watching over their souls. (see Hebrews 13:17)
It dawned on me too, while I was preaching there were people missing that I love, that I won’t see until I get to heaven. There is still a pain of sorrow mixed with the hope that we shared of heaven. Some of them, I had the great privilege of leading them to Christ or praying with them when they committed their life to Christ. For some I sat with them while they went into heaven or listened to their last confession, or sang to them one more hymn before they died. Oh, I miss them.
Missing were those that during the recession in the Metro Detroit area have had to move because of jobs. They were small group leaders, children’s workers, youth sponsors, prayer partners, etc. Thankfully many of them stay in touch. Recently, one called me on Father’s Day, to wish me, “Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” I will never forget that. He said to me, “I’m honored to call you Dad, if that’s okay.” Well it sure made me feel old, but, I loved it.
There were people missing that I loved and served but for reasons that I understand they have moved to worship at other good churches in our community. Sometimes it is because of vision, ministry or a decision. That too is a part of ministry. I love them and miss them. You know its amazing they still call me pastor. Occasionally they call me to just say hi and I love you.
This wouldn’t be an honest post if, I didn’t say there are some missing that, I don’t know why. We’ve prayed together, worshipped and dreamed together but then they left. That’s painful but sometimes that is how people deal with their issues. You call but don’t get an answer or a reply. That too is part of this life, I’m called to.
I got an email from someone this week, that told me I hurt them, decades ago. Honestly, I don’t remember it. But the ability to reply was blocked. They told me in the email, I was forgiven. But even forgiven, oh, it hurts, because they called me pastor. Everyone matters to God, and that is part of my calling to be sure you know you matter to God. As much as I don’t want to bring hurt to anyone, sometimes I do.
Life gets very busy as a pastor and I have feet of clay. I’m a disciplined man, and I struggle with perfectionism. Perhaps it is why I remind my congregation so often, that the church is not perfect, you aren’t perfect, but our perfect and holy God loves and forgives us. One of the lessons I’m learning today is letting go when it is good enough. It’s a hard one for me.
A pastor wears many hats and has to develop many skills. For me that has been one of the more interesting aspects of ministry personally. (I’ve learned from bankers, sanitation workers, attorneys, mechanics, salesmen, scientists, grocers, contractors, physicians, counselors, nurses, teachers, clerks, and the list goes on and on. God has used the body of Christ to shape my ministry and develop my leadership skills.)
It is why delegation is so important to us. It’s why having a team is vital. Teams free us to do what we do best, but even then, life isn’t perfect. But I love fulfilling God’s call upon my life as a pastor.
No one says it to me anymore, but I can remember as a young pastor being told, “if you only lived life in the real world.” The man saying that resented the truth claims of Jesus’ upon his rebellious life. To his credit he remained my friend and eventually came to Christ through great pain and suffering. He wasn’t the only one in those early days that made statements like that. Those statements made me think and journal. I remember sitting in my study thinking could I serve God better by giving up preaching the gospel and being a pastor to people. Why not be a physician? I had a scholarship waiting if I took it up. As a friend of mine who was a helpful librarian told me, “at least be a medical missionary.” The kind and gentle man who was my scholarship advisor told me in effect I would waste my life by being a pastor.
But God! God had called me to pastor. It was inescapable and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said it was like, “I was grasped by God.” I knew even in my discouragement as a young pastor, that God had called me. I might not discover the cure for HIV, the feared and dreaded new disease in those days. I wouldn’t build a business. There would be failures and successes. However, I knew who had the cure for the most dreaded disease and that he would use me to build people up!
Experience and age have proven how ridiculous the statement of living in the real world was. I’ve walked through almost everything you can imagine with people living in a very real joyful and painful world. Things that I choose not to remember anymore and others that I take great delight in reliving in my dreams and thoughts. I can truly say, God is faithful!
If I make the mistake of envying the wicked and it seems like all they do is prosper in my limited perspective then indeed I will become discouraged. David said that when that happened, he went into the sanctuary and there he prayed and pondered until he understood.
So many times when painful events and things I haven’t understood have caused me deep pain I’ve gone into the sanctuary, sometimes alone and often with the people I love and pastor. There as we’ve prayed and worshipped, sang and studied God’s Word, understanding, faith, and peace have entered my heart. Things haven’t changed on the outside but indeed something has changed on the inside of me. God’s peace, God’s call once again rules my troubled thoughts. I’m a pastor and by serving God and people I’ve been able to make a difference. I’m not boasting, just saying, I’m love being a pastor!