The Challenge of Being a Pastor…

… is remembering that it’s not about you!

I read R. C. Sproul, Jr.’s, article today, written for Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors coming up on February 4–6, 2013. The theme of the conference revolves around recapturing and re-centering pastoral ministry around the reality and power of the Holy Spirit to work through pastors. This is an amazingly refreshing theme and I wish that I could attend.

Over the last few weeks various articles have been written to gear up attendees for what will be presented during the conference. Sproul’s article was particularly poignant because it fires back against a general misconception within the church. There are many who believe that more information, more knowledge, will help to stem the tide of nominal Christianity. This notion simply does not hold water. It may never have. However, we followed the trend and now we are reaping the results of an intellectualized religion.

In the article, Sproul argues that this is not the case. We do not need to find more subjects to study, books to collect or workshops to attend. The root of the problem is found in trying to educate ourselves into faith. Here is the fundamental reality that we, as church leaders should learn, “It is more important to us and our sheep that we would learn to believe more, than that we would find more to believe.” As a self-professed bookaholic I completely understand how easy it is to fall into this trap. More learning is not what we need. We need more living. Living out the convictions that we have felt as we have been confronted by God’s word. Living out the love that we have experienced in community and in communion with God. Living out the truths that we have seen as we have tried and failed, or succeeded.

The piece is not very long, but there is a section that really grabbed my heart as I considered my calling and God’s desire for his people.

We are not to give our wisdom, our insights, the fruits of our scholarship. Rather, like Paul before us, we serve up our weakness, our frailty, our need. That’s how the Word breaks through, where the power comes from.

Brothers, your flock may need some more information. What they need more, however, is someone to lead them, to show them the Way. They need to see you repenting. They need to see you wrestling with your sins. They need to see you preaching the gospel to yourself, not because you like the sound of your voice, but because you hate the sin that yet remains, and you need grace. They need to see you rejoicing in the fullness of His promises, and mourning both sin and its fruit, the last enemy, death.

“Professional Christians” is a phrase I coined a couple of years ago, but I find opportunities to use it more and more to describe the pitfalls of vocational ministry. As a professional Christian, I have found the transparent life more difficult to achieve. There are so many reasons to promote a facade of transparency rather than genuine vulnerability.

  • “I don’t know how long I’ll actually be here!”
  • “What if they betray my confidence, my ministry would be over.”
  • “How is anyone going to take me seriously if I share this?”
  • “They just won’t understand what I’m talking about, so why bother?”

These and other thoughts like them are the reason that many in church ministry hide behind the sacred desk, the pulpit, and retreat into their ivory tower of Greek, Hebrew, exegetical rigor, homiletical precision, hermeneutical accuracy, blah, blah, blah. Please don’t misunderstand. I am one of them, one of us. This is me at my worst. But, what my youth need (I am a youth pastor), what our churches need is not another authority, what they need are leaders that are unaffected. Leaders that will hold their ground biblically against the persistent effects of wave after wave of cultural ambiguity and moral atrophy.

The reality of full-time ministry is this, it can breed many contradictory characteristics than those needed, dare I say, required of those whom God has called to serve in leadership. I am praying to get better. To move away from a ministry life impinged by preservation, to a servant’s life defined by freedom. I may be naive. It may well be true.

However, if that is the case, then leave me to my dreams.

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