This is my 51st blog post, and to date, several of my posts have focused on what I think is realistic look at pastoral ministry. For example, five weeks ago I wrote a two-part post titled “When Ministry Hurts.” And there are times when it does. And the hours can be long. People can disappoint. It’s not always easy to see results.
But ministry can be rewarding as well, and I thought I’d share some of the things that meant a lot to me through the years. It’s helpful to remember the “good things,” because we can easily be discouraged when hard times come. I’m sure you can think of many more than the few that I’ve listed. But maybe when the going gets tough, you can reflect on these privileges, and in the midst of burdens, hardships, and disappointments, you can remember the privileges that God has given to those who serve as pastors.
- We have the privilege of studying God’s Word in ways that most laypeople do not. Of course we want our people to be Bible readers. But the busy lives they lead make it hard for many to come close to the in-depth study that we are able to do. Not only are we able to spend time in God’s Word, we have access to a wealth of resources that help us understand the text better. We can ponder the meaning of a text, examine background, and get to know the Bible in a way that most people never have the opportunity to. ￼
- We have the privilege of communicating God’s Word. Whether it be from the pulpit, from the front of a classroom, in a discipleship context, or in a small group, pastors are entrusted with the privilege of speaking for God. We don’t speak our own words, but we explain and apply the Word that God has given us. We occupy a strategic place in God’s plan for the growth of his people. Isn’t that one of the implications of Ephesians 4: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV)? While that is a great responsibility, it is also a great privilege.
- We have the privilege of seeing people impacted by God’s Word. Sometimes we see people immediately affected and changed by the Word. Other times we compare people to where they were a few months or years before and we can see that they have grown to love God more deeply and know him more fully. They’ve been affected by the ministry God has allowed us to have in their lives. Under your ministry some people’s lives will be touched for eternity.
- We have the privilege of knowing that our work is not in vain. You may wonder if you do any good, if your ministry counts for anything. You may see fewer people attending your church, or see someone you’ve worked with fall back into a pattern of sin. But God promises that our labors are not in vain. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 he says to all believers – including pastors – “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (ESV).
There are going to be times when you go through seasons of grief. There may be time when you wonder if you would be better off working in some other vocation. But take heart. We have gifts that God gives us – gifts that are privileges. Be encouraged by these gifts God has given you!