Last week I gave a quick overview of the first day of the First Five Years conference held in Fort Worth by IX Marks. Today I would like to highlight two additional talks that took place on the second day of the conference. The first one dealing with the needed reminder that as pastors we have the greatest job in the world, and the second one, which closed out the conference, dealt with suffering in the midst of ministry. These two talks bookended a phenomenal day of teaching and fellowship that featured some great pastors who gave time out of their busy weeks to help bring encouragement to us young ministers. So I hope this brief summation of how their words spoke to me will be an encouragement to you.
Remember the Joy of Pastoring
We kicked off the second day of our conference with an encouraging reminder of the privilege we have to be ministers of the gospel. Whether we have been serving the church for weeks or years this is one of the key things we need to be continually reminded of, we work for the greatest boss in the world, God himself. We have the privilege of waking up each morning to serve the Lord; by the way we talk to our staff, by the way we love our congregation, by the way we spend time with Him, and the kicker is we get paid for it all. This is such an amazing thing to consider, God has given us a great calling, week in and week out we get to proclaim the gospel to the people God has placed in our churches. We get the privilege to spend hours in God’s word to present the truth of it to our sheep in a way that will teach them the truth of the gospel and its role in our lives. Now these two things alone are amazing to reflect on alone. However, this doesn’t mean that these things will come easy or that we don’t have to work hard at the task, but like all things we should find joy in the Lord’s gift to us as minister to love his sheep and preach the gospel to them.
Additionally, these are not the only things we can take away from pastoral ministry. These first two areas allow us to see some amazing things over the course of our time in ministry, especially if we get the blessing of serving in one congregation for a lifetime. If we should stay and love the people of God well and preach the gospel to them and pray diligently to them, and not lose sight of the end, we get the blessing of seeing people change. We get to hear stories and see marriages that were near the end become staples of God’s holiness and reconciliation. We get to see people running so hard away from God become teachers and leaders in the church, through the power of God’s Word in them transforming their cold hearts into hearts of flesh. Just let it sink in, we see the gospel in action, but we need to have a long term perspective, people don’t change overnight, people don’t grow overnight, but step by step as the word of God transforms them. These are enormous blessings and as pastors we need to see our joy in God and the knowledge that it is in Him that lives our changed, and we trust in Him to do the work, because unlike many jobs, the work we do serves eternity and we answer for how well we loved our Lord and watched over His sheep.Which leads us to the other side of the ministry coin.
Even in the Joy of Ministry There is still Pain
While the final day opened with a joyful reflection on our need to see the great things about being a pastor, it concluded with the reality that sometimes the reality is that life and ministry can be hard, not only hard but sometimes life just hits you with all the force of a Semi. This final talk was given by John Onwuchekwa a pastor from outside of Atlanta, over the last 18 months he launched a church, buried his brother, buried a new believer from his church and over and again struggled with depression, while still ministering to the people of his congregation. I give you the background to reinforce the power of his message. Throughout the closing remarks of the conference John continued to point us back to the reality that we will suffer in this life, pastors are not exempt, if anything we may be most affected by suffering, because we tend to do it alone and in public simultaneously. However, he didn’t want this to be an excuse for ministers but rather to see suffering for what it is; a momentary stop in the journey that God has in store for us all.
This final talk focused us back on the fact that no one suffers by accident it is always by appointment. God has put together the course of our lives and is in control of the steps we will take, and if we know and trust in the Lord we can have joy in the midst of suffering. We can teach others to love well in the midst of suffering. Suffering teaches us empathy and love, it teaches us that we are not invincible, it teaches us that we need God and we need his people. We cannot see suffering as an accident but part of something bigger than ourselves that God uses to grow us in our journey into becoming like Christ.
Therefore, we must learn to never suffer in isolation or silence. If pain and heartache comes your way, the family of God is called to weep with those who weep and to care for its members as they struggle through the dark seasons of the soul. We must teach our flock to love each other well, we must stand by those who suffer, and we ourselves when we go through seasons of trial, pray our elders and people will love and walk with us through the pain we will endure.