Pastoral ministry is often physically and emotionally draining.
We pastors get invited into some of the most crisis-filled moments in people’s lives, we lead congregations through seasons of evolution & change, we do the best we can to motivate & manage staff, and in the middle of all those responsibilities, there is one inescapable reality: Sunday is coming. It does every week.
In other words, there is always another message to prepare.
Yet I have found in the middle of days of discouragement & exhaustion, energy breaks through. It is as if God intervenes by giving a pastoral assignment that is itself invigorating and energizing.
So here are five that do it for me:
1. Crisis. I have been influenced by Adam Hamilton’s description that we pastors are allowed to be with people “in the tenderest moments of their lives.” How true. When we get a call regarding a death or emergency hospitalization, it’s like “game on.” The adrenaline begins to flow, prayers get sent up, and in the aftermath I am able to say, again, “ah, that’s why we do what we do.”
2. Exegesis. Exegesis is the Greek word for “pulling out”; in other words, pulling the original meaning out of a biblical text. Sometimes that happens in direct reading; other times the commentaries help. Yet I never cease to be amazed at how the Word keeps breathing fresh life into those who study it to proclaim it.
3. Healing Services. Last night was a case in point. Before it begain, I was hungry. I longed to be at home. I wished we hadn’t scheduled it. But in the middle of the service, praying with people, I knew there was no place I’d rather be — indeed, no thing this church should rather be doing.
4. Sharing With Other Churches. Every so often, other congregations will ask us how or why we do certain things at Good Shepherd. While we always emphasize that things are far from perfect here, nevertheless it’s always encouraging to receive that kind of request and then to follow through on it.
5. Stirring Up Methodism. I love this denomination’s classic theology and historic mix of personal faith and social action. It gives energy to challenge some of its practices — if you’ve heard the messages “Bread” and “Water” you know what I mean — AND to battle for it to stay true to Christian orthodoxy.