|From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life|
For me, it's the call.
It's always about being faithful to the call.
I've been in service to God through several distinct "calls." There was the call to come and follow Jesus that I responded to at Bethesda Baptist Church. Then there was the call to teach a couple years later at Bethesda. Later at Mt Zion, I resumed teaching but knew God now wanted more. With the help of a spiritually discerning friend named Rickie Baucom, I was able to say out loud "I believe God has called me to be a pastor to His people." Then there were calls by churches to serve.
Ten years ago, almost eleven years ago now, I accepted the call to pastor a struggling but hopeful congregation in Valparaiso, Florida - a place called "New Hope." Ever since we moved here, leaving home and family behind, my family and I have poured our lives into God's service through this group of people. They were coworkers in Christ initially who have become over the years unforgettable friends. We dearly love them and would do anything in the world to help in any way we can. It's a great privilege to be invited into their lives.
It's also an enormous responsibility.
"Not many of you should desire to be teachers..." most of us remember from the Scriptures, and it's true. But somewhere in the margin everyone should write "and whatever you do, if you can do ANYTHING other than be a pastor - do THAT."
This isn't to trivially joke about the job. No, I'm very serious. The job is all encompassing. It's 24/7 and 365. It takes place at times when your family needs you. It takes place when you are ill. The telephone rings an hour after you get home from one ministry call and you instantly need to be at the top of your game in every way. Most jobs, when you are home - you're home and the job is back there. Not this one. The stakes are the highest they can be, so you will push yourself again and again to meet the needs. Oh and the joys - are the most fulfilling of any job. To see God at work - changing lives? Priceless. Worth it. Totally.
And yet, you need to set limits. Bunny asked me last night on our way back from praise band practice "How many hours a week do you work - 80?" Coming from her, who sees the 24/7 nature of ministry work play out every day, that was a shock. I really haven't given it a lot of thought. You do what you have to do to accomplish the mission. People around here do that all the time - when they are deployed they do it with mortar shells raining, and the ever present chance of ambush or IEDs. It's what you do when the mission matters so much.
Yet the military leadership knows that such actions cannot continue forever. As the leader of a church that does a lot more than people would expect, I'm wondering where the line should be drawn. If an activity isn't a clear win - in other words if it doesn't contribute directly to the mission - should we be doing it at all? Or should we relegate such activities to an occasional frequency and program them far enough out to manage the impact they have on people. I think one of the good things that come out of the church planting experience is the focus on the essentials. Thom Rainer's "Simple Church" model played a variation on that theme. What is New Hope doing that it doesn't need to be? And what could our people be doing if we dropped something that WOULD matter?
As for me, I'm beginning to grasp the concept of "sabbath" as being just as important as the Scriptures make it. If I were to take all the vacation I haven't taken through the years, I probably could be off from September to Christmas. But the work was always there and the resources haven't always been. I'm laying out some new boundaries though, and looking for times and places for Bunny and me to step out of the traces and rest and renew on a regular basis. Even just a trip to Destin's shores for an hour can make a difference.
Any of you who know of places we would enjoy that are within reach, shoot me an email. Pastor friends, if you know of one in your area I can get to, I'll be happy to give you a morning off and preach for you. Of course your congregation may never recover... but. :)